Metro Weekly


Women's Takoma Park bungalow is perfect home for grandmother's furniture and dad's handywork

Photography by Todd Franson

This 3BR, 1BA bungalow is the perfect entry into the socially-conscious and good neighborly community of Takoma Park. A perfect fit for a lesbian couple looking to leave behind the politics of Virginia for a more progressive approach.

After months of searching, Amy Gotwals and Amy Wajda had almost given up on finding the perfect house. Only when they came across an imperfect bungalow in Takoma Park, Md. did they find everything they were looking for.

Amy G.: We moved here in May of 2000. We were Virginia residents and renters for years — we’re definitely Virginians, but we like the politics better over here. We felt lucky to get a bungalow here in Takoma Park. It was hard to actually find one because so many people want to live in this style of house or in this wonderful community. Takoma Park is such a small [area] — I think around 16,000 residents — not many houses come on the market, and there are a lot of buyers. This house is certainly not perfect, but we got the style of house that we wanted, a great street and wonderful neighbors.

[In the guest room] When my grandmother died my mother wouldn’t give me any of her furniture. I think it was my moving around from apartment to apartment and the wear and tear [it would cause]. As soon as she saw this house she said, “Oh my goodness, we have stuff for you.” We got a U-Haul and inherited a lot of my grandmother’s things. She lived in a 1920s house with a lot of dark wood trim and [her furniture] just fit in with this house. A large majority of our things are castoffs from other people — there are a lot of hand-me-downs in this house.

[In the bathroom] I was unemployed at this time last year, so in January I said to my dad, “Okay, you want to do the bathroom?” And he flew down. He’s very, very handy and maintains a lot of apartment buildings where he lives. So we replaced the sink and toilet, laid the tile floor, and painted it. It was father-daughter bonding time — we were bending pipe with a blowtorch at one point and I thought, “This is kind of cool.” The pipe didn’t fit the right way and [without my dad there] I would have just been stuck. Dad is the type of person who can think it through and say, “We’re going to bend the pipe.” We had this blowtorch, which of course he had on the airplane in his luggage. He had called ahead to the airport and asked, “Can I bring these tools?” And they said it was fine, as long as they were in the luggage. So the bathroom is special to us now because we did it ourselves.

Amy W.: [In the kitchen] I like to cook all kinds of things. We have tried to use a lot of organic ingredients, especially in the last year. It’s hard at first, because it is more expensive. But my parents are organic farmers — you really do learn why organic food costs more. There is a premium you have to pay for the cost of the farmers. The next step for us would be buying more local foods. If you buy organic apples from California it’s good in one regard, but on the other hand you pay a cost in shipping those apples from California to Washington, D.C. You know, fossil fuels and things like that. There is a lot to consider.

Amy G.: We try little things. I wasn’t thrilled by the concept of a compost pile when we first moved in and then Amy slowly sold me on it. She got this cute little tin from someplace like Crate and Barrel, and it sits on the porch so I don’t have to look at the whole compost thing. Takoma Park makes it easy to recycle. You can put anything out on the curb and they come get it. Every time we have a castoff, we put it out and within hours someone has snatched it up. So nothing I put out there ends up in a landfill. You know you are in good community when everyone is reusing and recycling.

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Photography by Todd Franson

Amenities are made to be used, so luxuriate in the Jacuzzi, admire the period renovations, and lounge at the grand piano in this 5BR, 6 1/2 BA Columbia Heights townhouse where the more is always the merrier.

Making a five-story house feel cozy may have seemed daunting at first for real estate agent Brandon Green. Three roommates, a grand piano, and lots of Argentine art work later, things started to feel a little more like home.

Brandon: I moved in here a year ago. I have three roommates. I’m a real estate agent and I came across this house just being out and about in the field. This house was built around 1895, and it was originally one gigantic house like it is now. Then some time around World War II they cut it up for the soldiers that were in Washington, as they did with a lot of these Victorians in Columbia Heights, to make them into rooming houses. In the 1960s, as I understand, the house was converted into five apartments. When the previous owners bought it twelve years ago they reconverted it into one house and did all the major structural repairs. Everything you see here they did over the last ten years. Now it’s mine and I have my own ideas.

[In the kitchen] Apparently, the cabinets are original — everything else has been duplicated to look period. A lot of the woodwork in the house is original and a lot of it was replicated. You will see there are several different kinds of woods. I don’t know exactly how they renovated, but I think only a certain amount of the wood was salvageable, so they had to recreate a lot of it.

[In the front yard] Having a secure gate around the house is really nice. It’s been problematic on occasion, though. Once, I was sitting in my office and the neighbor from across the street called me and said, ” Are you okay?” I said, ” Yeah, why?” He said, “Because the fire people are about to break down your door.” So I walk upstairs and open the front door and as I’m opening it there are three firemen with a battering ram on the heave of a heave-ho about to take out my front door. Apparently somebody had called and said that someone was dying at my address. I don’t know if it was a trick or what — it was crazy.

