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Archive for April, 2008

Bungalow is Newest Addition to Eclectic Shopping on Del Ray’s Mt. Vernon Avenue

What started as a personal quest for “appropriately scaled and eco-friendly furniture” in his Rosemont bungalow, has turned into a sleek new home decor shop on Del Ray’s Mt. Vernon Avenue for Daryl Wakeley. After years as a magazine designer, Daryl’s finely honed aesthetic is now focused on building a collection of decidedly interesting and luxurious home goods.

Located in the center bay of a long vacant commercial building renovated to accommodate three shops, Bungalow Homewares Gallery is a perfect addition to the neighborhood. Bungalow juxtaposes industrial chic with , among other things, sheets and towels made of organic cotton in sweat shop free conditions, Ethiopian bed covers made by a women’s cooperative; cork branch votive holders; and vintage rice winnowing baskets.

One of my favorite items was a set of tumblers made from the bottom half of recycled wine bottles. After the cut edge is polished to a rolling smoothness, each tumbler is filled with soy wax and topped with a paper collar embedded with wildflower seeds that can later be planted. There are a variety of scents but the lemon grass was special.

Most of the items have a “back story” and Daryl is happy to share the origins of both the product and the artisans. For instance, just inside the front door (and in front of a sofa I have my eye on) is a coffee table made from re-cycled iron and Honduran pine. As part of the coffee industry in Honduras, pine trees are planted to shade the young coffee plants. When the trees become too large they are harvested and recycled into furniture and other items.

Another story involves the blankets made from a woman-owned business in Ethiopia. The blankets are woven on traditional looms which are quite narrow, so for larger pieces – like the very American king size bed – the pieces have to be stitched together by hand. The stitching adds yet another dimension to these one of a kind pieces.

When asked about prices Daryl offered this considered reply: while indeed he has things that might be bought without hesitation, other pieces are what he calls “aspirational.” Water-based or soy emulsion paints in 12 colors are also part of Daryl’s design offerings and large, 18 x 18 panels are available as samples for interested customers.

Open just two weeks, Daryl is already in sync with the rhythm’s of Del Ray and will celebrate this year’s First Thursday with a reception for Jill Saxton Smith. Her exquisite woodblock prints are the first of what will be a series of rotating gallery exhibits. The exhibit runs from May 1 to July 31.

Now that you’ve read about Bungalow, go visit for yourself at 1901 Mt. Vernon Avenue. You’ll be glad you did.


Thanks to my spouse and managing partner who does all our shopping. Michael

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 55 Comments »

Looking for the Number 1 Real Estate Company in the Country? Then Stop Right Here!

NRT, the parent company of Coldwell Banker, announced today that it was ranked as the NO. 1 Residential Real Estate Brokerage Firm in the U.S. by REAL Trends 500, a leading provider of trends and research for the residential real estate service industry. This is the 11th consecutive year in which NRT has earned the top spot nationwide for both closed sales volume and closed sales transaction sides. NRT recorded $174.2 billion in closed sales volume and 326,323 in transaction sides.*

I can’t tell you how proud I am to be a part of the Coldwell Banker family. It may sound corny but when you ask me to help you buy or sell a house, you are really asking a whole team of professionals to make your dreams come true. From pricing to staging to finding a school to how to get to work, every person in my office is ready to help me help you.

Operating in 35 major metropolitan areas, NRT is the nation’s largest residential real estate company with approximately 940 offices, 56,000 sales associates and 7,500 employees.

So why wait, let me put all of Coldwell Banker’s resources at your disposal.

I’ll look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at 703.927.4554.


*Every real estate transaction involves both a “buy” side and a “sell” side.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 7 Comments »

Alexandria’s Annual Spring Clean Up is a Scavenger Hunter’s Paradise

Ever heard the phrase one man’s junk is another man’s treasure? Well, never is that more true than during Alexandria’s city wide spring cleanup running this year from April 5 to April 26.

Every Saturday in April, residents in designated zip codes are invited to clean out their closets, basements, attics, garages, etc. , and set the results curbside for FREE pickup by the city’s refuse collection.

“Acceptable” trash includes appliances, steel pipes, furniture, mattresses, brush, tree limbs and tires.

But it’s once the materials are curbside that the real fun begins. Scavengers, entrepreneurs, fixer upper types, junk dealers, etc. move like vultures looking for items they can salvage, resell on Ebay or Craig’s List, or simply rework for their own use. We got one of our favorite large, terra cotta garden urns from just such a moment and my wife still regrets the dressmaker’s dummy she let slip away.

