Metro Weekly


Minh and Tim's fashionable Capitol Hill condo

MAX IT OUT with this 2 BR, 2 BA customized condo in the heart of Capitol Hill. Warms tones please the eye while smart spaces leave plenty of room for relaxing and entertaining. And don’t miss the one closet you want to be in.

Blind dates do work — that’s how Minh Le and Tim Cole met four years ago. Not long after they set up house the suburbs, but they wanted something new in the city. So they bought a condo in a development that Minh, an architect, helped design in Capitol Hill. The good news is that while the first date may have been blind, their fashionable first condo is anything but.

MINH: This is a condominium project designed to look like townhouses in order to mesh with the existing architectural fabric of the neighborhood. I was responsible for laying out the floor plans for all the units, so when we decided to purchase one of them, I made an agreement with the developer to modify our unit to suit our needs. In the original plan the kitchen was closed off. Given the small size of the unit, we felt that it was more appropriate to have the kitchen open and free to both the living and dining areas. We also did some minor changes in the bedroom, especially in the master closet. We tried to maximize every foot we had.

TIM: (In the dining room) Because we had the architectural plans for the house, we could buy pieces of furniture that would fit. We knew exactly where everything was going to go so we bought a lot of stuff before we actually moved in.

MINH: We got the dining room table over the internet, along with the mirror, which is seven feet tall and about five feet wide. It’s the biggest mirror we could find.

TIM: We realized there was going to be a little bit of a lighting problem in here because we get the evening light, during the day it’s not very well lit. The mirror doubles the light.

MINH: (In the living room) We selected a palette of three colors for the entire condo: green, warm gray, and red. We didn’t want it to get too busy and we wanted to unify all the space. Gray is a good color to unify — it gives it more interest than just using a regular white. We picked the green mainly because it’s one of Tim’s favorite colors. The red, which you see in the kitchen, is also carried through in the study. So there really isn’t anything that sticks out or clashes. The flooring is Brazilian Merbau.

TIM: We chose the [Brazilian Merbau] flooring because the contrast between the different slats gives as much texture as possible to the floor.

MINH: I installed it myself. In three days!

TIM: I cracked the whip very hard on that. [Laughs.] This is a bar we bought on Ebay. It was exactly what we wanted, the only issue was how much it was going to cost to ship it. It’s very heavy teakwood. Then we realized that the sellers were about two miles from our house in Olney, so they actually delivered it in their car.

MINH: (In the living room) The shelving is very simple. I don’t like bulky, heavy shelves with vertical sides. These float — it keeps things very simple and elegant. Plus, they’re cheap, so if we want to change them in the future it won’t cost that much. If you get built-in shelving, it gets expensive and they make a room feel smaller and tighter. (In the kitchen) The pot rack helps divide the space, the ceiling is very tall and has this big opening.

TIM: I do most of the cooking and he does the cleaning.

MINH: He gets very extravagant.

TIM: I subscribe to Bon Appetit. I like cooking complex meals.

MINH: Real ingredients, too. None of that low-fat shit. (In the bedroom) We wanted to keep the bedroom simple and neutral. The lamps are Ikea. You’d never buy your furniture from Ikea, but their decorative items are just as good. This corner floating shelving I actually built myself. It took me about a day and a half to do. It’s very simple, very straightforward. It’s all oak, I just stained it darker.

TIM: It works great. We originally hung the television on this wall but it didn’t look right there so he built this. We have flat screen TVs because the space is small — if we had regular TVs they would take up a lot more space.

MINH: (In the closet) This is my pride and joy. We didn’t really feel at home until the closets went in. It’s another custom alteration we made, a two-sided, walk-through closet. We put in these shelves ourselves.

TIM: We had some trouble getting them in on the left side because the ceiling kind of slopes down a little bit. But this is about as efficient as you can possibly be in a closet area.

MINH: Like I said, if you don’t keep it organized it becomes unmanageable and looks like a tiny, tiny space.