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DIGEST DESIGN IX: Solis Betancourt & Sherrill in Georgetown

November 17, 2019

Jose Solis Betancourt, Dana Rooney and Paul Sherrill (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Jose Solis Betancourt, Dana Rooney and Paul Sherrill

Jose Solís Betancourt and Paul Sherrill, partners of DC-based Solís Betancourt & Sherrill, have an international following, with clients seeking them out for their luxurious, timeless and understated style. 

With every project, they first gain a complete understanding of how their client will live in and enjoy a given space, with attention to detail that transforms the home into an ever-evolving reflection of the owner's life.

I had a chance to sit down recently with Jose to learn more about one of the firm's stunning Georgetown projects. 


DISH: Your understated approach to luxury embraces color but with a subdued palette, mixing antiques with modern elements. How has your aesthetic evolved over the years?


JSB: Our approach hasn’t really changed.  We’ve continued to seek an elegant, timeless mix. But what has changed, and dramatically, is technology. The technology, especially in lighting devices is changing the way we illuminate our projects. Compared to 20 years ago, we have so many more different sources, sizes and temperatures of light which we can fine-tune to create the right ambiance for any time of day.

Bathroom before (Photo by: Marcos Galvany) Bathroom before

A ceiling fixture by Chameleon Fine Lighting accents the master bath, which is outfitted with a mirrored vanity. (Photo by: Marcos Galvany) A ceiling fixture by Chameleon Fine Lighting accents the master bath, which is outfitted with a mirrored vanity.

DISH:  Tell us more about this Georgetown project.


JSB: Our clients, an elegant couple, were looking to us to create a totally white house, to transform a dated apartment into an interesting residence in the sky. We painted the ceilings with high-gloss finish and the floors, specially made, and then highly polished. The sheer window treatments act as a diffuser, filtering light back into the apartment. 


To maximize the sense of height, we didn’t use any down lighting, only table lamps, up lighting from tables and inside book cases.


We also turned a spare bedroom into a library.

This bedroom was converted into a library. (Photo by: Marcos Galvany) This bedroom was converted into a library.

A view into the library, where a Bartolomeu Cid dos Santos stone relief is displayed above the sofa. (Photo by: Marcos Galvany) A view into the library, where a Bartolomeu Cid dos Santos stone relief is displayed above the sofa.

DISH: In Essential Elegance you wrote that your interiors offer a moment of transcendence, sanctuaries of protection, tranquility and beauty. Your current thinking on how to achieve that?

Dining room before (Photo by: Marcos Galvany) Dining room before

Gracie wallpaper on the ceiling, and mirrored panels conceal storage for tableware; Solís Betancourt & Sherrill designed the table and chairs. (Photo by: Marcos Galvany) Gracie wallpaper on the ceiling, and mirrored panels conceal storage for tableware; Solís Betancourt & Sherrill designed the table and chairs.

JSB: The act of entertaining is always important to our clients and therefore our spaces. But we don’t believe the function of each room has to be so rigid.  We’ve been looking toward spaces where there is seating for multiple uses. For example, a table with club chairs for gathering, playing cards, and serving drinks, but that can also be easily converted for traditional seated dining. More natural, more cozy. We’ve done this subtle dining room table set-up in a library and the results were spectacular and conducive to good conversation.   

Seguso lamps from Lobel Modern flank the master suite’s bed; Rubelli fabrics for the coverlet, love seat from Paul Marra Design, and Patterson Flynn Martin carpet. (Photo by: Marcos Galvany) Seguso lamps from Lobel Modern flank the master suite’s bed; Rubelli fabrics for the coverlet, love seat from Paul Marra Design, and Patterson Flynn Martin carpet.


DISH: How does your approach differ from and complement Paul’s? 


JSB: Paul is more traditional, a little more in the classical European style. With my architectural background, I tend to be more modern. But everything we’ve done over the last 30 years has been through a collaborative process, and we respect each others’ approaches. Our clients often ask each of us separately to solve a problem, and are surprised when we come up with the same solution.


DISH: What part of the design process is the most rewarding? 


JSB: While it’s always a thrill to see clients delighted during the final walk through, it’s completing the initial concept with the client. That’s when I know it’s all going to work. We’ve done the whole full service design process for so many years now, and, while sometimes logistically complex, we know how to get it all done. So at this point, the most rewarding part is coming up with the design.

Old house in Majorca (Photo by: Solis Betancourt & Sherrill) Old house in Majorca

DISH: What are you working on now? 


JSB: We're remodeling an old residence in Palma de Mallorca. It will be in the traditional Palma style with a contemporary minimalist approach.

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From Fired to Fabulous: A Conversation with Beth Solomon

November 11, 2019

“How many of you have ever been fired from a job?” she asked an overflow crowd of Washington Network Group (WNG) guests last week, during a conversation over cocktails at the 18th Street Lounge. Quite a few hands went up. “How many of you have been fired more than 10 times?” Laughter. No hands up. So began a delightful presentation by Beth Solomon, author of the upcoming book, Fired to Fabulous!


