If you saw a run down old building in a dodgy neighbourhood at the height of a vicious recession would you think to yourself, "Perhaps I'll open a shop?"
That's what Washington, DC designer Darryl Carter thought when he laid eyes on this building on 9th St. NW. That was 2008. Just last week Darryl hosted a party to celebrate the completion of the reno and I hopped down to DC for the festivities. Here's a sneak peek.
This is the building in progress. Even in this mid-done state the place has an air of Darryl Carter austerity in its white cloak and handsome black-painted 6-over-6 windows – looking like they were there all along, but weren't.
It was well past dark by the time Mr. A. and I alighted from a cab directly from Dulles after an epic fog-delayed journey. So I hope you'll forgive the lighting of photos snapped on my iPhone in between the gulps of champagne (an antidote to travel stress, you understand). Greeting us at the front window was a handsome lion moved here from his previous post on the front lawn of Darryl's Embassy Row home.
Inside, the space is light and bright and white with vestiges of ruin to add soul. Exhibit A: this massive stone arch salvaged from a crumbling Maryland estate was moved to the site in pieces and reassembled with a steel reinforcement structure behind to hold it in place. Magnificent.
On each side of the entry hall are very pretty gothic bibliothèques. The doors and drawer fronts were salvaged from a butler's pantry at Dumbarton House, a Georgetown landmark, and the cabinetry was custom built around them. When the retail shop is stocked and open for business on Nov. 24 this area will be dedicated to the check out and wrapping of purchases, which I'm assured will be lovingly done in a very old-school manner.
Look up and you see a pair of Darryl's Gwenwood hanging fixtures made by Urban Electric and a glorious display of aged chunky wood beams.
The building is a warren of little rooms that will be arranged much like a home, including a dining area and kitchen. And like any home when there's a party, the action is in the kitchen. Thursday night's festivities were no different, with many of the guests gathering in the kitchen and adjacent bar in the dining area. In this space, sleek modern cabinets are offset by rugged wood shelving with steel supports.
Unfinished wide-plank floors throughout most of the building are milled from subfloor material reclaimed from an African embassy. The exposed brick wall shows its age beautifully, while simple white sconces and steel handrails were custom-designed by Darryl for the space.
The second floor rooms will be stocked with an ever-changing array of collections of pottery and decorative objects by local artisans accompanied by videos showing the process of design and creation of the goods. On party night the tabletops, made of soft clay, were strewn with old square nails and an invitation to sign. We did.
On the third floor, this little garret will become the home of luxurious bedding products, but on party night it was simply and ravishingly outfitted with this haunting oil portrait on an easel. Seeing this kind of made me want to rush home and pull down my ceiling. Kind of.
The site features an interior courtyard and a separate carriage house out back that will house Darryl's office and design studio staffers.
The upper carriage house office was dressed with an antique gateleg table and a massive concrete bowl on stand. Both are examples of the types of signature Darryl Carter pieces clients will be able to buy at the new shop.
One of the most exciting offerings to come at the shop will be a collection of 300 fabrics designed by Darryl. I didn't get a shot of the space where they will be displayed because it was pitch black and filled with a bunch of salsa-dancing revelers (not kidding) on party night. These fabrics I MUST see. Though I half-jokingly think, hmm, wonder how many shades of white linen there will be?
Of course you should book a flight to Washington after Nov. 24 to enjoy the fully merchandised experience, but in the mean time an easy buy-in to Darryl Carter's world is his latest book The Collected Home (Clarkson Potter, 2012). The book is an object of beauty and wisdom by Carter and his trusted collaborators, writer Trish Donnally, whom I met and chatted with and want to be, and photographer Gordon Beall, whose eye and camera lens see Darryl's work more intimately than any other shooter and who takes the best detail shot in the business. Worth every cent.