Environs

Arlington, Virginia is home for Kim and Richard and a flock of flamingos


2 BR, 2 1/2 BA House in Arlington, Va., previously owned by a sweet little old lady. Back yard area perfect for uber-landscaping. Plenty of room for collectibles. Will throw in sun-yellow formica kitchen table if asked nicely.

With an ever-growing flock of flamingos taking control of their townhouse, Kim Mcleod, an assistant director at a mutual fund company, and Richard Gilroy, a creative director for an advertising agency, knew it was time to find a new, bigger home. They settled on an Arlington rambler with a backyard primed for development.

Kim: We moved here about five years ago. We were living in the Del Ray area of Alexandria before that. This house had only had one owner who had been living here since 1961. Sally was this 80-year-old woman and when she moved out you could still see the lines on the walls where the furniture had been — it had never been painted. It was really frightening. We just gutted it and started over. The first thing we did was paint and had the electrical redone.


[In the living room] Our style is what we like. We are fun and we don’t take anything all that seriously. If it’s a little bit over the edge we like it. The flamingo thing started in high school. I’m from a very, very small farm town in Michigan — twenty-three hundred people. The town had all these tacky flamingos and my friend and I decided one night that we were going to beautify our town so we stole all the flamingos out of everybody’s yard. Then we stole them out of the next town’s yards and put them all in a corncrib. At one time we had like 450 pair. We went to separate collages and all our friends got into it. We used to do flamingo shows too. We once painted some black and put steel wool on them and did the Supremes. This [little brass one] was the very first flamingo. I was just out with a friend and she goes, “look isn’t that cool.” After that it just started to become a collection.


Richard: [In the backyard] Our favorite thing in the world is to come home on a Friday night, change clothes, have a drink or two around the patio table and listen to Broadway music.

Kim: We’re really not gay. We just pretend.

Richard: [Sighs] We are old theater queens. The backyard started out with just a little cement slab and this hill was entirely covered with English Ivy and weeds. We knew we wanted to expand the patio. It started out with us saying, “Lets make the patio bigger.” Then we said, “While we are at it, we’ve always wanted a water feature to go on the hillside.”

Kim: And “While we are at it, let’s have in ground lighting put in.” And “While we are at it, let’s have them do the front yard and side yards too.”


[In the family room] For Christmas we get a big tree. I know you’ll find this odd but we collect Christmas ornaments. Last year we bought one of those twig trees, which are just twigs with lights on them. I thought it would be nice to just put our flamingo ornaments on it. We did that last year and it was really cool but we didn’t enough — so I made some. We went out and bought pink and green glass balls and we have stickers — don’t ask why — and I made my own and they look really cool.


Richard: [In the kitchen] When we first looked at this house it was not the house that we wanted to buy. This house wasÂ…

Kim: The lowest on our list.

Richard: Then Sally reduced the price for us over the weekend. While we were going through the house this table and the chairs were in the basement. We talked to our realtor and said, “We’ll take the house if that table conveys.” Of course Sally probably thought that we must be out of our minds but we said we have to have the table.


Kim: She agreed. We often say we bought the table and she just threw in the house.

Richard: Before we sold our previous house our realtor made us put away a lot of stuff in storage, which we couldn’t get to until we finished painting and remodeling. I think I really felt at home in our new house once we were able to rescue all our collectables from storage and put them in our house. They’re like our little friends.



Does your house, condo or apartment have a story to tell? Let Environs know about it. E-mail environs@metroweekly.com. To see more photographs from this week’s featured space, visit us online at www.metroweekly.com/home.

Environs

Stephen and Mickey find home in DC's renewed Southwest neighborhood


If at first you don’t succeed, you can always move to another neighborhood. This 2 BR, 2 1/2 BA townhouse near the waterfront in Southwest comes complete with great natural lighting, distinctive architecture, and plenty of space for two dogs and their owners.

The night Stephen Dempsey and Mickey Braden heard their next-door neighbor had been murdered in his house, they decided it was time to leave their Columbia Heights townhouse behind. They found a haven of their own in a little-known section of D.C.’s Southwest where urban renewal came with a contemporary twist. 

Stephen: We’ve been in D.C. for about four years now. We moved here from Dallas. We started out in an apartment up on Connecticut and Van Ness when we moved here because we needed something we could move into right away. Then we bought a house in a slowly gentrifying section of Columbia Heights. For Mickey it was a big change from Dallas.


Mickey: I had never lived in the inner-city.

