Residential Renovation — Islesboro, Maine

DEL Studio Architects was commissioned to renovate an existing one story waterfront cottage in Islesboro, Maine. The goal was to increase the views to the water from the Living Area and Kitchen. A Master Bedroom and Bath was provided, along with an access ladder to a new Loft Area above the Master Suite.

Renovated Entry and Deck

Existing Entry at Kitchen


East Elevation

North Elevation

Living Room


St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church on Capitol Hill has long experienced water intrusion at the bell tower, which has caused the deterioration of exterior elements and interior finishes. Stains, deterioration of mortar, and termite damage have led to the need to address these issues in an orderly and comprehensive fashion for future action. A design and construction team was engaged to determine sources of water intrusion and ultimately recommend a plan of action to cure the various defects. DEL Studio Architects team leads the project.

A Guide to the Home Renovation/Additions Process

Industrial Bank — Historic U Street Branch

The Industrial Bank of Washington has occupied the building on the U Street and 11th Street corner since 1913. It was designed by Architect Isaiah T. Hatton, one of the Nation’s first African American Architects. This African American owned bank was forced to close in 1932 during the Great Depression. It reopened in 1934 under the leadership of Jesse Mitchell.

The design objective was to renovate the interior and exterior, including preserving the Historic Character as governed by the Arts CR District. The interior transformation focused on providing a more open and welcoming banking experience for the community. The lobby space was widened by relocating the teller line, relocating the offices, providing them with glass partitions to capture natural light, raising the ceiling height, removing the pendant fixtures, and exposing the concealed clerestory windows. A handicap accessible rest room, a new handicap ramp and accessible entry were provided in accordance with Barrier Free objectives. Stair access to second floor offices were redesigned to accommodate a wider seating area with a coffee bar and WIFI access.

The exterior renovation consisted of the repair and replacement of building elements, which had been neglected over time. The brick veneer was repointed; the horizontal metal trim was replaced with Dryvit, a lighter weight and lower maintenance material. The repair of the metal parapet and cornice reversed the decay and water damage sustained over decades. Windows and doors were replaced along with the installation of an EPDM Roof to assist with Sustainable Design goals.

With ‘organ transplant,’ two churches find a home for a beloved instrument – September 23, 2018

Organ builder, Otto Pebworth tunes the organ at Calvary Presbyterian before the organ dedication service celebrating the recently installed pipe organ that was donated by Arlington Presbyterian after that church was demolished to make way for affordable housing, Sept. 23, 2018. (photo by Dayna Smith for the Washington Post)


By Martine Powers
Reporter covering the Metro transit system and transportation issues
September 23, 2018

As the first sonorous notes burst from the pipe organ at Calvary Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning, it was easy to imagine the sound had boomed inside the Alexandria, Va., church since the building was erected in the 1950s.

But the organ and its more than 800 pipes were not original to the church. The instrument was brought to Alexandria from Arlington Presbyterian Church in an “organ transplant,” a pun that has provided no shortage of chuckles to congregants over the past few years.

On Sunday, the decades-old instrument made its official debut after an almost 2½-year process to get it transported and installed.

“The organ fills every single molecule of your body with this sound,” said Jan Lipscomb, grinning from the pews. “It’s incredible.”

The Rev. M. Michelle Fincher, Calvary’s pastor, said, “We have anticipated this day for what seems like a very long time.” Then Fincher turned to the parishioners from Arlington Presbyterian who stood scattered throughout the pews.

“And we are so grateful and so blessed by your generosity,” Fincher said.

The story of the “organ transplant” begins at Arlington Presbyterian, where church elders made a surprising decision three years ago to sell the church’s building, parking lot and grounds to a nonprofit organization that would use the land along Columbia Pike to build 173 units of affordable housing. The church’s congregation had dwindled to half its size from the early 2000s, and its leaders hoped their sacrifice would help alleviate, even slightly, the region’s increasingly dire housing crisis among the working class.

Gabriel Mayeden and Patience Ayenu provide the percussion during a rousing song during Calvary Presbyterian’s organ dedication service. (photo by Dayna Smith for the Washington Post)

The decision came with a quandary: If the building was razed, what would happen to the church’s beloved pipe organ?

That’s when Jane Kerr caught word that the organ’s stewards were seeking an adoptive home. At the time, Kerr had just begun her role as resident organist at Calvary Presbyterian, getting accustomed to finessing the church’s 40-year-old electronic organ each Sunday morning. (An electronic organ, when compared to a full-sized pipe organ, is like the sound of an electric keyboard contrasted with that of a grand piano.)

Calvary Presbyterian’s modest instrument had begun to experience what an engineer termed “metal fatigue,” and Kerr had noticed that it was starting to reach the end of its life.

“You’d play a note and it’s not quite there,” Kerr said. “We knew we had an organ that was in bad, bad shape, and we didn’t have big bucks for a whole new organ.”

