Homeplace: Bohemian Carriage House

Patricia Lyons
by Terri Sapienza - Washington, D.C. - February/March 2013

A couple bring their love of entertaining to D.C.’s most infamous backstreet

> See more photos of the home

Anna and Dan Kahoe were not looking to move. Just two years earlier, they had poured their heart, soul, and savings into renovating their home, an old laundry facility near Washington, D.C.’s Logan Circle. But during an evening stroll last summer, a For Sale sign on a decrepit carriage house caught their eye. 

“The exterior looked like faded grandeur meets third-world country meets weeds,” Anna says. “The interior looked like a Silence of the Lambs kind of thing.”

They couldn’t pass it up. 

Owners of the District shop GoodWood—an antiques and vintage emporium—the Kahoes have a knack for seeing the possibility in old things. They spend their days trekking to auctions and estate sales across Virginia and Maryland. They’re also experienced renovators; this is the fifth house they’ve restored.

“We couldn’t imagine it falling into the wrong hands,” Anna says. “We knew we could make it better without taking away its intrinsic charm.”

The property’s history added another layer of intrigue for the couple. The carriage house was built in 1887 by a coal oil dealer named Samuel Huntress, who, as the story goes, died in a drunken fight behind the house. It’s said that Eleanor Roosevelt once called the neighborhood—Blagden Alley—“the most despicable in the country” because of its reputation for bootlegging and crime during Prohibition. But today, the alley is an up-and-coming enclave for creative types and entrepreneurs. Some of the Kahoes’ new neighbors include artists, designers, and Rogue 24, one of Washington’s priciest restaurants.

Inspired by the idea of hosting a monthly supper club—the Kahoes are known as much for their parties as they are for their store—the couple set about turning the main floor of their alleyway dwelling into a multipurpose entertaining space. With assistance from the Maryland-based architecture firm Bennett Frank McCarthy, they divided the home into upstairs living quarters and a downstairs that includes kitchen, dining, and lounge areas where everyone can be part of the action. 

 “If people want to hang out at the source of the food, then I wanted there to be no barriers,” Anna says.

A moody, gentleman’s club–like sitting area welcomes guests with a pair of deep leather chairs, floor pillows from Morocco, and a well-stocked, come-help-yourself bar. The centerpiece of the dining area is an eleven-and-a-half-foot custom chestnut-topped table that seats fourteen and sits adjacent to a professionally equipped kitchen. Freezer drawers and a duo of dishwashers sit beneath stainless and Carrara countertops and rows of open shelving fashioned from slabs of salvaged wood.

While planning the kitchen layout, the Kahoes’ mantra was mise en place—everything needed to be organized and within reach. But the open shelving was added for more than just ease of use. “We wanted to display our vintage and antique ironstone dishware,” says Anna. “It’s hand thrown and a little wavy. When it’s stacked, it looks like a wedding cake.”

To create the bedroom/living space on the top floor, they replaced the original kitchen with a walk-in closet and painted a navy chevron pattern on the plywood floor.They gave the existing bathroom a Kahoe-style makeover using salvaged doors and fixtures. A stately chesterfield sofa now shares space with textiles from Turkey, a chain-link coffee table, and a wall-mounted marlin. “It’s an odd collection of things that are beautiful and evocative of nature and life,” Anna says. Concrete floors, exposed rafters, and peeling paint provide a fitting backdrop for their menagerie.

 “We wanted to tidy the house up enough so everyone could see its beauty, but we didn’t want to polish away the faded parts,” Anna says. Nor did they want to forget their home’s heritage. Painted on the rear facade of the house is a sign they commissioned: Huntress Coal Oil. 

After a year of renovations, the Kahoes are enjoying their new home and are in the process of planning their first Blagden Alley Social Club gathering. Perhaps this will be the home that sticks. 

 “I always think, ‘This is it,’” Anna says. “But if we see a  property that needs rescuing, we can’t help ourselves.”

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