Metro Weekly


Skip and Travis have a good eye for furnishings

Rob and Laura Petrie channel the Tiki nature of Gilligan’s Island in this Van Ness 1 BR, 1 BA apartment with a view of the sky and treeline of Rock Creek Park, and plenty of room for two avid collectors to merge.

For small business owners Travis Smith and Skip Przywara nothing says home like a collaborative collection of culture kitsch. After years of perfecting their vintage Van Ness apartment the couple is ready to sit back and enjoy a Mai Tai.

Travis: We were living in a very alternative space before this. It was above what used to be a golf store on the same block as our store Good Eye. It was a pretty big space and it had a deck out back. We lived there for a few years and then the golf store went out of business, so we had to leave too. We were frantically looking for a place, and that’s how we found this apartment. Although we’d put down a deposit on another apartment we still had an appointment to see this one. We thought we should come over here just as a courtesy, so we went. The apartment was empty and when we walked in the view outside the windows was all treetops and sky over Rock Creek Park. It looked like you were in West Virginia or something. I took one look at that view and I knew I wanted this apartment.

[In the living room] I think Skip and I both have the same taste in art. Most of the art in here is vintage. That piece is by the artist Shag in Los Angeles. This sculpture is my favorite object. I’ve had it for about maybe eight years. I bought it at the Georgetown Flea Market. I never get tired of it. I think it’s really one of the coolest things I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot of stuff. It’s by an artist named Jaré and he did metal sculptures of all kinds in the ’60s and ’70s. For a brief time I loaned it to the little bar Aroma in Cleveland Park because I designed the interior. That place got trashed really quickly and one day I walked in there and it was sitting on the floor leaning against the wall and I was like, “No — this is going back home.” That is when I decided I wasn’t going to give it up again.

This is a leather shag carpet. You can still get them but they are really expensive. I got it at this weird funky antique store. I was there three times before I bought the damn thing. The first time I walked on it I didn’t know what it was. I thought the shag looked like dead leaves or something. Then I went back and I thought, damn, that rug is still here — and it is really, really cool.

[In the bedroom] Both Skip and I collect toys. He has all the robots and the Japanese stuff and I have the doll furniture. I have always really been into Barbie — not so much the dolls but their stuff. A couple of years ago I got bit by the eBay bug and was just binging on Barbie furniture and accessories. Although I’m not into the dolls I do have a Ken and Allan doll — I’m more into the subversive relationship between Ken and Allan.

This is Skip’s storage. We don’t know exactly what it used to be — obviously it was some kind of office piece. It was originally government issued green but, of course, it had to color coordinate with our style so we took it to this company in Manassas called American Stripping where they sandblast off the original paint and the bake on a powder coat enamel finish — like an automotive finish. Skip is really the collector in our household. For example, this drawer is where his collection of buttons is, this drawer has promotional post cards, this one has Mad Libs and this one has mini-books. He already had all this stuff so when we saw this piece at an antique store we knew it is perfect for him.

[In the dining room] Collectors are just born with a mentality — you either are one or you are not. A lot of people would walk in here and go, “Huh?” Other people walk in and get it. Our style is Rob and Laura Petrie go to Gilligan’s Island. I’m Rob and Laura, and Skip is Gilligan’s Island. I’ve always had vintage modern interiors and I’m pretty much a late ’50s early ’60s type of guy. Skip was really one of the first Tiki aficionados I ever met. He really turned me on to that culture. I kind of knew it existed from reading about it in magazines but I didn’t know that somebody could have that many Tiki mugs, or that that many mugs were actually created. This place is his love and his passion and his collection melding with my mine. It really is the perfect story of two different collectors who got together, became married, melded their collections together and created something that actually works.

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Following tradition can make you feel comfortably at home in this 1 BR, 1 BA condo in the heart of Adams Morgan. French doors, fireplace and a separate foyer make this home more than the sum of its parts.

After 11 years of renting in D.C., travel consultant Paul Carabello decided it was time to venture into the thicket of home ownership. With an Architectural Digest in one hand and a Home and Garden in the other, Carabello transformed his Adams Morgan condo into a traditionalist’s dream.

Paul: I moved in here in September 1999. I was sharing an apartment with a friend when I finally decided to take the plunge and own a home. My great aunt had given me a dining room set a while back — my only requirement was that any place I looked at had to accommodate that set. The first day I looked I didn’t see one place that would have room for it. Then the next day I walked into this place and I almost got goosebumps. I said to my real estate agent, “This is going to work. This is it.” Not only did the set fit, but the condo also had a working fireplace, French doors, a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, and a separate foyer. The next day we made a contract and that was it. Two days of looking and five years later here I am.

