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 29 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.
About Ballard + Mensua
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's orientation? Where are the 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:
All 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 a 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, and Native American cultures.
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 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
- 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 the 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 causes and raise money for charities. Additionally, headed up events and a promotional team to design, run and promote Virginia Wineries Festival and Virginia Wine Industry – growing the 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 over 300 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.
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.
- The Bullis School Graduate, 1968
- US Navy Aviation Machinist-- Squadron VC10 (Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) 1969-70, VF32 (Norfolk) 1971-72, VP68 (Pax River, MD) 1973-1975
- MBA, Urban Studies, University of Maryland 1976
- Commercial Sales Engineer, Robertshaw Controls Company, 1977-78
- Owner, Mechanical Systems Maintenance, Inc. 1980 – 1985
- Owner, Bell Builders Inc. 1985 – 2011
- Consultant, Construction Manager 2011 - 2016
Frank Bell and Seth Ballard were introduced by Joe and Diann Martin in early 2016 when the Martins were interviewing Seth Ballard to become the architect for the restoration of their family Dairy Farm property, Potomac Riverside Farms in Hedgesville, West Virginia. The Martin’s invited both Seth and Frank out to the property to inspect the 1815 farmhouse and surrounding outbuildings, which had been left in disrepair, and were reclaimed by the Martin’s when the newer owner went into foreclosure. As Frank and Seth toured the building and gave advice about what to do throughout the day, Frank or Seth would comment on advice of what to do, and consistently it was the same advice. Later the Martin’s asked Seth if they should have Frank Bell assist to manage construction and Seth said clearly “Definitely!” They asked Frank if they should hire Seth as the architect and Frank said “Definitely!” As Seth learned more about Frank, he realized what an amazing asset Frank Bell is for any construction project, both as a designer and as a construction manager. The two have now worked together on the Martin project through design and construction for two years and have now made their relationship more formal. After years of semi-retirement, taking on only some part time consulting to help prior clients, Seth has lured Frank back into the “game” with a slightly different role. Frank will continue to be heavily involved in the design of projects, will help Ballard Mensua to produce even better drawings by reviewing them with the keen eye of a very experienced builder and will help to oversee and inspect projects while under construction. Ballard Mensua now gives Frank a team of Architects to back him up in the design of his projects and the development of highly detailed drawings. As you can read more below, Frank’s company Bell Builders really set the standard for a quality home and Ballard Mensua is really proud and honored to have him on board.
More info about Frank’s History: Frank Bell is a native of Montgomery County, MD where he has spent most of his life and career as a Builder. As former President and Owner of Bell Builders, Inc. headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Frank is recognized throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area for creating homes of unmatched quality and beauty. creativity, and passion he puts into the beautiful custom homes and projects that he and his company produce. Frank has been frequently highlighted in the Washington Post, and other local media outlets for his work in improving the aesthetic of Montgomery County’s neighborhoods and communities one home at a time; an effort that has also earned him numerous awards from several distinguished national and local trade organizations for over 30 years. This includes projects recognized by the Maryland Building Industry Association (formerly the MNCBIA) for excellence in residential home building, including multiple Gold Awards for annual Best Custom Homes; Custom Additions; and Whole House Renovation projects. Frank began his career as a Flight Crew Member and Machinist in the US Navy, and upon discharge went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Maryland. After graduating from UofM, Frank entered the commercial mechanical construction industry, where he eventually owned and operated his own company. After the profitable sale of this company in the early 1980’s, Frank’s professional focus turned to residential construction, a family tradition led by Frank’s father, Meade Bell, who was a prominent Home Builder in the Washington DC area since the 1940’s. Joining in his father’s legacy of fine home building, Frank established Bell Builders, Inc. in 1985. Throughout his building career Frank has worked to ensure that each of his signature homes not only improves the lives of the homeowners, but that each becomes a recognizable and respected landmark within that neighborhood and community. In this way, Frank is able to make small yet tangible improvements to the communities where he has worked and lived throughout his life, a responsibility Frank feels fortunate to have. With an eye for exquisite detail and the experience of a master, Frank Bell proves that quality construction still exists; that refined elegance is attainable; and that excellent honest work will never go out of style.