It’s fun, it’s totally acceptable and it doesn’t cost a thing!

Thanks for stopping by,


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 5 Comments »

Security is Rolling Along at Washington’s Dulles International Airport

My brother-in-law was on his way to Kuwait yesterday for his third tour of duty as a civilian medic/teacher/VIP security detail nurse so we made a quick trip out to Dulles International Airport

to catch him between flights. About 26 miles west of Alexandria, Dulles sits on 10,000 acres of land and was designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen.

What immediately caught my eye as we got into the terminal were the airport police who were using Segway’s to get around this giant transportation hub. I was able to snag one of the rolling wonders on traffic duty – a fluid vision of balance and dexterity.

Dulles was the first airport in this country to be designed specifically for commercial jets and was hailed for its innovative mobile lounges when it opened in November 1962.

With 127 destinations, 40 of which are international, Dulles served over 23 million visitors last year and has just undergone a major expansion.

As close as we are to Washington’s Reagan National Airport, for nonstop coast to coast and international flights, Dulles is our first choice.

Ummmmmmmm, with gas prices continuing to soar, wonder how that Segway would work around the neighborhood?

Thanks for stopping by,


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

Six Old Town Homes Featured on Historic Garden Week Tour in Alexandria

Six Old Town homes were open to the public today for the beginning of Historic Garden Week in Virginia. During the April 19-27 festivities, visitors across the Commonwealth will step through the gates of more than 250 of Virginia’ s most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks. Three dozen separate tours will present a rich mosaic of formal gardens, walled gardens, cottage gardens, cutting gardens, water gardens, and even secret gardens. Visitors interested in architecture and interior decorating will have the opportunity to see renovated historic properties as well as contemporary residences. (Photography is NOT permitted in private houses and gardens.)

300 South Lee Street sits on land once used as a storage yard for lumber for James Green’s ‘Cabinet Manufactory’ dating to 1934. The two story building now occupying the space dates from 1885. In 1997 the present owners completed a renovation that included an excavation to provide basement living space under the entire length of the house. Prominently on display are an 18th century English desk, a 19th century map of New Orleans, and a framed $100 bill from the Bank of Louisiana dated 1862. A 19 century cigar-store woodcarving of George Washington marks the point where the original house ended. Mr. and Mrs. Brian B. Gibney, owners.

210 Duke Street is a classic home built in 1787 for Dr. James Craik, George Washington’s Revolutionary War private secretary and physician, and is now know simply as “Craik House.” Dr. Craik used the front two rooms of the house for his medical practice; he is buried in the Old Presbyterian Meeting House yard on South Fairfax. After Craik’s death, the building was used as a school and boarding house before being purchased by the Thompson family in 1943.

The Thompson’s also acquired the adjacent frame flounder house at 208 Duke Street and united the two buildings in 1946. Purchased by the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. Dennis J. Garcia, in 2004, the house and garden have been carefully restored. The garden in particular reflects 18th century design and features marble steps salvaged from Blair House during a mid-20th century remodeling. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

Old Town Greens and Potomac Greens in Alexandria, VA

Ten years ago when developers were planning Old Town Greens, a mix of 145 townhomes and 128 stacked townhouses at the very southern end of Potomac Yard, they envisioned a community that would entice singles and two-income adult families. And why not? Washington was one stop light away on the George Washington Parkway, Reagan National Airport was a 10 minute cab ride, shops, and dining were just blocks away in Old Town and Del Ray. Convenience and location were key words.

Additional amenities and improved transportation options have added to the convenience of this area but the demographic has changed. In the first four years after the development welcomed its initial home owners, a baby boom swept the community and the under-five population went from three to well over 60. Six years later, babies are still an integral part of all planning.

Located between Jeff Davis Highway (Rt. 1) on the west and the George Washington Parkway on the east, the “Greens” are an unlikely isle of serenity in what will eventually be a highly developed mixed use area. There are only two entrances into the complex and numerous, wide, one way streets help control traffic. As one long time resident and former association president, noted, “Nobody comes in here unless they live here or are visiting.

The recent addition of Potomac Plaza, home to Zagat rated Rustico and Buzz, as well as the Russian Gourmet shop, a Tropical Smoothie Cafe, the Jon Ric Salon and Spa, dress shop Periwinkle, a dry cleaner and children’s clothing store, brings walkable amenities – and creates yet another buffer between residents and Slater’s Lane, a main thoroughfare between Rt. 1 and the George Washington Parkway.

The second development, Potomac Greens, opened its first buildings in 2005 and when it is completed later this year will add almost 200 new townhomes to the area.

