Environs

John Camp's whimsical U Street loft


When we say “loft” we mean “LOFT.” Don’t miss this high-ceilinged jewel in the heart of the vibrant U Street scene, with an enormous living area, funky artist’s studio, and a view to the world.

“I don’t like to be boring,” says John Camp, more often known by alternate appellation, GoGo. That attitude permeates the U Street loft of this eclectic artist/ actor/ model/ designer. He’s created a home where a whimsical construction crane demarcates the thin line between art and life, and the ceiling keeps visitors looking to the stars.

John: I’ve lived here for seven years. This is not the first loft space I’ve lived in. My first apartment when I was 21 was a loft space designed specifically for artists in Charlottesville, Va. I was one of the first residents there, which was really cool and really fun.

For a long time I drove by this place thinking, “That would be a really cool place to live.” Then one day I saw an ad for a “New York style loft” — I walked in here and I knew this was going to be my home.


[At the windows] It’s fun to just lean out the window and watch the world go by, especially on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s actually kind of hypnotic. It’s sort of like Sesame Street. You see all sorts of people in this neighborhood: black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, straight, young, old, rich, poor. Everybody’s here just doing their thing. So it’s a vibrant neighborhood and it’s gone through some change in the past few years.

The biggest issue that you have here is on the weekends, with the club traffic and drunk people screaming, partying and carrying on. That’s the biggest problem about living here — the noise, the trucks, the buses, the fire engines, the police cars, but that’s just a part of living in downtown. You get used to it. The strangest thing is when it gets really quiet — you figure that something’s wrong.


[In the living room] The sleeping space is interesting. It’s a 36-inch space above the kitchen and you have to climb up the ladder to get to it. It’s like having an adult bunk bed — a gay man’s giant bunk bed. If you want to stretch out, you just go up there and watch TV. It’s warm and cozy in the wintertime. It’s a little on the hot side in the summer, that’s why I keep a fan up there.

As far as the whimsical nature of the place, I do this to entertain myself. It’s colorful, it’s silly, it’s me. And I don’t feel like growing up yet. This is really cool — it’s a truck toolbox I got recently. It’s great because you can use it as a cocktail table. You can use it for extra seating. There’s extra storage in there. You can stand on it. And it really works with the space.


I’ve had parties here. I don’t party as much as I used to but it’s great for entertaining. I like entertaining in the space because people walk in and it’s dazzling. There’s something to look at in every corner of the room. You come into this place and you won’t be bored. There’s something to be seen in every nook, cranny and corner.

[In the studio] There’s a line that I’m standing on right here. When I cross this line, I’m in my little artist’s world. The other side is home. And it’s convenient because I can take all the typical clutter of day-to-day living and shove it into the art studio where clutter is part of the process. Even though this is one huge room, it’s two distinctly different areas.


I’m a very big Star Wars fan. I love space, I love astronomy. I remember being mesmerized as a kid by Star Wars movies, and being able to go out in the back yard, look up into the sky and see the stars. That’s why there are stars hanging from the ceiling of the living room. Being in the city you don’t get to enjoy that as much.

I’ve collected globes for about ten years. I have about 15 of them, and some are even lighted. Collecting them just sort of evolved. There are so many things you would like to be but you can’t be all of them. I would love to go back to school and study astronomy. And I love physics and science fiction — globes are just a part of that. It turns out that they end up being nice little decorative things, too.

The drill press is for making jewelry. Because it serves as an art studio, this place gets pretty industrial here sometimes. Sometimes a little messy. [The noise would only be a problem] when I decide to do odd things at four in the morning, but I try to be courteous to my neighbors.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

Environs

Crete comes to Logan Circle in Ron and Dennis' colorful townhome


History’s always being made on Logan Circle in this 3 BR, 2 1/2 BA townhouse, where every floor tells the story of a different era. If you don’t know about Crete now, you will after spending some time studying these walls!