Stephen: So we went from suburban Dallas to Columbia Heights. We lived there for almost 18 months. We were not real thrilled with the area.


Mickey: The night the police woke us up because our neighbor was murdered in his kitchen was my last straw.

Stephen: When we were in Dallas we had always been drawn to ’60s contemporary [architecture], which is hard to find here in D.C. Our realtor said Southwest would probably be one of the few places in town where you could find that architecture. All of Southwest from the Capitol down to the waterfront was part of an urban renewal plan that they started in the ’50s. There are actually five or six big complexes that comprise the bulk of Southwest. This was actually one of the first ones built — it was a joint venture with Reynolds Aluminum. The high-rise next to this complex, as well as all the panels on these townhouses, were [made with] aluminum. It was Reynolds showing how aluminum could be used both structurally and ornamentally. It’s pretty neat. The architect was Robert Goodman, who also did a lot of the first buildings out in Reston, Virginia. It is actually a fairly interesting complex.


[In the living room] When we walked into this place I think we both agreed that this was what we were looking for. It was wide open and the whole back of the house is glass. You get nice light and the open ’60s feel. That kind of sold us on it when we got here.

We had to do a lot of clean up work when we moved in. The previous owner had enclosed this staircase and there was crown molding throughout the downstairs. I think he tried to make it a more traditional looking home, which it is not. We had a contractor come in and took this wall out. He also worked with a steel manufacturer and designed this rail system [for the stairs].

Mickey: [In the den] I got the dogs when we were in Columbia Heights. They’re longhaired miniature Dachshunds. I’m a dog fanatic. When we left Dallas I had to give up my two dogs because the place we moved to didn’t allow pets. After living here for about a year it got to the point that I needed something to come home to, to lick my face and everything would be fine. They’re actually sisters from the same litter — I made a deal to take them both because I didn’t want to get just one. With both of us working I wanted them to at least have somebody to play with while we were gone. Their names are Cagney and Lacey — our own little detectives.

It gets kind of dark down here so I can relax. I’m a sports nut so I come down here and watch sports and curl up on the couch. I watch any kind of sports.


Stephen: He watches anything, starting with tennis.

Mickey: Volleyball, softball, baseball…

Stephen: European rules football, juggling, gymnastics, ice skatingÂ…

Mickey: Well, not so much the ice skating.

Stephen: [In the master bedroom] I felt at home here almost immediately. I grew up as an Air Force brat, so moving for me is never a big deal. I tend to acclimate and fit in wherever I happen to be. For Mickey it was a little harder.

Mickey: I would say only in the past year and half have I been comfortable with D.C. period. I lived in Dallas for 18 years before coming here. It was very difficult for me. Just getting used to the city lifestyle and the people that go with it. For me it was not as friendly over here on the east coast as in the south. It was a challenge [to meet new people] but we developed some really good friends. Meeting them and getting comfortable with them helped me become comfortable with myself here.



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

Environs

DC lobbyist brings Chilean touches to his Kalorama condo


The past makes the present perfect in this 1 BR, 1 BA condo in the historic Wyoming apartment building that looks over the city from atop Kalorama Triangle. Plenty of room for familial fixer-uppers.

Mario Correa wanted a home with character and history. So when the D.C.-based lobbyist found a condo in Kalorama Triangle’s elegant Wyoming, he knew he’d found the perfect place for his family tree to spread some roots.

Mario: I moved here in 2001. I had just come back from living in the United Kingdom for a couple years. I began looking for a place to buy and looked at about 45 apartments. I had been to the Wyoming years before at a party and I just loved the building. It’s a turn-of-the-century building. There is a lot of history here, like the fact that the Eisenhowers once lived here. When my real estate agent told me there was a place open here we came and saw it and that was it — I put a bid on it. There were seven of us bidding. It was one of these typical D.C. real estate nightmares, but I won the bidding war [laughs].


I knew I wanted my own place because I hadn’t owned before. I underestimated the degree to which buying my own place gave me a sense of roots in D.C. Even though this is where I was raised I always thought I would move to another city. Getting a place changed that and made me feel rooted here.


[In the living room] I love that this room is one big, uninterrupted space. Everything you see here is pretty much stuff I have acquired over the last couple years, mostly from local antique stores or thrift shops. I grew up in a family where my folks collected lots of antiques. My family is from Chile and I grew up there until I was seven. My parents used to go to antique stores on the weekend and I hated every minute of it. But through some sort of osmosis I picked up some appreciation for it [laughs]. One of the things I tried to do in this apartment is include parts of Chile and some things about my family history. A number of the paintings up on the wall are actually by contemporary Chilean painters.


