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 https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/an_industrial_renovation_of_a_condo_with_a_lot_of_knuckles/8587.
Most Popular... This Week • Last 30 Days • Ever
The proposed district would encompass the neighborhood's commercial strip along Conne... read »
WTOP is reporting that The Heights, an eight-stall food hall that is taking over the ... read »
Where new housing is being built; the return of water in Dupont Circle; and a look at... read »
July Residential has filed plans with DC for a four-story, 50-unit apartment building... read »
As a tumultuous year for the housing market winds down, forecasts are being made for ... read »
A new report out this week found that homes in the DC region are selling nearly a wee... read »
Today, we will take a look at the close-in Northern Virginia zip codes where prices h... read »
DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment approved the requested relief for a planned 32-unit c... read »
When Amazon announced in 2018 that it would be opening a second headquarters in Virgi... read »
A revised plan is on the boards for a group of five townhouses in the middle of China... read »
With this weekend's DC houseboat tour a day away, UrbanTurf thought it only fitting t... read »
President Obama travels to Denver this morning to sign the stimulus bill that has bee... read »
In this week's installment of Ask An Agent, a reader wonders if there is a rule for h... read »
As The Wharf prepares to begin construction, DC's houseboat community heads to its ne... read »
In this week's installment of Ask An Agent, a reader asks a fairly common question th... read »
DC Real Estate Guides
Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market
We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Start browsing below!
Intro guides for first-time home buyers
Awesome and unusual real estate from across the DC Metro