One of the first things you notice about Dennis Gomes and Ron Mezo’s Logan Circle townhouse is the abundance of color on the walls. “Every room has at least five different colors of paint, all hand done,” says Gomes. That attention to detail makes their home stand out in a neighborhood that in the past decade has gone from urban decay to architectural showcase.

Ron: [In the living room] The design motif of the house depends on what floor you’re on — I picked a different era for each of the floors. This was based a little bit more on a Renaissance period. All the marbling [paint on the walls] is mainly on this floor.

Dennis: He did everything, all this painting. It took him months — on weekends and evenings and stuff like that. I’d come home to him with the ladders and all these brushes and sponges. I’ll do the base paint and strip the wood, but I don’t have the patience for that stuff.


Ron: The disco mirrors on the wall were put in during the seventies to try and create depth. Well, that’s what I call it, but obviously mirrors were a very big thing to have in the seventies. I wanted to take them down when we moved in because I felt they were very outdated, but a couple of people talked me out of doing it. I like the depth but I don’t like the mirrors bare, so I created the illusion of them being a separate space by putting the curtains up.


[In the dining room] If Dennis tries to be really formal about entertaining, he’ll close the pocket doors then have people come in from the living room for dinner. But most times we’re so casual with the dining that we do. We gather downstairs in the kitchen and have dinner there.

We have several ghosts in the house. [Laughs.] We got that [hutch] from a store on Connecticut Avenue, and they got it from a house in upstate New York. We asked where it came from because after we bought it these two little girl ghosts showed up.


Dennis: We’ve had it for four years now. But there was a lot of negative energy in this house when that piece came in, and we’d never felt that before.

Ron: They’re two little shadows, just mischievous little girls. I finally had enough and told them they needed to go away, and I haven’t seen them since. You can believe it or you don’t have to believe it. They’re just ghost stories. [Laughs.]


Dennis: [In the kitchen] We had problems with a neighbor’s tree hitting our plumbing. The plumber cut a hole in the wall to fix it, and he said, “Why did you guys plug up that old fireplace?” We were like, “What fireplace?” We didn’t even know there was a fireplace in here when we bought the house.

Ron: This is really Dennis’s cooking showroom. He’s a great cook, and he loves to cook for people and let them watch him while he’s cooking.


Dennis: I’m Portuguese, and I love cooking Portuguese because people don’t know what it’s all about. It has a lot of Moorish influence, a lot of cumin, white pepper and saffron.

Ron: It looks like a Mediterranean dish but doesn’t taste like it at all, much like the language has the same Romance language look but sounds totally different.


[In the guest bath] I’m a bit of an archeology buff. This space is based on the palace of Knossos in Crete. The queen’s chamber was designed with dolphins, which were among their most prized animals that they would display, so I created that and painted them here. This is my own little creation, my own little room, and I don’t care what anybody thinks about it or feels about it. It just was my own interest in the people — they’re very fascinating people.

[In the master bedroom] In the seventies this floor was turned into a master suite  — it was a great idea. We fell in love with the house before we got up here, but we knew that this was the place when we got up here. The bed is actually two twin beds, we got it from an estate sale, and the owner had converted it to a king sized bed, and we thought what a great idea that was — that was our own housewarming gift to ourselves.


We got this cabinet in Portugal when we visited for the first time. We were able to locate the shop his grandparents owned before they immigrated here.

Dennis: I told the woman in the store that my grandfather had owned this place. And she said “Oh, my god. Come back here.” And there sitting on the floor was this cabinet that they had left behind. It was from the counter, where they would use it to display all the spools of thread.


Ron: So he says, “Can I buy it from you?” She was a little taken aback. But she offered a price and we took it. She shipped it over for us. And, by the way, the Portuguese Postal Service and United States Postal Service got it here and the only thing broken was a piece of glass.

