by Chord Bezerra
Published on December 18, 2003, 12:00am | Comments

Photography by Todd Franson

Home is where the art is in this 1BR, 1BA Dupont apartment. Uncommonly clean, a simple presto! converts the living room into a working artist's studio, and an urban living dream.

Moving from Dallas to New York and finally D.C., artist Mike Weber quickly learned that things really are bigger in Texas, especially homes. But with a little creative decorating, this minimalist made a maximum impact.

Mike: I moved here in March. Before that I was in Pentagon City for about seven months. I moved there from New York, and I had to get back in the city. There was not enough energy in Pentagon City. This apartment is almost exactly like my apartment in West Village in New York. When I first saw it I knew right away this was the one.

[In the kitchen] I do things differently than most people. I like to take what people call junk and make it art. Like the piece on the kitchen wall, it's actually from a building on 16th Street that's now the Summit [apartments]. They were going to renovate it, and I really liked the letters they had on the building so I threw on a hard hat, went in, found the building contractor and gave him my business card. I said, "If the preservation society doesn't make you keep these, can I have them?" He said yes, and I got a call five or six months later. I went down and picked them up and now they are my sculpture. It's funny -- people try and figure out what it used to say all the time. It's a great social topic for parties. The original sign said "The Roosevelt: Home of Retired Senior Citizens." Now it's giant Scrabble.

I'm not afraid of color if it's used right. I like earth tones. Orange is such a warm color and great for all year. I thought the white letters would really pop well off the orange wall, and the white ties into the white furniture and white rug in the living room. I grew up in an all-white house. It was like a museum. If you have ever seen Nicholas Cage in Matchstick Men -- that is my mother. [Her] house was super clean and organized. I inherited two things from my mother, thin white skin and her cleaning gene. I have a twin sister. Even though we think a lot alike, we are very opposite. She is really messy and I'm really clean. I was left in the womb three minutes more, so maybe it's because more of it soaked in.

[In the living room] When people aren't here the coffee tables are flipped up, I roll up the carpets, and this is a studio space where I throw down big tarps and paint. I was dabbling in this business when I first moved here. I used to work in television designing graphics and animation. The only place I can do that is New York or L.A. and I decided to quit my job. I wanted to try something that was away from technology.

This stuff on the wall here is actually old wooden parts. I have a bunch of gears, pistons and pieces. They carved these wooden pieces to build sand cast molds to pour metal into so they could mass-produce the pieces. They are from a ship, I think from the twenties or thirties, which was built in Texas and then sent to England. The original parts were engineered in Waco, Texas. I happened to be driving through with a friend and this guy was having an antique sale in a shed off the side of the highway. I walked in and I saw these pieces. There is another store based in Dallas that had an entire collection of these -- people offered thousands of dollars for them and the owner would never sell. Then I walked into this barn and this guy had a pile of them. So after $500 for the parts and $60 for a truck rental, I was driving back to Waco. Now I have a warehouse full of them in Texas. Every once and while when I go down there I'll bring a few of them back with me. Eventually, if I have a large enough space, I'll fill the whole wall.

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 home, visit us online at www.metroweekly.com/home.

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