Renovated Brothel Turned Planetarium

Will Doig
Published on March 6, 2003, 12:00am | Comments

RENOVATED BROTHEL-TURNED-PLANETARIUM. 4BR/2.5BA row house in Dupont/Logan/14th St area. High ceilings, HWFs, patio, lots of natural light. Agatha Christie mystique moves in with Warhol hip and renovates the bathroom. Occupants are laid back GM couple w/ DIY values, huge TV.

Kevin Willison, a NASA biologist, and Tim Kanaley, an independent consultant, have been lovebirds for five starry-eyed years and cohabitating for nearly four. They believe in the value of do-it-yourselfness and historical preservation. Their home is a grand three-story affair on the southeast cusp of Dupont Circle.

KEVIN: That [large, white, ceramic basin with the coaster-sized hole in the center that's lying on the living room floor] is the base from the shower in the upstairs bathroom. We're remodeling up there. We'd rather do the renovations ourselves. History's shown that it's hard to find someone who'll do a good job.

TIM: We redid the basement -- we have a tenant down there -- and now we're doing the upstairs. Back when we advertised the basement apartment to rent, people would call this block Dupont East. But if I'm talking to someone in the area, I'll usually say Logan Circle.

KEVIN: We're Dupont.

TIM: Officially, the other side of the street is part of the Logan Circle ANC. This side is part of the Dupont ANC, but we're part of the Logan Circle Community Association.

KEVIN: But today the city would probably recognize us as part of the 14th Street corridor even though we're on 15th. The important thing about this location is that it's a historic district, so the height limit is fifty feet. (In basement) We had to get a certificate of occupancy to rent this out. Most basement rentals are illegal rentals. Fire escapes and whatnot. You have to get a renter's license, too.

TIM: When we moved in we found massive termite infestation down here.

KEVIN: And swarms of carpenter ants. It's tough living on a block of row houses because you can't get rid of them unless everybody does. (In kitchen) This house used to be a brothel. When we moved in there were 27 phone lines. So because of who the original owners were, we ripped out these walls for exploratory purposes.

TIM: The original house would have had the kitchen in the basement, and this would have been the pantry. The servants had their own stairwell, and there's a dumbwaiter that links both rooms that still works.

KEVIN (in entertainment room): We got sick of walking down there to get something to eat, so I put this refrigerator and microwave in here.

TIM: And Kevin made these constellations in the ceiling.

KEVIN: I drilled little holes in the ceiling panels in the shapes of constellations, and then I installed fiber optic lights above the panels so the holes would look like twinkling stars.

TIM: They're actual constellations laid out just like they are in the sky. Not to scale, though. We bought this place in the nick of time. $475,000. Signed the contract in February of '99, and they made the announcement about Fresh Fields in March. Whole Foods now, I guess. We've hosted two Reel Affirmations fundraisers since we moved in.

KEVIN: Yeah, we've definitely done some renovating since then. (In master bedroom) Thanks to these storm windows we can actually stand on this side of the room again. Things didn't go well with the contractor who put them in. We had to do some policing. That's why we'd rather do things ourselves.

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