Small but important changes reflect the number of under-five residents – a volley ball court (originally intended for young singles) was turned into a playground although the tennis courts still remain. Bike and walking trails have been created through the wetlands that are an important part of this land tract. A pedestrian foot bridge to connect with a still to be developed retail area is in the planning stages . There is a children’s Halloween parade and a Fourth of July party. The pools (one in each community) are “big happy places” and a beehive of activity during the summer months.

And my favorite – the last four hours of the pool season (generally the weekend after Labor Day) are devoted to neighborhood dogsswimming, retrieving, playing, diving, etc. One father, just back from a long and not inexpensive trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, noted that for sheer entertainment value, “dogs in the pool” was better than anything he, or his still in diapers toddler, had seen. Simple pleasures indeed.

Stability seems to be a key word here. Only ten homes were sold in the past 12 months in Potomac Greens and prices ranged from a low of $655,000 to a high of $1.1 million for an end unit. The nine homes currently on the market have an average asking price of $844,000. Two, three and four bedroom units run from almost 1700 sq. ft. in size to just over 3400 sq. ft.

Old Town Greens saw 19 sales in the same time period with an average price of $581,505. Four active listings with an average price tag of $753,375 include a two bedroom at 1,216 sq. ft. and a four bedroom unit with 3,122 sq. ft.

If you want to know more about this community or are interested in seeing any of these properties, please call me at 703.927.4554.

Thanks for stopping by,


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 10 Comments »

MONKS is the 200lb Gentle Giant of Del Ray’s East Howell Avenue

Name: Monks (with an ‘s’)

Age: 4 going on 5

Weight: 200lbs (I eat less than you think)

Folks Who Take Care of Me: Denise and Dave

Siblings: None

Sleeping Arrangements: My own futon

Likes: Belly rubs, cheese, Puppy Pops from the Dairy Godmother, kitty cats, most everybody in the neighborhood.

Dislikes: Fruits and vegetables and walking fast.
Profile: Slow moving, patient and obedient, I am very good with children, extremely loyal, friendly, highly intelligent and easy to train (or so they tell me).

About me: The name St. Bernard comes from a traveler’s hospice on the St. Bernard Pass in the Western Alps between Switzerland and Italy. The pass, the hospice and the dogs who came to live there were named after Bernard of Menthon, an 11th century monk who founded the station. Be sure and look at the picture of my red and white hospice collar with my St. Bernard medallion.

My ancestors include the herding, hunting and watchdogs of Switzerland, primarily the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Many of the original St. Bernard’s were killed in an avalanche and to help get the line started again, we were crossed with Newfoundland’s in the early 1800’s. It worked pretty well except that the Newf’s had longer, curlier hair and icicles would get caught in it. The monks decided just to use those of us with a smooth coat for rescue work. I’m not sure what happened to the other guys.

Famous St. Bernard’s: Bolivar, Donald Duck’s pet; Gumbo, the mascot for the New Orleans Saints; Nana from the Peter Pan movies; Cujo from Steven King’s book; and, of course, Beethoven from the movie of the same name.

I know just about everybody in Del Ray so the next time you see me I hope you’ll stop and say hello. Thanks, Michael for letting me be on your blog.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 9 Comments »

New Butcher Shop in Alexandria’s Del Ray Neighborhood Sells Out on Opening Day




Let’s Meat on the Avenue, at 2403 Mt. Vernon Avenue, opened its doors on Saturday morning, April 12, at 8:00am. The first customer walked through the door at 8:02am and the butcher case was empty by 12:02pm! Steve Gatward, Del Ray resident, shop owner, and butcher extraordinaire was both apologetic and ecstatic.

Apologetic that his inventory was not up to full capacity but ecstatic with the reaction from the community. I dropped by the shop about 10:30am and as I asked questions and snapped pictures, I kept hearing the same comment over and over – “We’re so glad you are here.” Deterred neither by the line or by the dwindling items in the meat case, local residents are singing the praises of this latest addition to the walkability quotient in Del Ray.

Steve comes to us by way of England and Australia. Born in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, Steve was apprenticed to a local butcher at an early age. Colchester also claims to have Britain’s oldest recorded market and the striped apron seen on the Let’s Meat on the Avenue sign and in these pictures is the traditional apron of Colchester butchers.

Drawn to Del Ray’s penchant for “European-style” specialty shops, Steve will feature local, pasture fed lamb, pork, and beef. Poultry is hormone free and the sausages are from local Amish farms. There is a small selection of dry goods – salts, rubs, mustards, relishes etc. – and a premier steak sauce from the world famous Peter Luger’s Steak House in New York.

