Metro Weekly


Designer Supon Phornirunlit pulls off an eclectic mixture of styles in DC's Kalorama

Mix and match to your heart’s content in this opulent yet reasonable 5 BR, 3 BA townhouse in Kalorama. Currently showcasing a fusion of traditional, modern and Asian influences, the home décor is subject to change at a moment’s notice.

When graphic designer Supon Phornirunlit bought his Kalorama townhouse he wanted to create a décor all his own. Combining elements of modern and traditional Asian styles established a look that made him feel right at home. That is, until he decides to change it again. 

Supon: I’ve lived here for five years. The first time I actually saw this home my realtor called me up to say, “There is a house that is going to be on the market on Sunday but you can see it on Thursday.” When I came here and saw it, I fell in love right away. I put the offer down that evening. I didn’t expect to buy the house — when I came back to my own home I was like, “Oh my god, what did I just do?”

I think that a good house has to fit you and your lifestyle. This house to me was modern with some traditional in it, which is what I like about it. The space in this house has been well designed — in fact, the layout is original and has never been altered. But, of course, when you move in, you want it to be your own space, so I redesigned it fit my own taste. I like modern stuff and I am from Thailand, so I wanted some Asian culture in here too. Modern and traditional Asian culture didn’t really go well together, so I had to figure out how I wanted to do it.

[On the deck] I redesigned the deck about two years ago. Before that I had a lot plants and I just didn’t have time to water them. I wanted the new deck to be something unexpected, I wanted something dramatic. I got the idea for this reflecting pool when I was staying at a hotel in Asia. I actually travel a lot to Asia, which is where I found the flowers here in the reflecting pool. You should have seen me at customs when I opened up my suitcase with all these flowers — the customs guy was looking at me like, “Why do you have flowers in your suitcase?”

The deck is a combination of a lot of elements. I believe that good design doesn’t have to be expensive. Everything that I have on this deck is not really expensive — it is just well put together. People always think you have to spend so much money, but if you put all the elements together well you can create your own space.

[In the kitchen] I collect almost everything. These are just a few of my cookie jars. There are a hundred of them sitting in the basement — I don’t have room for them all. Andy Warhol also collected cookie jars. The first ones I bought were very similar to some of the ones in his collection. Ten years later I don’t know how many hundreds I have. I recently sold a lot on Ebay. At some point you look at yourself and say, “Why do I need this?”

[In the living room] This used to be one big, open space with the furniture placed across the room. But every time we had a party it seemed like people were sitting too far away from each other and I did not like that. I said, let’s do something a little cozier and have a bunch of little sitting spaces instead of one big one. This way if we have a group of like twenty people, people don’t have to be sitting around in a circle — it’s not a campfire. Sometimes you just want to break off into your group and talk. My office is also on this floor so it’s nice to have sitting areas when clients come by.

[In the dining room] This cabinet is from a designer called Blue Dot. I like their style — it is colorful yet simple. You’re going to find most of my furniture is simple because I like to move things around so much. I want to make sure that the furniture can go in many different places. Every three to six months there will be a rotation. I want to do things differently, to be able to walk into the house and be excited. If I had my way I would buy a house every six months, but I can’t do that. So I want [my house to be] something different and refreshing and to be able to call it my space.

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This fabulous 6 BR, 5 1/2 BA townhouse in Kalorama Triangle gives a long-time couple plenty of space to cycle through different styles, as well as provides a happy home to a centenarian moose head and a geriatric turtle.

A decade of life in Dupont Circle had left local business owner Bruce Johnson and his partner, consultant Keith Kreger, desiring a personal renaissance. The couple found their muse not too far away in a beautiful Kalorama Triangle townhouse ripe for a loving restoration.

Bruce: The last house we lived in we held a lot of fundraisers — we raised a million dollars for charities. Cast members for Ragtime, Rent, Angels in America, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, [plus] Gregory Hines, Roberta Flack — they all performed in that house and the money all went to charity. I was in that house for ten years and I had a lot of roommates. It was just time to move.

[In the kitchen] I own a construction company — Dupont Erection — and a lot of the stuff I do in my house is an experiment for what we can do in clients’ houses. You try it here first and see how things work together. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. For example, this is glacial granite on this counter — you can see how the glacier ran over it and deposited stones into the granite. I’ve been in the business for about twenty-five years so people know pretty much what I like. Sometimes they call me up and go, “Hey, we got a project that is just made for you.” When you’re in architecture and interior design, you are influenced by certain periods. Right now it’s the Italian Renaissance and the Revival styles. My style changes probably every five or six years — it’s on a cycle.