[In the living room] I bought that piano five years ago. I was living in a little studio apartment and I had very little money. Instead of thinking, “Perhaps I should use the money for food,” I bought a piano. It made me starve for a month because I had no more money. But it’s a great piano, an Arthur Jordan, built in the 1920s. I slept on a floor for a year, but I had a piano.

[In the master bedroom] These are actually kind of fun. I bought them from an artist in Argentina. I like artwork that tells a story of some sort. This artwork is a little unusual for what I usually get. I like contemporary narratives. I think what attracted me here was the portrayal of passion and sexuality in the Latin culture. The artist was also a really cool woman. I walked into her shop and I was staring at these. She had several others that were much more revealing but when my mother comes over I don’t know if I want that hanging in my room. So we got to talking and she actually invited me back to her house. I met her mother, went to lunch with her husband. We actually stay in decent touch. I’m going back in February, so I’ll see her again.

[In the master bath] I love the bathroom. Every place I have lived before had very small, nasty bathrooms. So having a big bathroom with a lot of space, a sauna and a Jacuzzi tub was awesome. That’s the thing about this house, we use every corner of it, all the features. I know a lot of people who have wonderfully large houses and they just don’t use the space or the amenities. I definitely wanted to have a house where it wasn’t too big, but was big enough to allow for extra people. It is a well-used house, always full of people.

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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.

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Photography by Todd Franson

This is where you want to live: An almost-new 3BR, 2 1/2 BA, 4-floor townhouse in the always convenient ‘burbs of Alexandria, where all that extra space means a country and jazz fan can happily cohabitate with a contemporary pop fan.

When their social life started to slow Mark Podrazik and David Elliott knew it was time to find a new house. After six years of painting and furnishing they were on the verge of feeling at home. Then came a temperamental Christmas tree.

Mark: We moved in March of ’97. We were living in Herndon and, needless to say, my social life was disappearing. We just knew this was a good location for us. We were actually the first ones to move in on the street.

Dave: I work downtown. But we decided long ago that because jobs change you should live where you want to live. When we first moved here we had a lot of friends who were moving out to the ‘burbs and we had a lot of friends in Northern Virginia so it made a lot of sense for us to stay close enough to D.C. to do things on the weekends.

We were looking for a newer, larger townhouse.  When you buy more out here you get a lot more space. I think we are definitely suburban types.

[In the kitchen] We loved the kitchen and figured we would spend a lot of time here. We love the windows. When we get up the morning sun is shining in, it’s always very bright in here. This kitchen is not the kitchen that typically goes in this model house. The kitchen that was designed for this house had an island right here [in the middle of the current kitchen]. We saw this kitchen in one of the other model homes and they agreed to build it in our house. We picked out all the cabinets, doors, counter tops and backsplash.

Mark: There were two or three disagreements, but for the most part I think we have pretty similar styles. I think I am less married to certain ideas so I would say to Dave, “Go to the design center, pick everything out and give me your top two. I’ll pick from your top two.” It was a lot easier.

Dave: Mark got into blue cobalt glass years ago.

Mark: It looked good, but once people know you like something they give it to you every year. I need to say, “We are moving on to a new theme.”

Dave: [In the rec room] We probably have about 600 CDs, all different genres.

Mark: There are core things that we both like but we also diverge quite a bit, so that’s why our collection has expanded. Every once in a while he buys something that will be for the both of us but most of time one of us will come home with a bag of CDs that the other has no interest in. I like country and jazz.

Dave: I like the current contemporary stuff — Dido and Sarah McLachlan, SadeÂ…

Mark: Soccer mom music. [In the hallway] We had a commitment ceremony in 1997 right after we moved. My mother wrote a poem that she read out at the ceremony. As gift she had a friend who does calligraphy [recreate it] and she had it mounted. It was so emotional — the whole ceremony was unbelievable. We had people who you never thought would cry that were just bawling, reaching for tissues. Only my mother could upstage me at my commitment ceremony.

Dave: And she did, she just did a beautiful job.

Mark: [In the living room] Well, of course, being gay men you have to have a big tree. We have the routine down from previous years, I put on the lights and Dave does the rest of the decorating. It’s a pain to put the lights on because I’m very meticulous. They always have to be white and the more the merrier — there are fifteen hundred lights on the tree. I was painstakingly putting them all on and it seemed that when I get another hundred on they would all go out. So it took hours and hours. After hour four they all went out and the tree started to move and almost fell on me. Dave gets home and we try and reposition the tree and finally we just had to go and get another stand. So he ran out while I just stood there hugging the tree for twenty minutes. We finally got that fixed and all the lights went out again. I told him, “You better enjoy this tree. You’re not getting another one for ten years.”

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