50's Hip Gets a Postmodern Nose Job

by Will Doig
Published on March 27, 2003, 12:00am | Comments

GIMMEE THAT COUNTRYSIDE! 50's hip gets a postmodern nose job in this bucolic 3BR hideaway. Ever-evolving hive of activity in social neighborhood. Expansive yard, exquisite craftsmanship, style up to here. Indoor/outdoor hot tubs. Occupants are lesbian couple, firefighter, bear.

Max Steiner, a retired paramedic, and Schelli Dittmann, Director of Marketing for the D.C. Eagle, are tucked away in the gayest corner of Adelphi, Maryland. Their home is a live-in art project, forever in flux, with an open-door policy.

SCHELLI: [In living room] Max just retired, so she's building herself a little studio out back for woodworking and staining glass. What size is it?

MAX: 15 by 24.

SCHELLI: Just a little tiny thing. The house was built in 1952 along with the cul-de-sac. It was ultra hip and modern then. The whole back wall was glass, floor to ceiling. Max did all the renovations herself.

MAX: Replaced all the windows and siding.

SCHELLI: We design together and then she builds. We have a gay firefighter and a gay bear. We're a home for wayward gay men. They both needed a place to live temporarily, and now John's been here seven years and Don's been here two. [In office] This used to be the kitchen. Max built all the shelves out of pipe and wood. They were government surplus.

MAX: We both work from home now.

SCHELLI: Yeah, we kind of do whatever, whenever. Wake up and decide whether to be the cowboy or the astronaut. We bought these photographs [of toy action figures in compromising positions] from a San Francisco artist. They're actually greeting cards. We hung them up high because our neighbors come over with their kids.

MAX: [In hallway] I turned these three bedrooms into two bedrooms with a really big bathroom. That was the original master bedroom, which is now Donald the Bear's room. And these were two smaller rooms with a closet in between. [In bathroom] Now this was a lot of fun. Put in the Jacuzzi, put in the window and built the frame. I bought this maple vanity, but I built the skirt and mirror to match, and those are maple shelves behind you.

SCHELLI: And the floor is heated.

MAX: I moved here in 92.

SCHELLI: We dated for two years before that. It was no U-Haul thing. We're not like that.

MAX: These lights, I hardwired. It's art. This house is my art. I like to change my environment to suit my needs, rather that adapt my needs into an environment that's fixed. This house will evolve until the day I leave.

SCHELLI: [In back yard] We used to have a big river birch over there, but it was sick so we had to cut it down. Our tree surgeon said it was the biggest he'd ever seen. Those are the pieces of it, there.

MAX: This is all parkland behind us. Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission owns it, and then Pepco or someone owns the power lines, so no one can ever build behind us.

SCHELLI: It's a fantastic neighborhood. Mort, over there, he's dating Pauline up the street, and her son is gay. He owns Pride Water.

MAX: And there's a gay man named Don who lives where that greenhouse is.

SCHELLI: And Tom and George live over there. They're a couple. Our next-door neighbor has four kids, one's transgender and one's gay. They come over at Christmas.

MAX: They're like our honorary parents. We exchange presents and sing carols and shovel snow for the older people.

Epic romance? Torrid affair? Summer fling? Whatever your relationship with your dwelling, we want to hear it. For a chance to be featured in Environs, e-mail home@metroweekly.com.

Call 202-638-6830 to advertise here in Marketplace