 [In the foyer] I bought this statue at an auction — he was marked as a 19th century reproduction. I brought him home on a truck and put him on a dolly and almost dropped him. I later found out that he is actually an original from the second century A.D.

The chairs are from a sale at the Smithsonian. They were selling off a house that was left to them by Alice Barney. She had a lot of 19th century furniture that I bought. Everything Keith and I buy we sit in first and see if it can withstand people abusing it. We have a lot of children who come into the house — nothing is that fragile and nothing gets broken.

[In the living room] For a Jewish boy I have an awful lot of Catholic art. We found this [angel] statue during a snowstorm. We were looking in the window of this shop, and for some reason it was still open. The statue weighs four or five hundred pounds — so we had to drag it over the snow and then into the car and get it from the car into the house. They said it was from a church in Baltimore that had burned a long time ago — sometime in the 1870s. At one time it was covered in gold leaf — you can see pieces of it here and there.

[In the master bathroom] This bathroom is all an addition. Because we don’t have a fountain yet we keep the turtles in the bathtub. There are two red ear sliders and two painted turtles. Myrtle, the large one, I have had for about thirty years. Myrtle ended up being a guy and so we got another turtle for Myrtle to have sex with, but she wasn’t interested. In captivity turtles rarely live as old as they are. When I took Myrtle to the vet she wanted to know if it was a geriatric turtle. I said, “Good question — what is a geriatric turtle?” She said generally 15 to 20 years old. I said, “Well, this one is at least 30.”

[In the library] I had the moose head in our previous house and we just brought him with us. I found him when my realtor was showing a house. It was in this women’s kitchen, and I kept looking at it and thinking, “What a great moose.” I told the woman I would really like to buy it, but she said she really didn’t want to sell him. The moose head was over her kitchen table and one day part of the moose’s beard fell into her cereal. That’s when she decided to sell it. He is over a hundred years old. Some people are very offended that I have him in the house, but I didn’t kill him and as long as he is dead he should have a good home. His name is Peta.

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B.G. Wright's stylish houseboat on DC's Waterfront

Don’t settle for a waterbed when you can have a water-house! This 2 BR, 2-1/2 BA houseboat drops anchor at the D.C. Waterfront, where the gorgeous views of monuments and refreshing tidal breezes will definitely float your boat.

When congressional staff member B.G. Wright considered the skyrocketing housing prices in D.C., he had the idea of creating a home that was truly mobile. After years of planning and some help from his old Kentucky home, his abode now floats on the Potomac River at D.C.’s Waterfront.

B.G.: I’m from a small town in Kentucky named Monticello, which is the houseboat construction capital of the world. With the high housing prices in D.C. my parents suggested I might live on a boat. I thought I would go into it as a money saving venture — it didn’t turn out as that.

I really took a big risk moving here. The longer I planned and worked on this the bigger a venture it became. In fact, it doubled from what I originally thought it would be — not in size as much as in cost and refinement. I thought if I am doing this I should do it correctly the first time rather than do it halfway or cheaply. I was a little nervous about moving at first — everything you own, all your clothes, all your belongings, whatever you’ve got that’s sentimental or means a lot is floating right now.

[In the salon] The boat is custom designed just for me and was built in my hometown. I have a CAD [computer assisted design] program on my computer and I drew all the plans for the boat from beginning to end. I had certain parameters because they can only transport a certain size boat on the highways — they had to close the interstate and drive at certain hours of the night to get it here. It was a long, long drive from Kentucky.

The boat is 80 feet long and 18 feet wide, so that limits what you can do with the interior. I sent the plans to the company — they were used to building boats certain ways. When I said I wanted a marble floor they said they don’t really do marble floors, they do hardwood. I finally got them to do it though. I wanted a rough texture on the floor so when people came in with wet feet they wouldn’t slip and fall. They also wanted to put in vinyl ceilings but I thought with the marble floor it would echo. I went with padded ultra suede, which absorbs sound really well.

I wasn’t into the modern style at all before I moved here. I was totally traditional. I had to change because certain furniture just won’t fit on a boat. I had a rococo grandfather clock that was hand-carved in Italy that won’t work on a boat because the boat moves all the time. I had to get rid of things — I made my mind up that I didn’t want to store all this stuff — I gave all my family antiques to my brother because I wanted to keep them in the family. I just changed my style and went with it.

