When Christian Lilley and Tressa Finerty decided to move from their beloved apartment in New York City to a new home base in DC, they couldn’t quite find what they wanted on the market.
“We were looking for something and weren’t finding it,” Finerty said. “We decided, ‘We’ll make what we want.’ And lo and behold, 9 months later — most people our age are having children, but we had a gestation period and came out with an apartment.”
In August 2013, the couple purchased a one-bedroom on the 1200 block of N Street NW in Logan Circle (map). The condo was on the second floor of a four-level townhouse built in 1875. It was finished, but had many past lives. Each unit had at some point in the building’s past been two separate, small apartments, Finerty said.
“It was clear they had sandwiched together two small apartments and hadn’t really done a lot of architectural work,” Finerty said. “As our architect said, ‘There’s a lot of knuckles in this place.’”
Working with Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects, the couple decided to expose as much of the original building as possible, and “infuse it with a little bit of serious modern or European flair here and there,” she said. The renovated space has reclaimed barn wood flooring in some parts, transitioning to diamond-plate decking steel in other areas. Inspired by architecture and design they’d seen in New York, the couple added a sleeping loft over the bathroom for guests to camp out in.
While renovating, the crew kept finding marks and evidence of the building’s past lives, like a large zebra-like burn mark on the wall in the kitchen.
“When we found things like that we tried to keep them,” Finerty said. “When our construction crew found the burn, they stopped and were like, ‘Whoa, whoa, this isn’t what you want, we can fix this.’ We said, ‘No, this is great. This tells a story.’”
But the space they now live in has little in common with the listing they bought late last summer. Lilley and Finerty didn’t save much of anything except two large, 12-foot doors. They couldn’t figure out what to do with them until Finerty realized that by chance, the steel kitchen island she’d ordered matched the door’s measurements exactly. She decided to mirror the island and put two pendant lights through the door overhead.
Though Finerty said she’s “surprised at how well it all came together,” she also echoed a familiar renovator’s complaint: There were just too many decisions to make.
“It’s a constant death by decision,” she said, adding that because there’s so much information online, it’s too easy to spend an entire day trying to figure out which steel pulls would look best on the kitchen cabinets.
And the other lesson? Restraint.
“It was a struggle,” Finerty said. “You have all these ideas, and you have to keep reining yourself in, because there’s no way you’re going to be able to fit everything you’ve ever seen and liked into one space.”
Finerty and Lilley knew when they purchased the place that their work would take them overseas from time to time — Finerty is a foreign service officer with the State Department, and Lilley is a web architect for McKinsey — but they didn’t expect to be called abroad quite so soon after finishing the renovation. So if you really like what Finerty and Lilley did, you can live in it: The unit will go up for rent this month.
Photos courtesy Christian Lilley and Tressa Finerty.
This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/an_industrial_renovation_of_a_condo_with_a_lot_of_knuckles/8587
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