We know her foremost as Founder of The Georgetown DishThank you, Beth! 


Too modest to tell WNG, but here's what she's been doing:

(Photo by: Neshan Naltchayan)

With journalism in her genes — her mother was a society reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Chicago Tribune; her aunt was Nina Hyde, the Washington Post Fashion Editor — Beth began her career as a radio reporter in East Africa for the Voice of America, Radio France, and Deutsche Welle. As a freelance producer for ABC News, she covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first democratic elections in Eastern Europe after the breakup of the Soviet Union. 


When her parents asked Beth to come home to get a “real job,” she was somewhat  offended, but soon returned to Washington and begged for a job as a receptionist at the Atlanta Constitution’s national bureau in D.C. There, she began writing op-ed columns on politics. Her writing led to a role as a speechwriter for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Georgia), serving on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Always interested in communications and politics, Beth later co-founded Planet Vox, producing documentaries and media for public interest campaigns. This led to senior strategic communications roles at the National Association of Manufacturers, the International Franchise Association and the National Restaurant Association

(Photo by: Neshan Naltchayan)

Along the way, Beth was recruited to be an executive headhunter with global search firm CTPartners, where she served for four years, and worked in Hollywood at talent agency William Morris Endeavor helping represent Stan Lee, Chuck Norris, Michael Moore and others. While in Los Angeles, she wrote a weekly column for the Santa Monica Daily Press


Eventually missing her hometown of Washington, she headed east and founded The Georgetown Dish before being recruited to be CEO of the National Association of Development Companies, representing commercial real estate lenders. From there she was hired as Vice President of the Government Practice by U.S. Bank, the nation’s fifth-largest commercial bank. She is now Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives & Development at CARE International, the global humanitarian and development organization focused on women and girls.


With self-effacing humor, Beth described a few forks in her rocky but enlightening road. On one occasion, she was going into a meeting, proud of her recent accomplishments, poised to ask for a promotion, when it turned into please close the door- we're going in a different direction- pack up your desk- your staff has left the building - leave now kind of morning.


For the record, she wasn’t fired from every job, but enough to fill a book. We know it all ends well.

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Poet in Residence Judith Bowles

October 22, 2019

We share a first name diminutized willy-nilly, and a backyard in the woods. Before I learned she is a poet with a brand new book, I knew her as the lovely master gardener who gifts my windows with their lush view. 

(Photo by: )


Published in August, Unlocatable Source is Judith Bowles’ second volume. As she did with The Gatherer, Bowles selected an Edward Hopper painting to illustrate her work. Friend and teacher David Keplinger explains, "I have long felt the poetry of Judith Bowles was the counterpoint to Hopper. In her new collection, we find the same lone figures staring out of windows and gazing from front porches, narrated by a poet whose influences could be traced in a lineage from Merwin and Strand, to Stevens and the Symbolists of the 19th century."


Following a recent reading, I had a chance to sit down with the poet, to learn more about how she leads us with grace and clarity through those seminal moments of her life, turning the isolation she felt as a child outward. To friendships, acting, the theater, family, a career teaching English. Then, armed with an MFA in short fiction, to poetry, a medium she says, “makes me feel witnessed.” And, “it’s also taught me how hard it is to learn about what matters to me.”

Judith Bowles reads from (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Judith Bowles reads from "Unlocatable Source"

About her parents, from: 

The Neurosurgeon Teaches

My father taught like someone who remembered

not knowing. This had its comforts.

His efforts to be with us in the dark.

He handled brains in his hands.

Mother held babies like that.


About the loss of hearing, from:

White Morning Light

Are there still people 

who knew us as as we once were? Even at night

my good ear hears light. My deaf ear still waits

for the window to open.


About empathy:

My Father Explains

A blind man came for dinner

in our house. My father described

the plate that sat before him

as if it were a clock.


Chicken would be at 3, potatoes

at 6, peas at 9. The man shut his eyes

and smiled at a lesson so clearly stated

that you would almost have to


be blind to imagine.

I wondered when the man shut his eyes was he picturing

my father blind


to give himself company

in the world where he lived.

I shut my eyes and so did my brother

and we tried to eat without seeing.

Judith Bowles (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Judith Bowles

For her daughters:

Santa Barbara Morning

All crowded today

like an overgrown meadow

alive with color, 

with swaying, with sand.

It makes a case for the heart

to open its fist and receive


like they do, the dolphins,

now lifting, wheels turning

their rhythm of breath.


The send and receive

in equal measure.

Sound is their light


that beams through the water, 

meets matter that’s dense,

copies it home to the brain —


revising, moment

to moment, their place

to soft constellation.


And this, to be published soon, so sadly right for these times:

All In

In the 70’s things were so good

we could laugh at bigotry 

as if it were just an act

it was Archie Bunker representing

an endless joke which everyone got

but him and this made the gag richer

and deeper  he smoked a cigar

when he was sure the cliché 

he believed was true  puffed it past

all possibility and wailed up his eyes

at the ignorance of Edith of Gloria of Meathead

and you may remember how we laughed

we were all in on the joke and it was a good one


that could never come true

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