[On the deck] The best part of living here is the view. You can see the Jefferson Monument and the Washington Monument from the hot tub. It’s great to sit up here and eat and look out at Hain’s Point. I have a wet bar with a refrigerator and an icemaker, and a dumbwaiter next to the bar goes down to the galley. You can drive the boat from up here as well. This deck is where you have the big parties. I had twenty folks up here the other day and it seemed sparse. Sometimes after a long day I get in the hot tub and look out at the city going by. I enjoy it and you can see why my friends enjoy it too.

It took a while before I felt at home — my friends helped a lot. It’s not Dupont Circle, so I thought my friends would never come and see me but that has not been the case. They come often and I’m glad because I really enjoy having friends around. They have a good time here — it’s far enough away from everything else that they too can feel a little independent and enjoy the surroundings. They feel comfortable and at home here. When you live alone it takes something more to make a home. Since I’ve gotten rid of the things that were familiar to me, my friends have helped make this my home.

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Two Himalayan von Trapps (of the feline variety)and a suburban GM couple make this 3 BR, 3 1/2 BA townhouse a relaxing stop for themselves and their friends. Sometimes it’s better to stay in.

Steve Humes and Craig Villalobos, both architects who work in home design, naturally take a hand-on approach to home improvement. Three years after moving into their Herndon, Va., townhouse the couple have finished their improvements and are ready to slow down and enjoy the sweet sound of music.

Craig: I used to live out here. Steve and I met when he lived in Arlington, and after we had dated for 18 months I moved in with him in there. We had to give that up that rental apartment because they were selling it. We were going to rent a house, but then we saw this house for sale and fell in love with it.

Steve: It was a good location for us. I work in Chantilly and he works in Tyson’s Corner — it’s about half way between. Everybody we hang around with on a regular basis lives within four to five miles of here. It is a pretty central location. When I moved out here my friends used to joke that they would have to check the flight schedule from National to Dulles when they wanted to visit. I had to prove to everyone that Herndon is not that far out.

Craig: [In the kitchen] That bamboo was a birthday present a few years ago from Steve to me.

Steve: It’s still surviving. It shows a few kitty scratch marks.

Craig: Some of the plants the cats bother, some they don’t — they have their favorites. We’ve lost a palm or two to them. Steve gave the cats to me for our fifth anniversary.

Steve: We got them from a breeder. They’re Himalayan — basically half Siamese and half Persian. They were in a litter of seven and their names are Kurt and, technically, Fredrick, but we always call him Freddy. There were five boys and two girls in the litter so the breeders named them after the von Trapp kids. We figured they were gay enough names.

Craig: [In the backyard] We have a patio and a deck out here and a fishpond with real fish. We had the builder put in the patio and the pond and some of the landscaping but we reworked a lot of the landscaping. We also did some work out in the woods behind the house, which really isn’t our land but you can see it.

Steve: We are the only people who are going to look at it, so the development [company] is not going to want to take care of it as much as we want to.

Craig: We’re not happy unless we’re doing something.

Steve: [In the master bedroom] We have a lot of people comment on this. It is a decorative wall panel system — these are just two-by-two maple panels set up in a grid.

Craig: They match the cabinets in the bathrooms as well.

Steve: They are hung just like pictures — almost. You have to make sure they are all lined up.

Craig: We put them up ourselves. You have to level it left to right and then front to back. It’s a trip to get them so they are all flush. We spent three weekends banging that wall.

Steve: We finally had to have the neighbors over and show them what all the banging was — their master bedroom is on the other side.

Craig: [In the family room] We have the surround sound and the big screen TV in here, so this is where we watch movies. We usually have friends over to watch movies on Friday nights — half of us fall asleep and half of us see the movie.

Steve: On a Friday night our typical thing is to go out to dinner and get a movie and by 10:30 or 11 p.m. everyone is ready to go home and go to bed. Every now and then you stop to think, “I wonder what all the guys in D.C. are doing?” Probably just getting ready to go out. But you know, I prefer it this way. I prefer living out in the suburbs.

Craig: [In the living room] I think we have different styles. I used to be really traditional and now I am a lot more — I don’t what you call it — a lot more easygoing. Steve definitely has some opinions on what is good and what is not.

Steve: I’m more into comfort and functionality. If you are going to buy a chair it should be as comfortable as it is stylish. All this high contemporary furniture is nice to look at but it is really uncomfortable. I want the house to be comfortable so when people come in they’re not afraid to sit in any room — you can come in here and feel comfortable enough to put your feet up and relax.

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