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Holiday-themed chocolates are customizable from TopThisChocolate.com.  (Shana Elson)

District native offers customers customizable Christmas and Hanukkah treats

- The Washington Times

D.C. native Shana Elson is taking customizable candies to the next level with her business, Top This Chocolate out of Santa Monica, California, a boutique customizer of all manner of chocolate treats. “Before Top This Chocolate, the only chocolate that was available was whatever came off the factory floor,” Ms. Elson said. “If you liked almonds, you were in luck, but if you preferred pistachios with cranberries, there was nowhere to turn.”

Kathryn Sargent  (vebidoo.com)

Sargent aims to dress up D.C.

- The Washington Times

British designer Kathryn Sargent aims to dress up the capital. The London-based designer recently came to the District for a “Tailored Tea” and “Wine and Design” event at The Jefferson Washington D.C. in Northwest. Ms. Sargent showed off her wares and explained the importance of a bespoke tailored suit for doing business in the District, be it for government, business or simply social occasions.

Actor Chazz Palminteri has his own signature brand of vodka, BiVi.  (swineandswill.com)

Palminteri unveils BiVi, first-ever Sicilian-style vodka

- The Washington Times

Chazz Palminteri, the writer-actor-director known for his one-man show and subsequent film adaptation of “A Bronx Tale,” has gone where no Sicilian distiller has gone before. “My [business partner] Rich DeCicco said to me, ‘You know there’s never really been an Italian/Sicilian vodka made in Sicily,’” Mr. Palminteri, 63, told The Washington Times of his entry into the vodka business with his new signature brand, BiVi.

Spring break revelry not so fun for Florida property owners

Residents in Panama City Beach, Florida, a town of 12,000, remain on edge about the spike in crime during spring break. Despite the surge for businesses, they say, rowdy revelers are lowering their property values and keeping the more lucrative family demographic at bay.

In this photo provided by M. Design Interiors, framed art is displayed both in and on a built-in bookcase. The effect is open and airy, while still providing ample storage space for the homeowner's book collection. The interior and bookcase design is by Molly Luetkemeyer. (AP Photo/M. Design Interiors, Justin Officer)

Declutter, then create style by editing collections

Designers often surprise their clients by sharing a secret: You can dramatically change the look of a room simply by changing or rearranging the items on your bookshelves and tabletops.

Some design solutions may involve moving walls, as was done for this family kitchen. (Photograph courtesy of Case Design/Remodeling)

Bigger not always better in remodeling, DIY

- Deseret News

Smart redesign that stays within the footprint of your house can be less expensive than a large, big box addition and can have a big impact on your lifestyle.

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Photo provided by Andersen Windows

A Craftsman-style home typically has special feature windows, such as a picture window.

Cover story: Right details on additions fit existing home style

The Washington area may be home to Democrats, Republicans, independents and Libertarians, but no matter what their political persuasion, local residents more than likely live in a conservative home.

Cover story: Streetcar fans see development following tracks

Back in your great-grandfather's day, streetcars cranked their way around Greater Washington with fairly predictable regularity. In the early 20th century, family weekends might include "riding the lines" out to amusement parks in Glen Echo, Bethesda or far Northeast, lines locals used daily to get to work, school or shopping.

Luxury home: A cul-de-sac of 12 estates in McLean

While McLean receives recognition around the United States for being home to politicians, attorneys, lobbyists and broadcasters, many area residents know this Northern Virginia community for its amenities.

The home at 1708 P St. NW near Dupont Circle is on the market for $1,595,000. The circa-1900 Colonial-style brick row home has four finished levels with five bedrooms, three full baths and a powder room.

Resale of the week: Dupont Circle row house sits on quiet block

The Dupont Circle neighborhood inspires plenty of longing among many D.C.-area residents who visit the restaurants, shops and nightlife in this lively community and wish they lived in the midst of its excitement.

The kitchen has new granite counters, maple cabinets and stainless steel appliances.

Resale of the week: 6-bedroom remodeled Kensington split level

A spacious 1950s split-level home in Kensington, meticulously remodeled by its owners in 2012, is on the market for $1,099,000. The six-bedroom, four-bath home has plenty of space for family members to unwind or entertain during the holidays.

Cover story: Next year will ‘start out fast’

Perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid to the Washington area in 2012 is that it was "balanced." The market was no longer cold, nor was it irrationally hot.

The kitchen has granite counters and top-of-the-line appliances.

Luxury home: Four levels of French elegance in Kalorama

While the District has many breathtakingly beautiful views and avenues, the Kalorama neighborhood in Northwest Washington is home to some of the best examples of residential architecture in the city. Some of its elegant buildings are embassies or ambassadorial residences, while others are private homes.

Drees Homes is building 40 town homes at Linton at Ballenger in Frederick. The homes have 2,029 to 2,070 square feet and are base-priced from $282,900 to 292,900.

New in Maryland: Linton at Ballenger

Drees Homes is building 40 town homes at Linton at Ballenger in Frederick, a community with walking paths, green space and plans for a clubhouse, swimming pool and sports fields. The community is close to Historic Downtown Frederick, Francis Scott Key Mall, parks, country clubs and commuter routes.

Mortgage Q&A: May rates stay low in new year

Perhaps it's appropriate for my last column of 2012 to talk about the so-called "fiscal cliff." With any luck, our elected officials already will have reached some sort of reasonable agreement by the time this is published. As I write, both sides still are pretty far apart.

The center-island kitchen has maple cabinets painted with white glaze, a tiled backsplash, stainless steel appliances and granite counters.

Luxury home: New N. Bethesda home with classic details

While some homebuyers prefer the patina of age and tradition in a home, others refuse to compromise by living in a home that another family has occupied. The advantages of purchasing a new home are many, but two aspects appeal to many people: New homes typically are designed to match the way families live and entertain today, and most have environmentally friendly features that increase the home's energy efficiency.

Cover story: Designers use talents for sick, needy

Every spring since 2008, interior designers and landscape designers from the Washington area help raise money for Children's National Medical Center by participating in the DC Design House project founded by Skip and Debbie Singleton, owners of DC Living Real Estate.

Toll Brothers is building town homes at Amberlea at South Riding in Ashburn. The homes have from 1,450 to 1,530 square feet and are base-priced from $305,995 to $337,995.

New in Virginia: Amberlea at South Riding

Toll Brothers is building town homes at Amberlea at South Riding in Ashburn, a planned community with a golf course, sports courts, clubhouses, swimming pools, playgrounds, parks, trails and neighborhood events held on the Town Green. Market Square includes shops, restaurants and services.

The home has hardwood flooring and high ceilings throughout the main and upper levels.

Resale of the week: Expanded, updated Falls Church farmhouse

Longtime Falls Church residents may remember Wide Awake Farm in the Sleepy Hollow area near Lake Barcroft, where horses grazed in the pastures. The original farmhouse rests today on a smaller but still pastoral lot.

Mortgage Q&A: Don’t wait for drop in mortgages

Q. My fiance and I want to buy our first home in 2013. I think we should find a suitable home as soon as possible and make an offer. We have been prequalified and have targeted our price range.

At the back of the ground level in the Southwick model are the center-island kitchen, which is open to the family room and breakfast area.

New in Maryland: Boucher Place

Basheer & Edgemoore is building 28 town homes and single-family homes on sites of 4,000 to 7,000 square feet at Boucher Place in the Eastport neighborhood in Annapolis, located within walking distance of historic downtown Annapolis, shops, restaurants, the marina and the Chesapeake Bay waterfront.