VP, Interior Design
- MBA, HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL, 2003
- 2003-2017-- Freelance Interior Designer
- 2003 – 2017 –Boston Consulting Group
After working on multiple renovations and investment projects together, including several that sold for hundreds of thousands over market, Seth Ballard convinced Amanda to turn her evening and weekend passion into her day job. In addition to a keen eye for design, Amanda brings over 20 years of project management and client service experience to Ballard+Mensua, having most recently been with premier management consultancy The Boston Consulting Group. Her training there, as well as her MBA at Harvard Business School, allows her to provide a level of professionalism and structure to making design decisions that is rarely seen in the industry. As a licensed Realtor at top Brokerage Wydler Brothers Real Estate, Amanda can also provide Ballard+Mensua clients with end-to-end support in their custom home or renovation journey. Whether it is searching for the right tear down or fixer-upper, to maximizing value when selling a Ballard+Mensua home, Amanda brings the same level of client service and analytical rigor to her real estate transactions. Originally from Canada, Amanda lives in North Cleveland Park with her husband, son, and twin daughters. In her downtime, she enjoys Bar Method and a glass of rosé while watching HGTV.
Roger Ray Jr.
Project Manager of Ballard + Mensua
- Bachelor of Architecture, Hampton University, 1999
- LEED Green Associate’s degree, 2013
Roger Ray joined Ballard + Mensua’s team full-time in 2016, after about a year of part-time work. Roger has a Bachelor’s degree from Hampton University (1999) and went directly to work for established DC Architect, Edward M Johnson. Roger gained broad experience working on detailing and designing homes mostly in the Washington, DC market. Roger and Seth Ballard met in 2015 when Mr. Johnson’s work was starting to slow down as he moved closer to retirement. Seth saw immediately that Roger had a beautiful hand and eye for detail and that Roger is a very organized project manager. Roger understands all aspects of buildings and specializes in meeting all requirements of permit offices, from DCRA (DC) to Fairfax to Arlington. In almost 6 years of working together, Roger has grown and now is very good at sketch up 3-d designs and drawings and doing interior design and detailing of drawings. Roger is now setting the standard for the office and helping the other staff to hold to Mr. Ballard’s high standards for very buildable and highly detailed construction drawings. Roger is working more and more with clients to help Seth to handle projects from soup to nuts and will be taking on more direct client work over time. Roger is currently finishing up his licensing exams and hopes to be licensed by 2018. 1999-2003 - Intern Architect, Edward M. Johnson & Assoc., PC. (Washington, D.C,) Assisted in the development of construction documents, presentation drawings, concept designs, project specifications, performed zoning analysis, and permit acquisition for all projects under contract with the firm. 2003- 2016 - Project Manager, Edward M. Johnson & Assoc., PC. (Washington, D.C,) Managed all phases of design from concept to construction for residential and commercial interior design projects, alterations, renovations, conversions, and modernization of existing buildings or facilities, or new structures with construction values ranging from $100,000.00 to $5,000,000.00. Prepared all construction documents, drawings, and other supporting documents for acquisition of building permits and bidding for all projects under contract with the firm. Reviewed and evaluated contractor shop drawings, samples, and material certifications recommending approval, approval with modification or rejections. Roger is an avid DC sports fan. Roger also enjoys family time with his wife, Monique, and two children Devyn and Jarrell. Roger also loves to grill.
