Metro Weekly


Charlie's Columbia Heights condo

A TALL ORDER in Columbia Heights in this 2BR condo with a two-story living room and floor to ceiling windows that show off the cityscape. Perfect for entertaining, especially on the fabulous (and enormous!) terrace. This is one you don’t want to miss!

When Charlie Jones left behind the corporate world three years ago, he wanted to exercise more creative pursuits. Now his paintings grace the walls of his unique Columbia Heights condo, where the sun (and moon) always shine in.

CHARLIE: (In the living room) As with all gay men, it’s all about the lighting, so I wanted something with lots of windows. The floor-to-ceiling glass was very appealing to me. Sometimes in the summer it can be very hot in here, but I still like it. The place I lived in before didn’t have any outdoor space — this place has a lot of it, and that was very compelling for me.

I choose to keep my blinds up. I want color from the outside to come in and I want to be able to see the sky with so much glass. A lot of the neighbors for various reasons keep their blinds down and so I feel a little vulnerable at times, because people can see in. So I have to make sure I keep my pants on. [Laughs.]

There’s a nice blend of contemporary modern with my traditional furnishings because I wasn’t about to part with the Persian rugs or the collectibles, particularly those from the Far East. But I also liked it because it shows my art very well.

(With sculpture) This is Mulan from the Ming Dynasty — Mulan suited up to fight in the Emperor’s war for her father. This piece was done in the 15th century, so it’s the most coveted of the Asian-Pacific pieces I have. That’s why it has such a prominent place.

I have very eclectic taste so I wasn’t trying to move in here and make it all about modern. I didn’t want to go out and buy all new furniture. I parted with some pieces that didn’t quite fit, but I think I struck a nice balance of color selection, as well as the size and shape of the furniture. As you walk into the apartment, the lines are sort of like I.M. Pei — it keeps opening up as you go further back into the space.

(In the kitchen) I entertain a lot. I don’t cook much but it is a nice space to entertain in because you can gather around this area. It’s a good sized kitchen for a condo.

(Going up the stairs) It’s a great place to display the art. That painting is 48-by-48, yet there’s room on both sides to put more work and with the lighting, it really pops out. My work is abstract and mixed media on canvas. I’m trying to have a mix, mostly mine but it’s nice to collect friends’ art as well.

(On the landing) This is a great place to have coffee or breakfast. It’s beautiful in the winter when the snow hits the terrace. I bought the chairs unfinished and painted and sanded them to make them look more distressed. The table came from a soda shop — it’s the right size and I like the light color top.

Half the time when I’m working with a painting I’ll put it up on the wall or on an easel to get it out of the studio so I can see it a little differently, maybe different light or different perspective, so that’s why I have that piece there on the easel.

(On the terrace) This is what really sold me on the place. I hadn’t seen anything like it, and it’s so rare that you get a two-bedroom condo with this much outdoor space. I think this is the best part of the condo for me. I can do a lot of entertaining up here, and there’s always a nice view: the Capitol, downtown, and the Washington Monument. Looking to the northwest, it almost has a west London kind of feel to it with the church steeples. The sunsets are really beautiful, too. I chose a high cocktail size table so people can sit and look over the railing and not have their view obstructed.

[Moving from Woodley Park] was a transition for me. Woodley Park was a little too homogeneous. I didn’t feel like I was in a diverse enough environment. It didn’t feel right to me. I feel more comfortable in a culturally diverse environment, and it’s great to be a part of Columbia Heights and all this renaissance.

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Taka and Jeremy's 100-year-old house on Capitol Hill

Taka Ariga and Jeremy Ames decided to take the homeowner plunge after dating for about a year. They quickly found the perfect spot on the outer limits of Capitol Hill, where their blend of styles and colors create a space that’s perfect for both entertaining friends or a quiet evening together.

TAKA: We bought in this neighborhood because we saw a lot of houses for sale, a lot of houses being renovated, a lot of urban renewal — we decided it would be a good area to buy. It’s still a transitional neighborhood, it’s coming around.

JEREMY: It’s the very fringe of Capitol Hill. In fact, probably after you cross Florida Avenue you can no longer call it Capitol Hill.

TAKA: We bought this in the middle of June. We’d only been dating for about a year at that time. I really wanted to move to D.C., but I had a couple of criteria. I play piano, I’m a musician, so I had to have a house. The first time we stepped into this house we fell in love with it. The house was pretty much already renovated, but the whole house was beige. Beige everywhere. All we pretty much had to do was just paint the colors.

JEREMY: [In the living/dining/music room] The downstairs is more fiery colors, yellow and orange — upstairs you’ll see more of the cooler tones, blues and purples. I have a kind of traditional vision but I found out as we went along that we could go a little bright, a little different with the colors and still fit into the aesthetic of the house.

TAKA: We consciously didn’t want to make this house into a model home that you would see in a magazine. We’re living here and we want it to be our taste, our décor and what each of us bring to this house. We didn’t buy the house and then go out and buy a whole set of furniture. We tried to make it work with what each of us brought. It’s not quite perfect but it works for us and we’re comfortable with it.

JEREMY: It is a 100-year-old house. [While house hunting] we saw row houses where they tried to update them and put down carpet to make it look like a modern suburban house.

TAKA: One thing we agreed on was that we didn’t like that.

JEREMY: We liked the hokey feeling, not being afraid to touch things — like when we visit our friend’s homes who are architects and designers and they say, ”Don’t touch that, don’t touch thatÂ…don’t touch that either.”

The only thing downstairs that is a little cramped is the fact that the piano is here so the dining room had to be against the wall. But it works. We’ve had people here for dinner before and this configuration sort of works out.

TAKA: (In the kitchen) The first thing that actually caught my attention was the kitchen because I love to cook. The first owner renovated the kitchen before he sold the house to the second owner, who finished the rest of the renovations. They used very good appliances, mostly industrial grade, so when I first walked in here it wasn’t your typical just-for-show stainless steel. They were actually practical.

JEREMY: The thing about buying a house that’s been renovated is that there are things that are made to show, that look really good when you go through but aren’t necessarily made for livability. You could tell that the owner designed the kitchen because he wanted to cook in it.

TAKA: Our first impression of the house lasted about 10 minutes because the owner was ready to lock it up. We had 10 minutes to decide whether we were going to put down a bid or not. I spent eight minutes in the kitchen playing around.

[In the den/home office] This is our den/study/office kind of space. Jeremy has a lot of African art that he kept throughout the years. We decided to do something green and safari-like, and put up a lot of his artwork. My tennis trophy shelf — a little bare at the moment, but as we go along I hope to fill it.

JEREMY: This is an example of a room where he has his stuff and I have my stuff. We didn’t know if it would work. His desk is smaller and mine is bigger, so it worked out.

TAKA: [In the master bedroom] This is actually the pride of our effort. We love the high ceiling. We wanted to do something special because, aside from the kitchen and dining room, this is the room we would spend the most time in. So we decided to do something dramatic.

JEREMY: We also wanted to use some interesting colors because you have a lot of light in this room.

TAKA: The basic idea was something blue. One thing led to another and it became the light blue, the dark blue, the cascade blue, and the full finish silver. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it turned out better than I expected.