About Ballard + Mensua

Founded in 2005, Ballard + Mensua is a full service architecture firm with a specialty in truly unique and custom homes and renovations. We help our clients with projects of all sizes, whether helping a young family with a master plan to build in phases as they can afford, or designing dream homes to retire to on the water or in the mountains. Our unique cost study process helps to offer the advantages of design build, with the checks and balances of independent architect and builder. While many architects do not understand construction well, or interiors well, we believe in a fully integrated project management approach and specialize in interior design and construction management. Our drawings are both client friendly, and contractor friendly. We detail drawings in a way that tells the contractors exactly what to build and our details work because we have built before. We value our contractor and vendor relationships as much as our client relationships. After Seth Ballard's 21 years of practice, these relationships allow us to build virtually anything, no matter how custom. We have a further specialty in historic preservation. Ballard Mensua however, loves working in every style... we find it more fun to work on a contemporary, a Georgian, a colonial and an arts and crafts house all at the same time.

Who do we want as our client?

This website sometimes scares away potential clients with smaller projects. You might think that we want only large projects ... you might think as an architect, we would not want to design a deck or a bathroom or a built-in bookshelf.

The fact is that no project is too small.... as long as you really understand the benefit that we are bringing to the table as your Architect.

We want clients who want our help .. want our creativity .. want our experience.

An Architect – is a Custom Tailor

The Architect, when working with a Client, must first measure the Client – learn about the Client’s wishes, needs, goals …. How does the Client’s family live now? How will they grow? What works, what doesn’t?

What is the style of the furniture and art a client has now? Or desires to have as they can afford it?

As we measure a house, or as we learn about any Client’s program needs, it is equivalent to taking a Client’s measurements.

What is the soul of the site? Where are the best and worst views of and from the house? What is the wind direction? What is the sun orientation? Where are trees?

What is the budget?

Only once an Architect understands a Client's true needs, can the Architect design a project that suits them.

This takes the involvement of the Client:
The best projects we’ve been involved in have been a result of a very involved Client – one who brought forth their own ideas, images from magazines … studied plans and made suggestions, questioned details and gave feedback throughout the process.

Ballard+Mensua wants Clients who are involved – this will naturally result in a portfolio that will show a variety of styles – from colonial, to arts and crafts, to contemporary, to cottage style.

This takes humility on the part of the Architect:
One of the greatest lessons Seth Ballard learned from his mentor, Douglas Soe Lin, is to “be humble and carry a big stick.” Translation: be humble, but not shy.
An ego, on the part of an architect, tends to block off the ability to listen to a Client’s reaction or input.

The Architect must think outside the box:

Ballard+Mensua Architecture LogoAll of a Client's needs, overlaying with site restrictions, technical concerns such as tying in plumbing lines, or how to heat and cool a space …. are often conflicting. Often budgets are restricting as well. The compounding of all of these variables can box in a thought process to limit results.

But with trained problem solving approach, what can seem limiting to some, often in architecture becomes the best feature of a project – a required beam leads to a ceiling cove, required drainage leads to a bridge... by thinking outside the box, the negative becomes the positive.

The Ballard+Mensua logo is intended to show our philosophy of thinking outside the box, of understanding that every problem has its balanced solution.

Feng Shui / Earth Spirit

As part of Seth Ballard's college thesis, he researched parallels in the design philosophies of several ancient cultures -- India, China, Japan, Celtic cultures and Native American.

All of these cultures shared a guiding set of design principles, which have a great deal to do with the earth's natural forces.

Some are practical and just involve common sense -- such as if there is a valley and the valley slopes downwards, beware of placing a building there (it will be subject to winds and flood).

Some are less obvious and relate to our own projection of energy or chi --- as we move in a direction, we project ourselves. If a building is easy to move through, without obstructions for the eye or our bodies, we receive no negative impulses or energy, and are more naturally happy.

Since he was a small child, Seth Ballard was innately sensitive to these forces in the physical environment. He sought to work for an Asian Architect who was very tuned to these forces...and he brings a tremendous respect and understanding of their importance to all of our designs at Ballard+Mensua. He further honed these instincts through intensive study, while at Tulane, and practiced under a master of feng shui.

Extensive travel, study, and work experience in Asia, Europe, and here at home have contributed to our vast respect for natural laws of design. Regardless of the style of a project, size, budget or level of finish, good chi is a foundation that is inherent in all of our work at Ballard+Mensua.

Seth Ballard, AIA, NCARB

Architect, and Principal of Ballard+Mensua


Architect, and Principal of Ballard+Mensua
  • Masters of Architecture, Tulane University, Graduated in 1992
  • Focus on Green Building, Feng Shui, Historical Preservation and Native American History
  • Member American Institute of Architects, Licensed in Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia, NCARB Certified.
  • Note: Able to obtain a license in any of United States upon request.
  • Bilingual: Fluent in English and Spanish

1992-1996 – Freelance Designer, Seth Ballard Designs
designed custom home and numerous residential renovations for friends

1992-1996 – Director of Marketing and Special Events – Barksdale Ballard and Co.
Specializing in cause related marketing – using special events and media to promote cause and raise money for charities. Additionally, headed up events and promotional team to design, run and promote Virginia Wineries Festival and Virginia Wine Industry – growing festival from 2,000 to 40,000 attendees.

