Name: Sondra and Ron
Occupation: artist and writer, both work from home
Location: Washington DC
Size: 2200 sq ft of living space; 900 sq ft art studio; brownstone circa 1900
Years lived in: 6 years
Sondra and Ron purchased their 3-unit Dupont brownstone in 1999. They completely gutted the house (but not the historic facade) to suit their work and home needs. Both work from home - Sondra is a painter, mixed media and encaustic artist, and her studio is on the first floor; Ron is a writer and has an office on the second floor. Only 17-feet wide, the house originally had no closets or storage space (they rent out the basement). Sondra and Ron share a nautical background, so they came up with clever space-saving devices inspired by ship cabins...
The home has a ton of warm wood and hidden built-in cupboards and closets, including a special cupboard for Ron's hat collection. Sondra and Ron made the back of the house very modern, in contrast with the historic front. The renovated back is made out of perforated steel and a 3-story red pole. Inspired by a visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Sondra and Ron wanted to incorporate as much natural light as possible into the house. The top floor skylight allows light throughout the floor, so no artificial lighting is needed during the daytime.
Sondra and Ron keep their home very neat and organized. Sondra saves the mess for her studio, where she incorporates recycled materials, among other things, into her mixed media work. Sondra's artwork is scattered throughout their home. Works in progress are shown in the photos of her studio. You can see more of Sondra's artwork on her website or in person at the local Nevin Kelly Gallery on U Street. Sondra also opens her studio, but not her home, twice a year for the Mid City Artists Open Studio days.
Style: contemporary, "cabin cruiser"
Inspiration: comfy, uncluttered, and warm; home is where all things should have a home. Keep the mess in the studio.
Favorite Aspects: the house is like a refuge. It's hard for us to travel because luxury hotels are not as nice and comfortable as our home.
Biggest Challenge: The house is narrow (17-feet wide) so we designed it like a boat with lots of built-ins and wood.
Proudest Aspect: Collaborating on the design with our architect friend and the way all the finishes go together.
What Friends Say: They all want it!
Embarrassment: It took a year to design our home. We looked at a lot of home magazines and found the idea for the floor-to-ceiling mahogany wood panels from a magazine photo. We ordered the mahogany monoliths from real wood, then realized later that the panels in the magazine were faux finish. Our panels are too nice to hang art on (their original purpose in the design).
Indulgence: All the wood and finishes.
Best Advice Given or Received - Given: For full-gut renovations, photograph the walls before you put up the drywall so you know the exact location of all your wires and pipes. Also, pay attention to lighting.
Dream Source/Item: We want to put up solar panels in the roof but are afraid because of occasional, mysterious roof leaks and lots of squirrels. We're waiting for new technology that is smaller than the big solar panels now on the market.
Couches: Pottery Barn (living room), Urban Essentials (top floor study)
Small Tables: Ethan Allen
Leather Chairs: Cassini
Desks: custom-made to fit the space
Bed: Room and Board
Dresser in Bedroom: custom-made to match the bed
Office Furniture: IKEA
Rugs: collected over the years from DC-area rug dealers
Artwork: Sondra N. Arkin, drawing in bathroom by DC artist Mary Beth Ramsey, painting over stairwell by DC artist David Yerkes, office art by CA artist Daniel Phill