[In the living room] My style is pretty traditional and somewhat formal. I used to look at architectural magazines when I was a kid and I always knew what I liked and what I didn’t like. When I was about 13-years-old I asked my grandmother to get a subscription to Home and Garden, honest to God. I’ve just always been interested in architecture and design. One of my favorite places to visit is Hillwood Museum and Garden, which was Marjorie Merriweather Post’s mansion up in Woodley Park. She designed it to be a house museum after her death. It is amazing. It’s my dream house and I would move in there tomorrow if I had the chance. I could see myself in Hillwood.

This is actually a framed Hermès scarf. I have always loved how Hermès scarves look but obviously I’m not going to wear one. I love the scenes on this scarf of people out having a good time at a horse race. I couldn’t figure out what I was going to do with it and then I remembered [a childhood friend] whose parents had a beautiful dining room with two framed Hermès scarves. I always thought that was unique, so I decided to buy this scarf and get it framed. Most people don’t realize it is a scarf, they think it’s a print or a painting. The framer did a wonderful job.

 [In the bedroom] I have always liked illustration. When I lived in Georgetown I would walk past this shop everyday that had all these vintage magazine covers in the window. I just loved all the different colors and scenes they would show. That Vanity Fair cover is the first print I bought from there. I thought the design was striking, with the figures in the opposite corners and that great use of orange with the black. I think it’s terrific.

One of the featured authors in that issue is also one of my favorites, P.G. Wodehouse, the English comedic writer. What a coincidence to be able to buy it. His books are hilarious — you laugh out loud every other sentence. They are just comedy at its best, the way he describes people — the way he makes comparisons between people and crazy objects is just very funny. He wrote the famous Jeeves and Bernie Wooster duo back in 20s. Bernie was this crazy — and very wealthy — Englishman who didn’t work and Jeeves was his gentleman’s gentleman, his valet. Bernie was always going around town and getting himself into these crazy disasters that Jeeves would have to get him out of. I think I often get myself in similar crazy situations but I don’t have a gentleman’s gentleman to extricate me.

Believe it or not, it didn’t take me very long to feel at home here. It was after the first year when I realized I didn’t have to sign another lease that it really hit home. Of course, after that year there was plenty of work I wanted to do to the place like put in hardwood floors, some new carpeting, and paint. But after five years I finally feel like this place is actually mine and done. It is exactly what I hoped it would be.

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High spirits abound in this 1 BD, 1 BA Dupont Circle condo where frequent parties and get-togethers also give way to rest for the weary traveler. Also comes with plenty of bookshelf space, so you can nurture your mind while relaxing the body.

He may be a world traveler, but consultant Christian Conti only considers one place home — his Dupont circle condo. The comfortable abode houses an exotic liquor collection, tons of books, and some good old-fashioned Italian hospitality.

Christian: I was living in Bethesda before this. I stayed out there for a couple years and then I got a promotion. I always told myself I would move into D.C. once I got a promotion. I went house shopping and actually found this place the first weekend. I’m a decisive person and I knew what I was looking for. I wanted something comfortable, with enough open space to have people over to watch the Super Bowl or have a party. I have a standing party on Sundays for Sex and the City and Sopranos. I travel a lot for work so it’s nice to enjoy myself on the weekends when I actually have free time with my friends.

[In the living room] I had a two-bedroom apartment in Bethesda and I brought almost nothing with me. It was all very light wood and none of it went with this place, so I started fresh. One of the only things I brought with me was this bookcase. I had to buy the other bookcase and I will probably have to buy a third at some point. These bookcases are definitely already starting to groan under the weight of the books. I travel so much — I probably spend about ten hours a week on a plane — in a good week I’ll read two or three books. This past month I read seven or eight books — everything from the new translation of Don Quixote to the last Stephen King novel. I read just about anything that catches my fancy. When I was growing up Catch-22 was a favorite of mine — it was so ironic and nasty, which is what I was like as a teenager.