1996 – 2005 – Project Manager – Soe Lin and Associates Architects – Bethesda, MD
Under the direct mentorship of internationally acclaimed architect, Douglas Soe Lin, Seth Ballard learned the practice of architecture from the ground up. Mr. Soe Lin is a 6th degree black belt in Bando, a Burmese martial arts form and taught Seth architecture in a similar manner to that of a martial arts master. Seth jokes he was the Karate Kid architect – he would ask Mr. Soe Lin a question about a project, and Mr. Soe Lin would answer “draw a section.” Seth would draw the section and find the answer.

Mr. Soe Lin set a very high standard for all that worked under him and taught Seth the foundation of his practice – treat every house as if it is your own, treat every project as if it was your money on the line. Service and unbending dedication to the client – to see the project through design and successful completion of construction.

At SLA, Seth Ballard handled ½ of SLA’s workload, including 40 – 50 residential projects per year, commercial interior fit-out projects, historical renovation projects and assistance on developments in southeast Asia, including the first General Hospital in Rangoon, Burma. On his own and while at SLA, Seth has handled over 250 projects of various types, and overseen over $400 million worth of construction.

To see some residential examples of some of these projects Seth completed while at SLA, click on portfolio and "projects prior to 2005."

In early 2005, Seth Ballard decided to branch out on his own. He established Ballard+Mensua, LLC with the goal of providing tailored residential design and construction management services to a small group of select clients. Since then, we have completed several dozen projects with budgets ranging from $50,000 to $5 million -- that you can see demonstrated under the portfolio section of this website.

Seth is a licensed Architect and member of the American Institute of Architects.

Though not right for all projects, Seth hopes to find ways to incorporate green building technologies into all projects, with the goal of saving clients money through minimizing waste of materials, while also reducing the impact on the environment.


Vicente Mensua

Principal of Vicente Mensua Arquitectos, Girona, Spain


  • Masters of Architecture, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, 1960
  • President of College of Architects, Catalonia, Spain – 1985-2001 (equivalent of American Institute of Architects, in Barcelona region of Spain)

Areas of practice: Northeastern Spain (Barcelona, Girona and surrounding regions); Valencia, Spain, Bilbao, Spain

Type of practice: Schools, factories, apartment buildings, custom homes, retail stores, town homes and office buildings

Vicente Mensua is Seth Ballard’s father in law.

Vicente Mensua has practiced architecture throughout Spain and France for 35 years, completing a wide variety of projects. He currently maintains a dedicated repeat client base – without any marketing of any kind.

He serves as council for Ballard+Mensua and will work directly with Seth Ballard on select projects in Spain and in the US.


Dean Cretsinger, AIA, NCARB

Vice President of Ballard + Mensua


  • Member of the American Institute of Architects, Licensed in Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia, NCARB Certified.
  • Masters of Architecture, University of Miami, 1997, Thesis in Wood Frame Construction in hurricane zones. Additional work on the use of vernacular architecture in existing urban environments.
  • B.A.-- New York University, Urban Design Studies, 1986

2010- 2013 – Project Architect, Morris Day Architects.

1997- 1999 – Associate Architect, Perkins & Will, Miami 
Project manager specializing in the renovation of Art-Deco Miami Beach hotels (Deauville and Winterhaven) as well as small residential projects.

1999-2001 – Brimelow McSweeney Architects, London, England 
Project Architect working on entire interior package for 20,000 sq. ft. health club. Included all FF&E in addition to design and drawings of all interior spaces.

2001–2002 -- Roger Mears Architects, London, England 
Project Architect for a residential architecture firm specializing in historic preservation.

2002–2003 -- Versaci Neuman Architects, Washington D.C. 
High end residential architecture firm specializing in historic and classical home design

2003—2004 – Wentworth Levine Architects + Builders, Silver Spring, Maryland 
Project Architect for a residential design-build firm that specialized in remodeling in Washington D.C. and the surrounding states.

2004—2007 – Bowers Design Build, McLean, Virginia 
Director of Architecture for a residential design-build firm specializing in major additions and home remodeling in Northern Virginia.


An Nguyen

Project Architect


  • Bachelor of Architecture, Saigon University, Vietnam, 1992
  • Architect in Vietnam: Saigon City Development – Architect working in urban planning: commercial and residential development and expansion of Saigon.  Specialization in concrete buildings.
  • Senior Project Manager at Ballard Mensua
  • Bilingual: Fluent in Vietnamese and English

Ballard + Mensua Architecture, 2011 – 2013
Architectural Project Manager – Residential renovation and new construction.

Bowers Design Build, 2008 – 2011
Project Architect – Residential design and construction coordination.

NARI COTY Award - 2011