Kristi and Isaac's DC Artist Loft

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Name: Kristi and Isaac Maiselman, and Koda, their 4-year-old Chow/Australian cattle dog mix
Location: Penn Quarter, Washington, DC
Size: 863 square feet
Years lived in: 10 years; Owned

The radiator in the entry hall is art. The piece, by DC sculptor Ben Jurgensen, is fitted out with speakers, and when you plug it in it snaps and crackles, just like the real thing. Kristi and Isaac Maiselman live at Penn Quarter's Mather Studios, in one of the building's 12 dedicated "artist lofts"live/work spaces that were offered to creatives in 2003 at a special rate. 

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Avid collectors, the Maiselmans are steeped in the arts: Kristi is a research associate for development at the National Gallery of Art, and Isaac is a principal at The Photographers Gallery, a commercial photography studio. The building suits them.

Presently the loft is flooded with light, a perk that Kristi and Isaac hadn't anticipated  there used to be a building next door that sat 24 feet from their own. It has since been demolished, but a taller building is being constructed to go up only 8 feet from their window. When they renovated two years ago, they did so with this in mind, selecting paint colors and installing the ceiling track fixtures to maximize ambient lighting.

As for their art collection, it's growing bit by bit — they give each other new artwork for every birthday, holiday, and celebration. Standouts in the space right now include the large, colorful canvas over the dining table ("A Reunion," by Adam de Boer) and a pair of drawings by Cara Ober that bookend the bedroom gallery wall and feature images of Woody Allen and Jesus Christ (strange bedfellows, yes). Their latest addition was a gift from Kristi to Isaac, a William Powhida print that is stacked on the wall in Isaac's "man corner," with his speakers and his record player.

"And ironically," Kristi tells me, "it's called 'Why You Shouldn't Buy Art.'"

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style/Inspiration: Modern with a few mid-century elements. We like clean lines and well-curated clutter (if you consider our collection of vinyl records, art and cookbooks clutter). Since we live in a relatively small space, design has to be functional. We love Design Within Reach, Notcot, Dwell, and Cool Hunting, but sometimes those spaces look as if no one actually lives there. We want our home to be cozy, comfortable and lived-in.

Favorite Element: The best thing about this condo is that we have the ceiling height and wall space to show off our modest little art collection that includes work by artists Yves Netzhammer, Henry Taylor, Hell’o Monsters, Marcel Dzama, and William Powhida, as well as local artists like Chan Chao, Mary Coble, Erik Sandberg, Adam de Boer, Cara Ober, Ben Jurgensen, Akemi Maegawa, and Jeffery Herrity. Isaac is also particularly fond of his “man corner” that contains his Eames Rocker and his custom Zu Audio speakers.

Biggest Challenge: Two years ago when we renovated, we knew the building next door that was 24 feet from our window would be demolished and ultimately rebuilt 8 feet from our window.  The challenge was trying to anticipate how our condo and the design elements would be affected by the decrease in light. So we tried to pick wall colors and floor colors in anticipation of less natural light, while at the same time maximizing the ambient lighting. Right now the building is demolished and we have more natural light than we could have imagined, as well as great views of the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery and the Mies van der Rohe designed Martin Luther King Library. The new building won’t be finished until December 2014, so the jury’s still out on our lighting challenge.

What Friends Say: We love to entertain, and our friends and family still can’t believe that despite the size of our place, we have a dining room table the seats 10 comfortably, 12 if we have to.

Biggest Embarrassment: We have this fake orchid that someone bought Isaac before we were married, when he first moved into his own condo.  We have tons of succulents and a real terrarium, yet we still have this fake orchid.  Somehow it made the move two years ago, and we still haven’t gotten rid of it. The height of it seems to balance out the console table and mirror in the entryway, and I just haven’t found a suitable replacement. The dining room table also had a run-in with a bottle of nail polish which removed a noticeable amount of the finish. We tried every touch-up stain pen and marker available, and it’s still all I notice.  Needless to say, whenever we have guests it gets covered.

Proudest DIY: Isaac does a pretty good job of cable management.  He works tirelessly to hide and minimize all of the wires from his countless electronics. He also has most of the house wired so that we can control the lights and music all from remotes or iPhones and iPads.

Biggest Indulgence: Definitely the UltraCraft cabinets in the kitchen. It was a hard expense to justify, but in the end it was the right choice and we absolutely love them.  Also, the Philippe Starck Louis Ghost Chairs in the dining area.  We first bought 4 and have slowly added a couple every year when DWR has their chair sale. We’re up to 8 at this point.

Best Advice:  Everything is a work in progress, and there has to be balance.  Not everything has to be from Design Within Reach. Places like IKEA, West Elm, and Room and Board make it easy to mix and match and achieve good design on a variety of budgets. Over time you can always upgrade; we have our Saarinen Dining Table all picked out, and we’re just waiting for the right time!

Dream Sources: Did I mention Design Within Reach?

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Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS

  • Behr Parisian Taupe
  • Behr Deep Aubergine

LIVING ROOM

  • Sofas - Room and Board
  • Pillows - mix of West Elm, Home Goods, the large polka dot pillows were handmade by Kristi, from fabric from Picnic Design in Buenos Aires
  • Ottoman - Room and Board
  • Rug - CB2 
  • Bookshelves - Room and Board 
  • Eames Molded Plastic Rocker - Design Within Reach
  • Speakers - Zu Audio
  • Record player - Pro-ject  
  • "The Dude" artwork- Mike Mitchell 
  • TV stand- Room and Board
  • Round side table between sofas - Vastu on 14th Street
  • Bar cabinet - West Elm
  • Artwork over bar cabinet - Adam de Boer    

DINING ROOM

  • Table - West Elm
  • Louis Ghost Chairs designed by Philippe Starck for Kartell 
  • Big painting - “A Reunion,” by Adam de Boer
  • Console behind table against window wall - West Elm  

KITCHEN

  • Cabinetry - UltraCraft
  • Appliances - GE Cafe
  • Jar decals - Found in a little design shop in Palermo Hollywood in Buenos Aires
  • Coffeemaker - Jasper Morrisson for Rowenta, Design Within Reach

BEDROOM

  • Bed - West Elm
  • Bedding - West Elm
  • Bedside tables - West Elm
  • Fan - Artemis
  • Artwork over bed - Marcel Dzama, Matthew Mouras
  • "Accordian" lights over bed - West Elm    

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Thanks, Kristi and Isaac!

(Images: Natalie Grasso)

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