Tom Glass revels in the history of the Washington, D.C., neighborhoods he works in — Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Kalorama, Cleveland Park, and Dupont Circle. His interest in period houses drew him from the Midwest to Washington. “There is a great inventory of beautiful historical houses all through the city. Many of them in bad shape. The owners also love these old houses and have the means and money it takes to restore them. I want to do it right and work with quality architects and quality materials,” he says.
Glass is especially drawn to the simplicity of the Federal style of the late 1700s. “Things in that period were handmade — the bricks, window sashes, and hand-hewn timbers,” he says.
He started Glass Construction in 1990 and the company has saved the façades and replicated the interiors of Federal, Georgian, Victorian, Second Empire, and Italianate houses. “We have also worked with architects who have a contemporary design aesthetic — quite often putting those interiors into historic buildings.”
One especially successful modern/historic meld brought attention to Glass Construction’s specialty and helped launch the company. The Capitol Hill project required converting a 1906 Beaux Arts bank into a home. “It had been vacant for 15 years or more and was on the verge of being torn down,” Glass says. The client wanted open spaces and industrial finishes to serve as a backdrop for his extensive contemporary art collection. That modern look had to mesh with the original plaster crown molding and arched windows. The 1994 project received media attention, Glass says, including an article in Architectural Digest, Preservation magazine’s Great American Home Award, and a Builder’s Choice award from BUILDER, a sister publication of UPSCALE REMODELING.
To build on that recognition, Glass entered other national and regional design contests including the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s awards, the Chrysalis Awards, Washington Spaces’ design competition, and the Associated Builders and Contractors Excellence in Construction awards.
“Winning national awards from different competitions led to a lot of phone calls and business,” Glass says, noting that national and regional magazines, including The Washingtonian, Southern Accents, and House Beautiful, have contacted him about projects. Winning awards also led to a segment on Good Morning America and contact with Home & Garden Television. “I’m not sure it translates into a lot of work,” Glass says. “But what it does do is to keep you in the arena. You can promote it on your Web site. When we win an award or are published in a magazine or book, we send out postcards to all of our architect clients.”
Glass does not advertise in magazines or newspapers targeted at homeowners. But, he is updating the company’s Web site. “That is such a vital part of marketing yourself,” he says. The revamped site will have more project photos, a photo gallery with thumbnail images, and less narrative. “Our goal is to make it sophisticated and easier to navigate,” he says.