Environs

Cuba meets Kentucky in couple's DC townhome

Photography by Todd Franson


This is what it looks like when worlds collide in a 3-lvl, 2 BR, 2 BA Dupont townhouse, where a library, den and verdant garden play home to lots of culture and — of course — a few tchotchkes.

When Pedro Flores and Troy Reynolds decided it was time to move in together, they lucked out in finding just the right house. But for this native Cuban and small town Kentuckian, the real culture clash loomed in the decorating. Fortunately for them, meshing their styles made a home.

Troy: The house was built around 1882. The previous owner bought it to renovate, so it was ninety-percent there when we bought it. What we had to change was pretty minimal. There was some Victoriana stuff that we didn’t necessarily want to stick with. We knocked out some of the moldings that we didn’t like and we repainted. That’s about it. We lucked into finding the house, because I think we would have killed each other if we renovated it by ourselves.

Pedro: [On the patio] I like this whole little area. The patio and yard is what sold the house for me. The guys who lived here previously did a nice job creating this. We’ve added our own little things. We planted this little trellis here. They had the fishpond but they didn’t keep fish in it, and it was actually in pretty bad shape. So I revitalized it, added some fish and brought it back. Now it’s in bad shape again because of the raccoons. They’ve never been able to catch the fish but they try all the time and every time they try they throw all these stones in and make a big mess.


Troy: [In the kitchen]Pedro cooks a lot.

Pedro: Less so now that I am going to school for my masters. I’m big into Cuban food.


Troy: It’s interesting, when we were in Madrid Pedro was all excited that we were going to have traditional Spanish food. So he brings out the Spanish ham and cheese and I’m sitting there going, “Well, it’s nice Pedro but I grew up with country ham, and it’s no different.” If we have a recipe and we can’t use the Spanish ham we use the Virginia ham — it’s the same thing.

Pedro: I remember my father saying that to me when I was a kid, because imported Spanish ham is very expensive to get. Virginia ham is cheaper.


Troy: [In the den] When we moved in most of our stuff meshed together pretty well. The furniture in here is Pedro’s but the painting was mine. It’s by an artist from Louisville and it’s of a horse farm outside of Lexington. The painting is called “Dawn.” I used to house sit for a good friend who had a farm outside of Lexington. As you drive into the farm during the morning there is a little mist, a little dew that comes up from the ground. It’s really beautiful, one of the most beautiful places you ever want to be. I saw that in the painting and snatched it up. She was twenty-one when she painted this. I know her father pretty well, he’s also an artist. The father is gay and the daughter is lesbian.

Pedro: [In the master bedroom] This room is kind of a hodge-podge because we haven’t bought any bedroom furniture since we started living together. So that’s Troy’s old dresser and that’s my old dresser. I actually kind of like it because it’s not a set — it’s two different styles. Except for the end tables. They’re a set.

Troy: [In the guest bedroom] These are Pedro’s Chinese cabinets he is so proud of.

Pedro: I got them on Ebay. We were walking around Georgetown and saw this antique store with really nice Chinese cabinets, but they were expensive. It occurred to me to look on the Internet. I saw these on Ebay and realized the city of origin was Rockville, which is were I work. I went there and it was a crazy warehouse where there was an amazing amount of Chinese tchotchkes. They were everywhere, piled on top of each other. It was messy and dirty — the only clean place was a little area about the size of this bed where they photographed everything for Ebay.


Troy: This is a picture of my nephew. He’s visited here.

Pedro: He’s straight.

Troy: He and his friend went to Universal Gear to get some Diesel jeans. We asked what they did that day and he says in his thick Kentucky accent, “We went to this store on 17th Street and, you know, they were just rude.” So I asked him why and he says, “All they did was stare at us.” I really didn’t have the heart to tell him he just got cruised.

Does your house, condo or apartment have a story to tell? Let Environs know about it. E-mail environs@metroweekly.com. For more Environs, visit www.metroweekly.com.

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Environs

Lesbian couple fix up their first home

Photography by Todd Franson


CLASSIFIED: Lesbian couple with two cats, one green thumb, needed to strike out to greener pastures, leaving the cozy apartment life of Adams Morgan for the more expansive 2BR, 2BA townhouse life of Capitol Hill. Secret reading nook and hand crafted shelves make doing it yourself all the sweeter.

After three years of marriage, Stefanie and Lisa Alfonso-Frank decided it was time to move out of their Adams Morgan apartment and into a townhouse on Capitol Hill. They quickly realized that making the house a home was completely in their own hands.

Stefanie: We moved in July, so we’ve been here four months. This is our first house. We really wanted to stay in Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle, but the housing market there is completely out of control. We were looking all over the place, and a friend of ours suggested we look on Capitol Hill. It was great — we had been looking for months and as soon as we looked at Capitol Hill, within three days we put a bid on a house.

[In the living room] We just got a new couch. We had a yellow couch, which we’re trying to sell — it’s in the kitchen right now [Laughs]. Lisa and I started a gardening business this summer, so I used the money I saved to buy the new one.


Lisa: Gardening was an interest of mine initially. I just grew up with a lot of gardening, and I would garden wherever I could. But when we lived in Adams Morgan I didn’t have any place to garden.

Stefanie: She takes care of all of the plants here. I’m the assistant. [In the dining room] That’s from our wedding — a bunch of the guests chipped in and got us the buffet.

Lisa: We had our ceremony three years ago in Vienna, Virginia. A perfect place for a lesbian couple [Laughs].