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



Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

Environs

Southwest townhome puts Realtor Jeff Sasche near DC's Waterfront


Your ship has come in with this 4BR, 2BA townhouse just a stone’s throw away from the D.C. Waterfront. Floor-to-ceiling windows, plenty of green spaces and friendly neighbors make this southwest community a desired destination by land or by sea.

Experience pays when buying a home, so real estate agent Jeff Sachse quickly spotted his southwest D.C. townhouse as a great buy in a fabulous neighborhood. What was once a dreary group house became a spacious abode with room for a busy career, family heirlooms, flea market finds, and a dog named Truman. And with the Waterfront just moments away, Sachse can take to the waves at a moment’s notice.

JEFF: I like the spaciousness of this house. I had a bigger house up in Chevy Chase, but I have a boat and I wanted to be closer to that. I have a 28-foot Sea Ray Sundancer at the marina, which is a pretty big boat — I can take eight to ten people out on it. You can weekend on it very comfortably. And it’s about three minutes from the house. I used to live in Chicago where I had a great condo right on the water. I’ve always loved living near the water.


[In the foyer] When I bought this place it was a rental group house. The entire house was carpeted and painted off-white. It was pretty dreary. I’ve been through about three different paint colors on the walls. This is “tea biscuit.” [Laughs.] Actually, this is a great color. Throughout the house, you basically have floor-to-ceiling windows in every room. There’s a lot of openness, but the house faces north so I don’t get a lot of direct sunlight. Originally, I had used some dark colors. They were nice colors but they made the house seem dark. So that’s why I chose tea biscuit.


[In the living room] I switched the room around recently. I used to have the dining room over here but then I put it in the smaller area over there. I’m not a cook, and I don’t really entertain at home that much. I use the living space more than I use the dining space, so it made sense to bring the living space into the bigger part of the room.


I use the back yard and patio pretty often. It’s nice at night when the torches are lit. It’s also nice to be able to just let the dog out on the patio without having to walk him every single time. But I like the feeling of having a little yard that’s not too big. It’s really easy to maintain. It’s really quiet here and the neighbors are very nice. People often have a misconception that there’s a lot of crime in southwest. I’ve never had one problem here.


This painting’s kind of interesting. My grandparents picked it up during a trip to Europe. It’s signed Winslow Homer, and they had tried for years to get it authenticated. It’s very Homer in its look and technique.  People think that it’s a portrait of a fisherman in an English town where Homer spent a lot of time. I have old newspaper articles from the 1960s about their attempt to authenticate it. But they were never able to, which is why it wound up in my living room and not my mother’s.

[In the guest room] I like the room size in this place. This is a really pretty big guest room, and the windows are big. Truman will sleep on top of any pile of pillows and on the back of sofas. You can see his little indentation on the bed pillows there.


When I first walked into this place it had a dirty beige carpet. I’d seen other units here and I knew there were hardwood floors underneath, so the first thing I did was rip out all the carpet and redo all the floors. They’re really beautiful floors. I can maybe understand carpeting a bedroom, where you want to have warmth on your feet. But I’d rather have an area rug — it just looks so much better.


[In the master bedroom] Originally, there were two bedrooms up here. But I don’t need two bedrooms, so I opened up the space between them [with sliding pocket doors]. For resale purposes, I didn’t want to completely take the wall out. This gives me a sitting room next to the bedroom. It really opens up the floor and makes it look so much bigger.


[In the office] These shelves were here already and it actually worked out perfectly. I find it incredibly convenient and fantastic to work at home. As a real estate agent, you don’t spend a lot of time sitting in an office anyway. It’s just a convenience to be able to work out of the house. Wake up, go into the office for the things you need to do, and just get it done. I think if I had a job where I was sitting in the office in my house all day it might get a little lonely and I don’t think I’d enjoy that. But this way it’s about being able to get out and get the stuff done that needs to be done.


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

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

Environs

Clarendon, VA is home for GWM couple and some oddball architecture.


Unclassifiable in Arlington! This 4 BR, 3 BA (plus 2 half baths), single family home has its unique niche among the condo canyons of Clarendon, where it plays home for a GWM couple, their roommates, and a playful pooch. It’s at least three homes in one!