Besides the fact that I like to drink, there is a good reason behind this collection of liquor. A lot of those bottles are pretty old. When I lived in Venice my sophomore year in college I picked up the habit of bringing a bottle of something home with me from my trips overseas. I brought back these bottles of grappa from my family in Italy. There are also bottles of gin from the U.K. and bottles of vodka from all throughout Europe. I’d say about half this bar has been smuggled in through my luggage. This is an old bottle of absinthe from a friend who was a Christian missionary in Prague for a year and half. His wife condemns drinking but out of love for me — God bless his heart — he bought a bottle of absinthe for me. There is booze here that I obviously drink but a lot of it I only drink once in a while — when I’m feeling nostalgic. I like having the bottles up there to remind me of places I have been.

[In the bedroom] When I lived in Venice I had this friend who opened up a bar. I used to go there and drink because he was one of the five people I knew in Venice who spoke English. I met this other guy at the bar who was studying glassblowing in New York and got something like an internship with one of the glassblowing houses on the Island of Murano. We spent a lot of time hanging out and drinking and at the end of the summer he made this statue for me and signed it. It was cobalt blue, which was my obsession at the time. Living in Venice was a tremendous time and this was a memento of that adventure.

This condo is my first ownership experience — I love it. It is nice when I’m on the road and I’m working 18-hour days and getting screamed at by my clients to know that I’m doing it for something. This place is my sanctuary — this is home for me. I love having people over and I love having people stay with me. It’s comfortable and that’s the way I want it to be. I like to come home on a Thursday night and just poor a glass of wine, maybe throw a log on the fire, crawl up on the couch and just relax. I’m happy here.

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Matchstick memories abound in this 2 BR, 2 BA apartment in the ever-popular Dupont Circle neighborhood. Comes fully equipped with space to sit and talk — and plenty of items to talk about.

After nearly two decades of living in his Dupont Circle apartment, David de la Tour has become quite comfortable. Over the years he has filled his apartment with a bold collection of art, an anthology of matchbooks, and plenty of places to sit, talk and relax.

David: I have lived here over 17 years now. This apartment has been perfect for me. I wanted something earthy and old. This place had a fireplace and wood floors, which was wonderful. I read tarot cards and this apartment allows me to create this space where people can sit down and open up and talk for hours.

There is a lot of symbolism throughout the apartment. I am very pantheistic — I think all religions have lots to offer. If you look around the apartment, [you’ll notice that] every religion has some representation — Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam. I was brought up Catholic but I had an out-of-body experience when I was five years old. I was outside in the backyard playing and the next thing I knew I was looking down at this little kid and I realized that my awareness was not in that little kid anymore. That happened a few times and my parents would always tell me I was very “creative.” That influences my living space one hundred percent. All the objects in the apartment are here because they struck me energetically and spiritually.

[In the living room] Most of the art in the apartment was created by artists that I have met. The art is very in your face. There are some more sedate pieces but those are all in my bedroom. I much prefer these big paintings out here. Most everything in the apartment has its own story, which can go on for a long time. For example — a woman that I lived with did this piece of art above the couch. She started painting when she lived here and it was something that just came out of her — it was a natural talent. She was convinced she had learned it in a past life because she had never studied art before.

[In the dining room] These are matchbooks from all the places I have been. I started collecting them when I first started going out to bars, which was when disco was coming up — I was fascinated with it. All these big nightclubs had really impressive matchbooks and I just started picking them up. It just became a thing. This matchbook is from my favorite club in Boston. When I went to college there I went out to this club every weekend. It wasn’t until I came out and later came back to Boston that I realized the same club had a gay night on Sunday [laughs]. It was called Boston, Boston. It was bigger than Tracks was here. They had three different DJs and three different rooms. I had a lot of good memories there. The matchbook is sitting on top because every time I see those matches it brings back so many memories.

 [In the bedroom] The calmer things are in here. This is an authentic Navajo dream catcher that I got from a shaman — I was not taking any chances when I bought it. An artist friend of mine made these lamps. When he first started doing them he needed people to buy his stuff and I said sure. This model is actually named after me. I was looking for something bizarre and he worked with me to make it. He has it on his web page and it is called “The de la Tour.” I don’t know if it’s a big seller — I’d be afraid to know. You think the name alone would make it fantastic [Laughs].

I lived in Paris for a little bit when I was 23. I had some wild and magical experiences there. What really appealed to me was the whole concept of the turn-of-the-century French salon. It was a place where artists and philosophers and radicals would talk about the issues of the day. The salons had a lot of color, a lot of furniture, a lot of little places to sit and there would always be people around. I thought that was the kind of place I wanted to create — a place where there is lots going on and lots of places to sit.

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