Stefanie: We had a Rabbi do the ceremony. We rented an old yellow farmhouse. We had a bar on the porch and the ceremony was in the front yard. The reception was in the backyard under a tent, with a sit down formal dinner.


Lisa: [In the backyard] The backyard is all going to be redone. All these bricks are going to come out. We’re going to create a porch and put down flagstone, sort of like an English country garden. Got to have the garden.

Stefanie: We have two cats. 

Lisa: Elly and Soren. Elly is fifteen-years-old. It took Elly a couple of months to get acclimated to the new house and feel comfortable. Since then she’s become completely obsessed with the outside. She wakes up in the morning and comes running to the backdoor and I put her on the leash — there’s a little stake out there to attach the leash to — and she hangs out and watches the squirrels and the birds. She loves it.

Stefanie: [In the master bedroom] Lisa’s really proud of these closets — she put in all the shelves. When we first moved Lisa thought she was very handy, but we had been living in a rental and hadn’t been doing much fixing up.


Lisa: I just needed to hone my skills. It took a while.

Stefanie: I came home to a bit of a disaster. She had taken all the shelves apart and couldn’t put anything back together. But now she’s great. She’s learned very quickly. I can’t do anything — she’s done a lot and she’s very proud of her accomplishments. Lisa’s the active one. I help pick it out and arrange it and sometimes assist her.

Lisa: I just like to be involved. I’m sort of a perfectionist. I want it done a certain way and if you hire someone it doesn’t always happen that way.

Stefanie: Trying to hire people has been a big surprise. We try to find people to hire and Lisa falls in love with them immediately. She’ll meet them and she come home and say, “I found the one. They’re going to do this and this and this for us and they’re coming on Friday.” And guess what? They don’t come. That’s happened at least ten times.

Lisa: It has not.

Stefanie: Well, at least five times.

Lisa: [Laughs] I put hope in these people and they let me down.

Does your house, condo or apartment have a story to tell? Let Environs know about it. E-mail environs@metroweekly.com. For more Environs, visit www.metroweekly.com.

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Environs

Art-addicted TH owner creates homegrown gallery in Adams Morgan

Photography by Todd Franson


Start with the art in this 3BR, 2 1/2BA Adams Morgan townhouse, where long and tall walls make expansive vistas for a collector addicted to art and decorating. Toss in an aesthetic of clean, simple lines (and a few indestructible chairs) and you’ve got a home grown gallery.

Eric Kole needed a home for himself and his art, so when he found a townhouse in Adams Morgan, he thought he would have plenty of room for both. Ten years later, the walls were full and unhung art was piling under the bed. It was time to take action on his decorating addiction — by opening a new home furnishing store, Vastu.

Eric: Harry Wardman, who did a significant amount of architecture in D.C., built this block in 1913. The house two doors down was built for his wife to live in while he built the Marriot Wardman. I moved in just about ten years ago. It was more house than I needed but I had an art collection and the house had space. Row houses are great for displaying art. You only have two short ends that have windows and everything in between is wall. So I filled it up as much as I possibly could. One of the great things about owning a furniture store is now we get to buy and show art at the store without having to buy it for myself.



[In the dining room] This is a hammered zinc French florist table. It’s about a hundred years old. The reversed bevel is so that when they would line up and cut the flowers the water wouldn’t run off onto the floor. I bought it up in New York and had a piece of glass cut to make it larger. These Emeco chairs weigh nothing. They’re like three pounds, and they’re impervious to virtually everything, including fire. You cannot damage these chairs — although I guess you could run them over with something. I thought they were kind of cool for a dining room.

[In the hallway] It’s very difficult to find a wall that can support an eighteen by four-and-a-half foot painting, so this hallway really helped me make my decision about buying the place. Funny thing is, when I bought this painting the artist was a squatter in the building where the Spy Museum is now. He literally had no home. Then he did this piece and immediately afterwards showed something at the Corcoran, and his career took off. He came and hung this here with a couple friends of mine. There are still marks up there from where we had to put a fifteen-foot ladder. It took four of us three and half hours to hang it. It was a lot of fun, but it may have to stay with the house. I don’t know if I could ever hang it again. It might be here a hundred years from now.


[In the bathroom] This bathroom is original. I’ve had a plumber in here to fix this toilet probably twenty times — the guys from the plumbing company wave to me when they see me. They will not let me replace the toilet: Every time the guy comes in here, he’s like, “You know this is from 1913, it’s stamped on the inside.” I just say, “Okay.” I’m dying to redo it, of course, but I just couldn’t.


[In the master bedroom] I’ve gotten to the point where I have so much art work. I lent a friend some art to show his house when he was putting it on the market and I just started pulling stuff out from underneath the bed. He was laughing at me because I literally have more art under my bed than most people have in their house. It’s a horrible addiction.


[In the living room] I like simple clean lines but I like things to have a consistency. Particularly in townhouses where rooms kind of flow into each other you need to be able to take — whether it’s a color, a texture, a material — and have it all work. Not necessarily matching because I really dislike the idea of matched sets of things because it always looks like you went and said I’ll take this room as opposed to collecting things and putting it together intelligently as you go along. I think it’s important to have consistency throughout. You can see that this aluminum here will be picked up in a lamp or an accent of a vase a little bit further over there. Your eye always sees more than one thing at a time. But I’m at the point now where I’m basically done decorating. I don’t know what else I would change.


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