A specialty of the house for dog loving Alexandrians – smoked marrow bones with a smoke developed exclusively for our four footed friends.

Favorite moment? Someone asked about free range turkeys for Thanksgiving. Steve said sure and then asked “When is Thanksgiving?

For the moment Steve is working to tap into the appetites and rhythms of the neighborhood. He will be closed on Monday’s but then open on Tuesday’s from 11 – 6; Wednesday – Friday, 11 – 7, Saturday from 8-7 and on Sunday from 11-3. If you have a special request, want to find out what’s on hand or check the hours, the store number is 703.836.6328.

I left with a package of the Amish country sausage and we tucked into them last night for dinner – absolutely delicious! Personally, I look forward to getting my produce on Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market and then walking across the street to pick out something to put on the grill. This opens up all sorts of possibilities . . . .

Thanks for stopping by,


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 7 Comments »

Del Ray Farmer’s Market Opens 2008 Season with Happy Customers and Rain Showers

The Del Ray Farmer’s Market opened its 2008 season with musicians, sign-ups for local events, ever faithful vendors and eager customers. Intermittent rain showers eventually took their toll on the musicians who needed to keep instruments dry but for everyone else, the opening signaled the start of classic Saturday mornings, Del Ray style.

Ready to join us? First, throw on a pair of presentable pants, sandals and a t-shirt. Hats are optional. Then, gather the newspaper, a dog if possible, a reusable bag or basket, sunglasses and head for the parking lot at the corner of Mt. Vernon and Oxford that turns into the Del Ray Farmer’s Market every April thru October.

Purchase a cup of coffee along the way. (St. Elmo’s had a table in the market this morning and we aren’t sure if it was just for opening day but we’ll let you know. ) Then, head to one of several tents offering specialty breads and pastries and choose something delectable to munch on.

Ok, now that you are fortified it’s time to mosey. One of our favorite things about the Del Ray market is that ALL THE VENDORS HAVE TO BE GROWERS or PRODUCERS. That means, at the very least, you will know where the produce is coming from, when it came out of the ground, and what to expect the following week.

If it’s an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable, ask for information and you’re likely to get preparation tips and at least one or two favorite recipes. The same holds true with the cheese vendor, the mushroom lady, the herb man, etc. We may not be the biggest market in town but we like it just the way it is – easy, friendly, convenient.

Stroll, visit, play with the dogs, admire the babies, relax. Finish your shopping and then head back to St. Elmo’s for another cup of coffee or maybe down to the Caboose for breakfast. On your way home drop in on some of the new shops on the Avenue (that’s Mt. Vernon Avenue).

Enjoy the day – just another Del Ray Saturday!

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 7 Comments »

Hillwood is a Hidden Gem on the Washington Site-Seeing Circuit for this Alexandria Tour Guide

Living in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area – in this case Alexandria – often means playing tour guide to visiting friends and family. Sometimes you can just drop them at the nearest Metro Rail station with a good map and good wishes. Other occasions merit a more personal approach and a bit of advance planning. My sister-in-law is in town this week and with my mother-in-law in tow too, we needed to plan around chancy weather, handicapped access/wheel chair availability and, preferably, small crowds.

Our first choice for a ‘leisurely’ day of adult activity was Hillwood, the Washington home of Marjorie Merriweather Post – one of the true hidden gems on the Washington site-seeing circuit. Set on a 25 acre estate overlooking Rock Creek Parkway, Hillwood’s catch phrase is “Where Fabulous Lives.” And does it ever.

Marjorie Merriweather Post was the sole heir to the Post Cereal fortune and when she married E.F. Hutton they combined forces to create food giant General Mills. Later married to Joseph E. Davies, Ambassador to Russia during Franklin Roosevelt’s tenure, Mrs. Post became a consummate collector of French and Russian furnishings. At her death in 1973 she bequeathed her house to the public as a living museum.

My favorite room in the house is also the smallest. The breakfast room, a small room adjacent to the sumptuous dining room with its 28ft. table, has vaulted ceilings and bronze metalwork from Mrs. Post’s New York City apartment. The plantings in the window make it difficult to tell where the garden ends and the room begins. Today it was filled with masses of deep pink hydrangeas. Double French doors on the side open onto the patio and the gilt bronze and green glass chandelier comes from one of Catherine the Great’s favorite residences outside St. Petersburg. The idea of starting each day in this bastion of beauty and tranquility is wonderful thing to contemplate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

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