Kerr is the kind of person who recognizes a sign from the divine when she encounters one: She played organ when she was younger but hadn’t played for
30 years — until the church announced that its organist was retiring and, as Kerr put it, “it felt like God was tapping me on the shoulder saying, ‘Get busy.’ ”

That’s the same feeling she had when she heard the Arlington congregation was seeking a home for its organ. After Kerr shared news with her church, Franklin Miller, Calvary’s clerk of session, wrote Arlington Presbyterian a letter that explained the significance of such a donation.

“Music is central to the worship of God, and music is an important part of our services here,” Miller recalled writing. Sunday’s service, for example, featured a choir, a violin, a cello, three brass instruments, a guitar, a harmonica, drums and a Ni­ger­ian percussion instrument known as a shekere. The organ, he urged, was central to the diverse mix of musical voices.

Most importantly, the organ could fit — if you played a game of Tetris. They’d measured the balcony at Calvary, and by ripping out all the pews, they believed they could fit the hundreds of pipes, which range from 11-foot-tall wooden columns to small metal pipes the size of a ballpoint pen.

Arlington Presbyterian said yes. Calvary Presbyterian was delighted. Now, all they had to do was transport the instrument and get it installed in the balcony.

That process ended up taking 2½ years.

On a hot summer day in 2016, they moved the hundreds of pipes, estimated to weigh more than 6,000 pounds in total, from Arlington to Alexandria, storing the pieces in an upstairs room.

Then, the church had to receive a top-to-bottom revamp. Architect Donald Lipscomb

busted out the 1950s blueprints of the church building. There were electrical upgrades. A new ventilation and speaker system were installed and camouflaged underneath new oak paneling behind the altar.

The pipes occupy the balcony of Calvary Presbyterian which held an organ dedication service celebrating the recently installed pipe organ which was donated by Arlington Presbyterian. (photo by Dayna Smith for the Washington Post)

There was also the balcony. After the pews were removed and the slanted balcony floor was leveled, there were rounds of engineering assessments, county site visits and building permits to ensure that the aerial structure was sturdy enough to hold three tons of weight.

Over the summer, there was a pipe washing party, where dozens of parishioners showed up to wash off 40 years of dust caked onto the organ pipes.

Finally, there was the tuning of the organ. Organ builders Otto Pebworth and Ralph Spoettle were at the church through Saturday evening to make sure the instrument was playing to perfection in time for Sunday morning’s service.

On Sunday morning, parishioners crowded into pews, and the organ released the opening chords of “Old Hundredth,” a classical hymn played often on the organ in Westminster Abbey.

“For this organ that will sound forth in beauty and glory, humbling our hearts before your eternal mysteries and lifting out souls to abiding joy,” called Fincher.

The churchgoers chanted back: “We praise you, oh God.”

“And as we dedicate this organ,” Fincher continued, “that it may kindle the flame of devotion, comfort the sorrowful, cheer the fainthearted, bring peace to our hearts and lead all who hear it in the way of eternal life.”

For Kerr, the organist, the feeling of playing the hymn’s swelling opening notes had already fulfilled all her hopes of how the new organ might inspire passion and comfort for her, and for her fellow churchgoers.

“It’s just a joy,” Kerr said. “From the tiniest, softest whispers to the grandest of all sounds, it’s all there. It’s a thrill.”

Alfred Street Housing – March 24, 2018

New Organ Chamber – March 23, 2018

New organ chamber

New organ chamber for Calvary Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, Virginia

Breaking the Box

June 1, 2016

A published article from Metro Architect magazine, Winter 2015

There are many ways to address a client’s needs, concerns and goals. However, all too often, individuals and even architects themselves impose limitations on creativity and what is possible. It is usually said that thinking outside the box is the remedy to such creative malaise, yet one firm believes taking it a step further – actually “breaking the box”. For almost three decades, DEL Studio Architects has been setting a standard for client satisfaction by breaking the box.

Founded as Design Dwelling, a Maryland Corporation, in 1986, the original focus of the firm was the design of custom waterfront homes and commercial projects in Anne Arundel County, MD. With a rapid growth in commercial and retail development in the mid to late 1980’s, the leadership of the firm anticipated these growing markets by increasing the diversity and expertise of the staff. The firm then expanded into three areas of focus: Corporate/Commercial, Institutional and Residential Projects. The deep recession of the early 1990’s intensified this shift, and led to a reorganization of objectives, priorities and potential new areas of service. Donald E. Lipscomb, Jr. AIA became 100% owner in 1992, and obtained Minority Status in the SBA. This new status led to teaming opportunities with larger majority owned firms on projects for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and a sole source contract with the US Army Corps of Engineers in their Baltimore Office. The firm changed the name to DEL Studio Architects in 1994 to reflect this focus, and later began serving regional clients including Kaiser Permanente, Dental Care Alliance, TIAA CREF, Industrial Bank and Maryland Live! Casino. Today, DEL Studio Architects is a small, closely held firm which provides full Architectural Services throughout the Washington DC, Baltimore Metropolitan Area. With each project, the firm strives to bring unique and creative solutions to the challenges faced by their clients while working closely with the entire Design and Construction team to ensure project success.

