- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

When architect George Calomiris decided to buy the two Victorian-style row houses at 2141 and 2143 N St. NW at an estate sale eight years ago, he relished the prospect of bringing the houses into the 21st century while enhancing their 19th-century beauty.
After working on the two buildings for a year or more, Mr. Calomiris realized the D.C. real estate market had taken a turn for the worse. Although he had never expected to make a major profit on the labor-intensive project, he decided to rent the properties rather than lose too much money.
Now that the market has picked up again, he has decided to put both houses on the market. An end unit, the house at 2141 N St. has a driveway and a small parking space at the rear. It is priced at $775,000. The house at 2143 N St. has a small fenced yard with a deck and is priced at $759,000.
"These homes are designated as part of the historic district of D.C., which means there is a threshold of standards we had to meet in order to obtain renovation permits," Mr. Calomiris says. "The threshold deals mostly with the exterior of the building and was relatively low compared to what I decided to do. Basically, I tried to recapture the finishes and treatments of the late 19th century while bringing the systems, such as mechanical, electrical and plumbing, up to today's standards."
While the structure and layout of both houses remain true to the original designs, Mr. Calomiris spent time and money finding period fixtures. The cast-iron platform and cast-iron railings that form the exterior entrance to both houses look as if they have been there for the past 100 years. In truth, they are expensive replacement pieces that were built for Mr. Calomiris to match the previous front entrance in every detail.
Some of the touches in the houses were not in the original structures but were added by Mr. Calomiris for fun. Elaborately molded plaster cornices and medallions are authentic in style but were created eight years ago by the Italian plaster craftsmen who do business as Giannetti Studios.
Mr. Calomiris used art-nouveau pattern books as the basis for tile patterns in the bathrooms, replaced and restored the wood wainscoting on some of the bathroom walls and even found working "pull-chain" toilets for some of the rooms. Unusual features found in both houses are framed windows with etched glass that provide light between the living room and the hallway. Though Mr. Calomiris added this visual interest to the houses during his renovations, the use of etched glass was popular around 1900.
The houses are almost identical in layout, but 2143 features a large bay window at the front of the house, and 2141 features a box bay window. Both feature an open living and dining room with a fireplace that has an elaborately carved plaster mantel.
At the rear of each house is a modern gourmet kitchen with the old-fashioned touch of a working fireplace. Mr. Calomiris used solid cherry cabinetry, granite counters including a center-island cook top and Sub-Zero appliances with matching cherry panels. Pocket doors can be closed to hide the kitchen when entertaining formally. Storage closets, a laundry space with a stacked washer and dryer, and a powder room have been placed along the hallway and under the stairs on this level in both houses.
On the second level, each house has a large rear bedroom with a fireplace, ceiling fan and wall of closets. A hall bath features wood wainscoting and a claw-foot bathtub with a shower fixture.
At the front of both houses on the second level is the master bedroom, which has a fireplace, a bay window, a wall of closets and a small but exquisite private bath with wood wainscoting, a whirlpool tub with tile walls, and etched-glass door.
Two more large bedrooms and a small bedroom for use as a home office, nursery or guest room are featured on the third level of each house. These rooms share a full bath off the hall. A huge skylight helps brighten this whole level in each building.
Throughout the houses, antique wall sconces and lighting fixtures add to the period details and were part of Mr. Calomiris' long search for authentic Victorian-style pieces.
Each building has a one-bedroom apartment in the lower level with a certificate of occupancy that allows it to be rented legally.
The neighborhood around the two houses certainly looks different than it did in 1900, but the urban lifestyle the community affords is one of the best in the city. Living within walking distance of Dupont Circle, Georgetown and the Kennedy Center, residents of this West End neighborhood can enjoy restaurants, shops, movie theaters and more. Commuting to an office on K Street or Connecticut Avenue would be a breeze, and it is nearly as easy to get downtown or to Capitol Hill.

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