[In the den] This is a faux marble table top — it’s actually wood and it cost me like ten bucks. In London I lived in a fully-furnished apartment that was decorated all in wicker. There were wicker seats, a wicker sofa and a wicker table. In addition to not being very useful it was very prickly — you sit down and you would be in pain. I had to draw the line somewhere, so when I saw this at a going-out-of-business sale I bought it and put it on top of my table. Even though it is not the loveliest thing in the world I grew attached to it because it reminds me of my time in London.


[In the dining room] This is a cowhide rug, which is also very Chilean. In Chile we have a lot of cattle and when I was down there recently for my brother’s wedding, I saw one of these and thought that it would maybe work with my dining room set. My folks have played a huge part in this apartment. When I first moved here I had nothing. My parents came to visit, thinking they were going to have a relaxing Christmas Holiday. Instead I put them to work. My poor mother sewed curtains, pillows and slipcovers — she was basically in a Kathy Lee Gifford-style sweat shop for two weeks. My dad was great as well and helped on a bunch of things. He took all the paint off of these old brass door handles that had been painted over. As my brother, who was also there, said at the time, “This is the worst family vacation I have ever gone on.”


I really began to feel like it was my place was when my family became a part of it. They are very important to me and when they took pride in things — whether it was the furniture that they were slip covering or the door handle that my dad was cleaning — that was what made me feel at home. Seeing them feel comfortable where I live was great for me because they lived so far away. Parents are always concerned about you when you are not living with them. When they got here and said, “This is good place. He’ll be safe and happy here,” that really made a difference.


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

Environs

Rick and Peter's waterfront home in Fort Washington, MD


Birds of a feather flock together in this 5 BR, 2 BA riverfront home in Fort Washington, Md. Forget the Beltway — leave your car behind and live the life of fast and easy aquatic transportation.

Realtor Rick Quinones and landscape architect Peter Dicken always wanted to own a home near water, so when they recognized their beautiful riverfront home in Fort Washington as their ideal sanctuary. They just have to share it with a few hundred birds.

Rick: We were living in Alexandria before this.

Peter: We decided we would not move until we found a house on the water — since we were young, both of us have wanted to live on the water. Rick is actually a champion swimmer, so the water was a very big part of his life. We found out about this area in an article in the Washington Post about the National Harbor. Rick’s sister called him and said, “This article looks interesting. Maybe this is the time for you all to buy a piece of the waterfront before the prices go up.” I was on a trip to a convention in Florida and Rick called me and said, “What do you think?” I said, “Do it, just do it. It doesn’t matter what you get, just get it.” Then Rick called back and said he had found this place that was in our price range — “the house needs a lot of work but the property is magnificent.” I said, “Buy it.”


[In the sunroom] What I like about this room is that I was able to integrate the room into the landscape. Outside you have the flagstone that wraps around the house and then it comes inside the house. When you’re walking inside there is this very smooth transition. It makes the house not insular but very involved with the landscape. The whole idea behind the furnishings is to feel like you were on a boat. You have the blue and white theme that echoes the water — I wanted to bring the water inside just like the flagstone.


[In the master bedroom] These are watercolors of a blue heron and a white egret, which we often see in our backyard. This area is actually a bird sanctuary. Throughout the year, especially in the fall and the winter, migratory birds come through and they land here for a rest. We have some friends that are bird fans that say they see birds here that they don’t see anywhere else in the area.


Rick: When we first got here he wanted to buy a pair of swans.

Peter: I thought it would be wonderful to have swans here. We didn’t have time to follow through on it, but during the winter this whole little inlet was covered with artic swans. This happens to be where the swans stay in the winter. You’ll see hundreds of these swans living here.

Rick: They’re really pretty.

Peter: It’s really a fascinating location on the river.


Rick: [In the guest room] We got the dogs about three years ago.

Peter: I was trying to buy a Bernese Mountain Dog, which are huge. Rick found out through one of my secretaries that I was about to buy a puppy, so he went and bought me Sabina, who is a Pomeranian and much smaller. He didn’t want a big dog. We went to find another puppy to keep Sabina company and found Sasha, who was actually a breeding dog. We fell in love with her but the owner did not want to sell her. I went back and she still wouldn’t sell her. I went back a third time and she relented — she thought the dog was going to be in a happy home because we really wanted her. They love each other. It’s interesting — Sasha follows Rick everywhere and Sabina follows me everywhere.