- BA Architecture, University of Maryland, 2011
- Assistant Manager, TYYAC construction as Construction -2004-2008
- Property Manager for family owned Development Business - 2004-2008
- Freeland Art Dealer – 2000-2008
- Designer/ Estimator -- Nevo Group, Georgetown 2011-2012
- Project Manager/ Designer – I.S. Enterprises Inc. – 2012-2015
Demetrios Stafilatos has a rare combination of hands on construction experience, development and real estate experience and an education from a top architecture school. Demetrios grew up helping his mother to manage their extensive real estate portfolio. On top of Demetrios real estate and construction experience and architectural studies, he grew up working at his family art gallery and collection, The Whyte Gallery. There he helped to sell many famous artists work including works by Matisse, Picasso, Marc Chagall, Barbara Hepworth, M.C. Escher and Samuel Peploe. This experience helped Demetrios appreciation for finer things. Demetrios got early construction experience while in high school working for TYYAC Construction, helping out with everything from carpentry, to budgeting projects to working with subcontractors. This exposure to construction and real estate led Demetrios to study architecture at the University of Maryland. He then graduated and worked for a few developers who also designed and built their own projects. There he designed many multi family residential projects in the District of Columbia, heralded them through the difficult DCRA permit process and then oversaw the construction of the projects. While at I.S. Enterprises, Demetrios also designed Tocopa Restaurant on H Street (now “Stable”) There his creativity and blending of less expensive materials created a fun environment that made it a very popular spot for nightlife and dining. As a Project Manager at Ballard Mensua, Demetrios helps to develop projects from schematic design through completion of construction. Demetrios is a very skilled artist and a master of 3-d rendering softwares and does a lot of the 3-d rendering work in the office. Additionally, Demetrios is continuing to develop his own portfolio, bringing his own clients to the office.
- Bachelors Degree of Architecture, University of North Carolina at Charlotte -- 2009
Chris Saenger was introduced to Principal, Seth Ballard by Demetrios Stafilatos, who had worked previously with Chris at IS Enterprises. At the first interview, Seth saw Chris’s talent and ideal exposure to hands on construction and development in the field. Chris had clearly brought this experience back into architecture but saw a good opportunity to continue his professional growth with higher end projects at Ballard Mensua. Chris’s own philosophies of design and architecture and how to take care of clients, align with the firm. Chris has grasped every task thrown at him by the firm and is now managing projects from schematic design through construction documents and is helping Seth to oversee construction on some projects. Chris is starting to develop some of his own clientele already and will be handling more and more clients on his own as time goes by. Chris is already an accredited LEED associate, having passed the exam in 2009. Chris is a homeowner in the Shaw neighborhood of DC. In his free time, he prefers to be hands-on in his wood and metals shop, designed and built with a group of friends. 2006 Summer Intern, Sprocket Design Build, Denver Colorado 2009 Artist Apprentice, Randy Shull Design (Asheville, NC) For his first year out of college, Chris worked for a local artist specializing in architectural renderings and visualization, and projects ranged from a custom vacation home in West Hampton, NY to the revitalization of downtown Asheville. 2012 – 2014 Project Manager, IS Enterprises Inc. (Washington, DC) IS Enterprises is both a developer and General Contractor, developing and owning multi-family, single-family, restaurants, and mixed-use urban projects. Chris worked there with Demetrios (how Seth Ballard met Chris and recruited him to the firm later). Chris worked as a project superintendent, working closely with clients, subcontractors and managed the budgets of projects from soup to nuts. 2014 – 2015 Assistant Project Manager, Added Dimensions Inc. (Takoma Park, MD) Added Dimensions is one of the better high-end residential General Contractors in the DC Market. Chris worked directly under the principals of the firm to help manage high-end projects designed by top DC Architects. He gained valuable experience working with clients and working with subcontractors and tradespeople. 2015 – 2016 Designer/Project Lead, Teass/ Warren Architects (Washington, DC)
Taylor is a student at Virginia Tech who is passionate about creating unique and beautiful spaces for clients. In addition to architecture, Taylor has several years of experience in web development and search engine optimization. She recently completed her third year towards her BArch on the dean's list and intends to continue to develop her skills at Ballard & Mensua this summer. At school, Taylor assisted on the Virginia Tech FutureHAUS project and regularly helps incoming students through Alpha Rho Chi, the professional architecture fraternity. Taylor is on track to graduate in 2023 and plans to continue working in residential. When she's not at work, she enjoys caring for her plants and trying out new recipes.