When Mike Mancini moved into this sprawling home in Clarendon in 1998, he was a little hesitant upon seeing the haphazard additions. But odd hallways, disconnected upstairs areas, and a surprising au pair suite gave the house undeniable charm. Recently joined by his partner Mike McMurtrie, the couple shares their space with three roommates and Roscoe the dog.

Mancini: What’s interesting about this house is that the front half was built in 1929 and then the back half was apparently added on in 1986 by a Cuban architect. As you walk through the house you’ll probably realize that he was not quite accustomed to American building standards. I remember walking through and laughing because it was such an oddball house. It has three staircases that don’t connect. The upstairs in front doesn’t connect with the upstairs in back. And the previous owners really had a fetish for mauve. It was very quirky. My former partner Scott [Brooks] really liked it because of that quirkiness. I was a little reluctant but it turned out to be a great investment given the area. We have a nickname for the house: Halphass Manor, with an English spelling. Because as you’re looking around or doing repair work, you think “This was done in such a half-assed manner.”


[In the living room] This was once the more formal family room. When my former partner and I separated I was redecorating and wanted to get some color in here. Some friends of mine actually had done their living room in yellow. I like yellow but I hadn’t thought of that before so I thought it would be good to try. I did the darker yellow there and a lighter yellow on the other wall. Living rooms are often the room nobody uses, but it looks good. What’s the point of it? How can you make it useful? So this was a great place to put the desk, facing out into the room rather than pushed into a corner.


[In the family room] This is the Grand Salon. The house may be quirky looking from the outside, but it’s a lot of space, especially for Arlington, and to have this modern California-style family room is pretty odd. We spend a lot of time in here. There’s the hook in the ceiling for the disco ball — the motor can plug into the track lighting. Whip up a party and move the furniture back, and you’ve got a little dance floor. The hallway there isn’t the most efficient layout, but it creates a nice balcony where we can have drag shows. This is a great entertainment house, and we do like to entertain. We always have a big-ass New Year’s Eve party. All your readers are invited.

McMurtrie: Not really. [Laughs.]


Mancini: [In the master bedroom] This is a good-sized room, although it’s odd that it has this big-ass picture window in it. That chair is Roscoe’s favorite spot — he can see the whole neighborhood from there. It’s an odd-shaped room to deal with, which limits where you can put furniture, but it works well. We recently traded in the waterbed for a regular bed, but the headboard is left over from the waterbed. I made it when I was in college and living at home. I knew if I made it mom would relent and let me have a waterbed — and it worked. But it was time to give up the waterbed.


McMurtrie: But it wasn’t too bad, unless the other person was getting in and out, or tossing and turning. And when Roscoe jumped on the bed, hold on to the rails because someone’s going over.

Mancini: We were going to get new bedroom furniture but decided instead to do the living room and the desk there. The computer desk in here was just too crowded, and you were away from everyone else in the house. It’s nice to be downstairs and not cloistering yourself away to go pay bills and such.


McMurtrie: Plus, who wants to work in a love den? [laughs]

Mancini: I wanted to have a bedroom that was a little more masculine, which is hard to find. When you look for bedding it’s all flowers and foofy and lacy. It was really a challenge when we were shopping for a new comforter.


[In the back yard] This tree must have had a termite problem once, but it greens out really nice and the hollow is a perfect place for the Madonna. And this is a little garden for my cat who has passed away. It all lights up at night. The back wall is actually not a fence, but the back of a building, which will be torn down next spring to build more condominiums.

Mike and I did the patio here. This is a gas fireplace with ceramic logs. Originally, I had a gas line put in for a gas grill, but then when we finished the deck it didn’t make sense to have a grill in it. But the fireplace is the perfect thing on a fall day or early spring — you can sit out here with a bit of a fire and no fuss, no mess. It looks amazingly real at night.


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.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.