This D.C. Rowhouse Tackles Common Rental Woes With Ease

published Feb 20, 2020

This D.C. Rowhouse Tackles Common Rental Woes With Ease

published Feb 20, 2020
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Name: Raisa Aziz and Henry Harding
Location: Washington, DC
Size: 1500 square feet
Years Lived In: 2 years, renting

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Washington, D.C.-based photographer Raisa Aziz and her husband Henry live in a charming and relaxed row house brimming with natural light, unique artifacts, DIY projects, and of course, plenty of plants. Their home style is the perfect a mix of their personalities and the places they grew up—both from coastal towns, Raisa from South Africa, and Henry from New England—as well as from their travels along the way.

Their aim when decorating this place was to bring a warm energy into their home together. Raisa and Henry have made space for memories of travel and good times with friends and family, like their “friend wall” of framed photos, notes adorning the fridge, and propagated plant life in nearly every nook.

Both Raisa and Henry work from home, and utilizing the spare bedroom and a den for their respective home offices was one way to maximize their space. Raisa’s office, sometimes serving as her photo studio, is bright and welcoming, and filled with original artwork from her friends and travels. Henry’s tech-savvy space is a collection of his gadgets, toys, and 3D printed pieces, all within arm’s reach.

Their best home-making advice? Skip trends and embrace friends: “We have small reminders of our loved ones all over the house, from photos (our ‘friend wall’) to notes and holiday cards on our fridge, and even one of our plants that joined a friend on the Women’s March back in 2017. They remind us of good memories and the love in our lives.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Open, relaxed, creative, comfortable.

Inspiration: Our homes—where we are from (coastal towns in South Africa and New England)—and our travels along the way.

Favorite Element: This house has its own charm—the weird quirks, like crooked walls and cracks in the brick from previous tenants, and the tiny Harry Potter door under the stairs. It reminds us that there’s history in this home, and it has its own personality that we can work with and celebrate.

Biggest Challenge: Light. The house faces west with a big (but beautiful!) tree blocking the light. It’s a middle row home so we only have front and back windows. We love our exposed brick walls, but they also darken the space.

We’ve found ways to redirect the light coming through the windows so that it reaches the center of our space. We hung mirrors and white picture frames over the brick to help triangulate the light between the windows. We rotated our fridge 90 degrees so that the light from our back window reflects off the silver fridge door and into our living space.

We kept the furniture to lighter colors, incorporating glass and white textiles and details wherever possible. The furniture itself is not heavy-set, so we can keep things feeling lifted and light.

Smart lights (we use LIFX bulbs) – We love natural light but these are a game changer when you don’t have a lot of it. The lights are programmed to transition their brightness and temperature throughout the course of the day. Bright/cool in the morning, off at noon, dim/warm in the evening, then goodnight and repeat.

Proudest DIY: Henry’s lettuce and herb hydroponic wall garden. We travel a good amount, which makes watering a vegetable garden a bit tricky. Solution: a self-watering garden attached to the wall on our back deck. Endless greens and herbs all spring and summer long. Details about how he built this:

  • A few hours of Youtube and a trip to Home Depot. 10-foot long 6” PVC tube. Hacksawed in half into two five-foot pieces. Four PVC J-hooks to hang off the wall. Drilled 4” holes into the pipes with a hand drill for 4” net cups to sit in. 20-gallon storage container filled with nutrient water with low-power pump that continuously circulates and aerates the water throughout the system.

Biggest Indulgence: Rai – I didn’t even want a TV in the house, and neither of us wanted a TV visible in the living space. But Henry wanted a projector for movie nights. And he was right, it ended up being a win-win compromise. But it’s for sure an indulgence. I love that he found a way to make it as invisible as possible when not in use.

Henry – My office. Tiny footprint (5’ x 8’) filled with all of my creative tools / gadgets / toys in arms reach. Walls are covered by pegboard, which holds all of my tools. Shelving for bigger appliances like 3D printer. Adjustable standing desk with four monitor displays. Hidden RGB LED lights everywhere.

Best Advice: Create a home that makes you feel happy, grounded, and safe. Figure out the aesthetics that help you do that. Don’t follow trends. Make a home that is designed around your needs and is comfortable to live in.

Choose items that will last and find ways to repurpose old items to make them fit your space. Our last apartment had a lot of black frames and dark furniture that we were able to spray paint white. Be selective when you go to Salvation Army, yard sales, etc. Don’t buy without a purpose in mind!

Bring your friends and family into your space. We have small reminders of our loved ones all over the house, from photos (our “friend wall”) to notes and holiday cards on our fridge, and even one of our plants that joined a friend on the Women’s March back in 2017. They remind us of good memories and the love in our lives.

What’s your best home secret? ​

  • Reflect. The. Light.​ Mirrors and glass are your best friend in this endeavor.
  • Plants! ​(Unless you’ll kill them.) Clean air, endorphin boost, looks good—so many reasons for this.
  • Compost.​ We produce so much food waste without realizing and composting is a great way of preventing our waste from getting to the landfill. We use Compost Cab to make this easier.
  • Art. ​Doesn’t have to be fancy or well known. Just needs to have significance to you, and that makes the home feel personal. Make your own (for example, our bottle cap magnetic art, photo fridge magnets, little 3D printed figures, childhood mementos etc.)
  • IRL (non digital) Household Calendar: ​We borrowed this idea from a couple that we’re close friends with. We have it on our fridge and every third weekend we have a family meeting to update it and do shared finances. Keeping on top of shared responsibilities in this way allows us to equally share the work of running a household and plan fun things together and for each other.



  • White Couch — IKEA
  • Coffee Table — West Elm


  • Dining Table — Unknown, Ikea?
  • Rhino planter — Asvati (Cape Town)
  • Elephant planter — Target
  • Plateware on wall — Gift from Rai’s dad after a work trip to Iran


  • Dresser — Target
  • Rugs — From travels
  • Clothing Rail — Amazon

Thanks Raisa and Henry!