Environs

Colorfully renovated rowhouse becomes 20-year home and more for couple in Capitol Hill

by Chord Bezerra
Published on September 4, 2003, 12:00am | Comments

MORE STUFF THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE in a 3BR, 2 1/2BA townhouse plus atrium, all in two floors and a basement. Renovated and refined over twenty years by two men with an eye for classic décor, campy tin toys.

In 1983 David Herchick and Richard Looman thought they were just purchasing a house on Capitol Hill. But in the course of renovations, the house became a home, and the home begat two businesses, as the couple launched JDS Design and an antique store, Hunters and Gatherers.

Richard: We actually bought this house when it wasn't fashionable to live on Capitol Hill. The house was on the market for six years and they couldn't sell it. It was a little close to H Street and we bought it from a gentleman who gave us a really good deal on it. It was under $100,000, and we've renovated and restored it since then.

[In dining room] There was one of those closets here that when you opened the door you could only hang three shirts in it. One night I came down here with a sledgehammer and started knocking it down and I found the fireplace behind it. It doesn't work, but we put the fake mantel on the front of it and added that china closet on the other side.

[In kitchen] We enlarged the original kitchen. This is an old French store counter that we extended so it could be an island. We have a lot of antique toys in here. It's like, you see stuff that's cheap and start buying it, and pretty soon you have a lot of it. They're antique tin toys, movables and all that stuff. They'll never make anything like this again because a kid might injure himself or kill himself, but when we were little all the toys were tin.

[In atrium]: The house ended right here and this was the way you went down into the basement. The door is actually underneath here. We floored it over and made it into an atrium in 1994, I think it was. That's the wall of the house next door. The fountain is a French majolica fountain from the 1870s or 1880s. This is just a cistern that I put fish in. Sometimes I sit here and have a drink or read -- it's calm and relaxing.

[In family room]: These walls were done by Valley Craftsman. They're based on the great map hall in the Vatican. It's all on canvas -- they did the work off-site and then just glued it up there. That statue was actually featured in a design magazine this month. [It's one of a series by] the interior designer Billy Baldwin, who was really big in the thirties and forties. We had no idea what it was worth, and then the magazine said they were so incredibly expensive and they're worth the price of a good car. I keep looking at it and thinking, "I could use a good car."

[In master bedroom]: I love this piece: It's a fifties dresser that we had silver-leafed. I found all this old Haywood Wakefield furniture that I bought on 14th Street. [I'm] taking the wooden legs off and putting chrome legs on the bottom of them. And then we have this guy who is making a cocoa finish on the side and he's painting the drawers either blue or green. It looks so hot. We did one at the Ritz in Georgetown; people go crazy over this piece of furniture.

This is all gothic paneling I bought in Mount Pleasant for nothing, so we built the room around that. For all that paneling I think I paid $200. It looks like it's original to the house -- could you imagine how expensive it would be to do gothic paneling now?

There's a lot of stuff in this house; I'm going to sell a lot of this crap. All at once you get like, I just can't deal with this anymore. Your inventory is just too big. In All About Eve [Bette Davis asks] "If you should die tomorrow, Max, how was your inventory?" In here, people would come through and see all this stuff and ask, "What were they thinking?"

Does your house, condo or apartment have a story to tell? Let Environs know about it. E-mail home@metroweekly.com.


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