The Logan Circle Holiday House Tour

The Power of Smaller Spaces Comes Through

A few highlights of the annual Logan Circle Holiday House Tour

You’ve heard the adage, it’s not the size, it’s what you can do with it! That was the subliminal theme of this year’s annual Logan Circle Holiday House Tour. Unlike in past years, none of the ten homes on the tour was the huge multi-level, center staircase Victorians that are synonymous with Logan Circle. They were smaller, tasteful, a blend of traditional and ultra- Modern and most were dressed for the holidays. The scale-down in size certainly had no bearing on the power the interior design delivered. 

Most of the interiors tilted toward Modernism. This is a trend I have been noticing lately. I think tour organizers try to keep a mix of design styles, because, again, this is Logan Circle and people have pre-disposed notions of what a house ought to look like here, but that myopia is quickly fading away as the glass, steel and brick Modernism transforms Logan Circle from a Victorian neighborhood of wealthy large families with live-in maids and cooks who lived like the Magnificent Ambersoms when their money was still plentiful.

Today’s residents are, for the most part, not large families but either a working couple with two high earning incomes, some with a kid or two, or a single very high earner. This is largely who is moving to the Circle and more broadly to Washington in general. These people have no need for a mansion. But they do desire to live large and their interiors show it.

Five properties in particular called out to me. Three of them were 19th century constructions but not necessarily still boasting their original Victorian interior. Two of the five were more recent glass and steel constructions all with fantastic views of the Logan cityscape. One property on O Street near 9th which wasn’t large at all stood out mostly because of the beautiful antiques that populated the downstairs, the only of the two floors open for the tour. The interior look matched the house nicely and one felt that they were in an elegant home when street cars rolled in the streets, and gaslights lit the way. Of course, antiquity ends at the kitchen because everyone wants the granite or quartz counters and the steel appliances. In fact, it would be nice to see someone buck that trend one day and boast a “theme” kitchen that actually uses older colored appliances or even new colored appliances. It does happen in some places! But this small home was actually quite warm and interesting. 

But the owners of the few other 19th century homes for the most part felt no obligation to keep it authentic and of course there’s no reason why they should. One house on T Street between 13th and 14th was a prime example of the dramatic effect of throwing out the old and going with the Zen. This two-level space got me right after I walked in the door. First of all, the exterior brick is painted white and when you enter the inside, guess what, more white! A completely open space with views to a Japanese style garage door, painted white of course with a door that mimics the glass wall that faces on the other side of the postage stamp patio of grass right off the kitchen. Dark wood floors offset the white quartz counters, steel appliances and all that glass!  Bits of other antique Japanese accents add some warmth to this interior, but clearly this owner wants it to be a more detached design. Everything here is ultra-Modern and therefore takes you to another place where you imagine the trains run on time and everything is very ordered and getting close to perfect!

Two of the condominiums were high on my list. One was a penthouse just south of Logan Circle which had fabulous views. High ceilings, lots of glass and the openness of the interior continue to please as a design style. The owners offset the steely interior with art and accents. 

 I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I considered the ten in hindsight, my very favorite of this year’s tour, the 36th annual, was a fifth floor apartment at the Cooper-Lewis at 14th and P. I have walked by this building so many times and hardly ever noticed the lobby. Nothing fancy at all. In fact, you might even mistake it as part of the PNC bank which takes up the entire ground floor commercial space. But, the apartment, while not large, just had a quiet power in its design that really made it stand out.  No doubt its biggest draw is a private terrace accessed via a metal catwalk extending from the living room. From the catwalk you can practically see a play in the upstairs performance house at Studio Theater across the street amd the comings and goings up and down 14th. The design is Modern and yet warm and inviting with chrome and glass and leather and a shag area rug in the living room.  A smiling framed Buddha overlooks the dining area and the bathrooms are inviting even in their sleekness. Wall colors are warm and earthy and the space feels quite soothing. Again, not big at all and I tend to like spacious spaces. But, if you choose to live in the Logan Circle of the 21st century, this is who you are and this is how you live!