A major strength of DEL Studio Architects is the firm’s ability to design in so many different styles and genres. “We are a very eclectic design firm,” explains Don Lipscomb. “By combining elements of different genres we achieve harmony with different elements, material and function.” Not a modernist but absolutely willing to use contemporary design approaches, and elements, Don and his firm are not committed to any one style. “I bristle when people ask me what style I prefer. I do not think of myself as a ‘specialist’ in any particular type. We are simply Architects.

Success in so many different project types comes from the broad range of experience and knowledge of the DEL Studio Architects staff.  “Our staff is composed of highly skilled professionals who contribute development, planning, design and project management expertise to a variety of new and existing facilities projects,” continues Don. “By employing innovative approaches, clients can expect strong design solutions to consistently meet their goals, budget and timetable. As with accessibility, Sustainable Design is an integral part of the process.”

Vital to the success of any project is strong communication between architect, client and contractor. “Our communication skills and ability to track progress of projects and ensure accountability are paramount in our day to day conduct,” says Don. “We are timely, and respond very quickly.” In fact, DEL Studio Architects would prefer their clients consider them as trusted advisors instead of just the project architect. “As a trusted advisor it is not just about architecture, it is about being a trusted guide throughout the entire journey. Our clients rely on my expertise which builds a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. I communicate directly with every client and always make myself available to them.”

The strong design capabilities of DEL Studio Architects inspires clients from the very beginning of the relationship. “All of our projects have enhanced the value and image of our clients,” explains Don. “Our approach can either contrast with the surrounding context or conform/blend with the surroundings and complement the existing streetscape. Using conventional means, materials and proportions we are able to craft projects which are ‘special neighbors’. We try to look at each project as an opportunity and to develop ways to bring fresh ideas and approaches to what appears to be mundane circumstances.

Of utmost importance to Don and his team is the design value brought by DEL Studio Architects to every client and project. “Whenever a client invests in a consultant to design a special project, the question is – ‘does it enhance the clients the needs’? ‘Does the finished working environment make the employees and client feel appreciated with a new, unique place to work’? For DEL Studio Architects, it is imperative that our design shows the community that we care about the look of the design in relation to the surroundings. As an architect I always try to keep “art” involved. Architecture is still about the visual, and you have to know what materials work well together. We make sure all of our designs are buildable and our construction documents are considered excellent.”

For DEL Studio Architects the most important measure of success is their client’s satisfaction. The following client quotes are a true testimony of Don and his dedication to that goal.



“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Don Lipscomb of DEL Studio Architects for more than fifteen years. What sets Don apart are his listening skills and his ability to understand and relate to his client and the client’s vision before putting pencil to paper.”

– Robert Eitel, Professional Engineer and President of Landesign, Inc.

“Donald Lipscomb is a man of great character. He takes time to get to know you and is an expert listener. Donald is a gifted artist in his  field. His abilities are matched by few. If Donald Lipscomb tells you he is going to do something, you can assume with confidence that it will be done and will be done well.”

– Phillip Burnett, Managing Director, Financial Advisor at Coker and Palmer Investment Securities, Inc.

“Donald is a detailed oriented architect and manager. His designs exceed client expectations and code regulations. He focuses on  producing a quality products and maintaining a solid reputation in the industry. Donald has always been a pleasure to work with and I would highly recommend him to anyone!”

– Heather Stickler, PMP, LEED AP, Director of Marketing at JENSEN HUGHES

“Partnering with Don, I was able to successfully lead the effort to renovate a condemned kitchen at my church. Not only is he skilled as an architect, but he is also a people person, which was a real plus when dealing with the many problems that arose during our project. From the beginning to the end he was very professional and attentive to details. As a result, we were able to finish our project under budget and on time. I would highly recommend Del Studio Architects.”

– Donald Heiby, Vice-President, Sales at AUTO-GRIP

“In this day and age of megafirms, it is difficult to find a seasoned architect who displays true competence with personal care and service. I have known Don Lipscomb for over 25 years and have had a chance to see his practice mature and grow. He has been successful in honing his craft without being labeled as a “residential architect” or “commercial architect”, but rather as an innovative ‘problem solver”. His   creativity tempered by his budgetary and constructability experience makes him an asset to any project.”

– Jeff Lee, FASLA, Founding Principal, President of Lee and Associates Inc.

“DEL Studios has always provided a superlative product and design on time and on budget. Donald is a great partner in projects and his integrity is unmatched.”

– Robin Sparrow, Director, Project Management Services at Studley Inc.

When considering the future of DEL Studio Architects, Don Lipscomb and his team have every reason to be optimistic. Major accomplishments include being named one of the 50 Largest Minority Firms in Baltimore from 2005-2012 as well as the 12th Fastest Growing Private Firm in Baltimore for 2012. Don and his team have many more goals on the immediate horizon. “We are looking to expand more into the Institutional building types such as schools, churches and expand beyond opportunities in tenant projects to base building design,” says Don. “A priority is also to maintain a client base that is interested in long term relationships. These goals can be achieved by expanding our current network of contacts and seek out those companies that need to have direct access to our company’s leadership, value open and continuing dialogue and communication and value a team approach to success.” It sounds like DEL Studio  Architects will be breaking the box for many years to come.