Rick: [In the back yard] Obviously the water was a big attraction for us and when I saw the dock I said, “We’ve got to get this.” In the summertime we take our boat to Old Town because neither one of us cooks — we go out to eat every day.

Peter: In the summer we use the boat just a like a car. It is actually faster to use the boat. Dock to dock is fifteen minutes. We are usually in a restaurant in twenty minutes.


Rick: We started to feel at home here immediately. Peter has a very creative eye and he wanted to fix it up. For me, I had the water right there so I was in business. I didn’t need to do anything to it.

Peter: We knew we would be here for a lifetime. We wouldn’t sell this house. We’ll never leave the water.


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

Environs

Designer and artist Mick Mier's converted Ledroit Park warehouse


This sizable 2 BR, 1 BA apartment in Ledroit Park is the perfect abode for your inner-artist. Lavishly decorated with architectural antiques and quite a few paintings meant to raise eyebrows and provoke a gasp. Includes a walk-in vault perfect for practicing your mantra.

Between furniture design, painting and interior decorating artist Mick Mier knew a conventional apartment would never be able to accommodate his creative ambition. He instead found his oasis in an old drugstore warehouse in Ledroit Park with plenty of space, plenty of history and plenty of ways for him to add his own touch.

Mick: I was living in California before I came to Washington. I ended up here accidentally because I was doing a music project and came to do a recording. I stayed here and hung out and liked it. I wanted to live on the east coast for a while because the west coast was a little too relaxed. I thought it would be more energetic out here.

I did music for a while and was dabbling in interior design. I started dumpster diving and fixing furniture and then I went to a trade school in Texas for a year because I wanted to learn how to do it properly. I did that, came back and started the upholstery business, Top Collective. All the while I was sort of nurturing my interest in interior design. Now I sort of have a balance between all of my art forms.


This space is 4,000 square feet. I have my upholstery shop in the back. I have a garage, a loading dock and a freight elevator that comes right into the shop. I’m a magnet for things and furniture and I can’t live a regular life and do what I do. I can’t live in an apartment or even a house. This space is perfect for me.


[In the bedroom] These are all architectural antiques that I pick up here and there. I do assemblages with them, like this mirror I built completely out of antiques. I’ve done all this since I moved in last October. It comes together as you’re doing it. That is a piece of antique paneling [above my bed]. I love that sort of stuff. I love age and function and history. I can buy something that someone else has used over and over again and then change it into what I like by restoring it, by stripping it down, by painting it, or by adding it to something else. I don’t just buy it, I buy it and have to tweak it a little bit to my liking.


[In the living room] That painting is by Steve Lewis, who also did the woodcut in my bedroom. It’s called “Crucifixion of the Hound Dog.” A lot of people think it is blasphemous but it is really not. He did this series of paintings of dogs for this client and he was so tired of painting dogs, when he was done with the project he decided he was going to crucify the last one. So he did this whole elaborate painting. A lot of people are offended by it but I think it’s hilarious.


[In the rec room] This is the screening room. I did the painted finish on that coffee table. This couple had an estate sale and Bill Troy from Ruff and Ready called me and said, “We just bought out this whole house and there is one thing left that we can’t fit in the truck. If you go grab it, it’s yours.” He said it was a coffee table the size of a full size mattress. I said, “I’ll take it.” The couple was so happy to get rid of it because it’s so huge. It was perfect for a warehouse.


[In the vault] This is a walk-in vault that I converted into a yoga room. I got into yoga a couple years ago because I threw out my back. I used to work out at the gym and I was a big swimmer. Then I hurt my back lifting furniture a couple years ago and my chiropractor said I should start doing yoga. I was like, “Oh, god.” Then I started doing it — I love it. I don’t even go to the gym anymore. Five days a week, yoga is my work out. It is everything — it is spiritual, it is relaxing. I can think about all the things I need to do — it’s my private time.


The neighborhood is getting better and better. This building used to be the only one on the street that had a different demographic than the rest of the neighborhood. Artists have been working here since the ’70s. This is kind of an oasis. When you go out and see the people hanging out and being all sketchy it bothers you but then you get inside — you’ve got your own little world. Once I’m in here I forget about it. No one seems to bother the building at all. They at least respect that work is going on here. I think they might be scared of artists.


Does your house, condo or apartment have a story to tell? Let Environs know about it. E-mail environs@metroweekly.com. To see more photographs from this week’s featured space, visit us online at www.metroweekly.com/home.