- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

She's an established art gallery owner. He's an avid collector of black art with a discerning eye for unique furnishings. Together, Edith Buffalow of Ramee Art Gallery in Northwest and Nate Lewis scout the seven seas in search of artifacts, one-of-a-kind furnishings and accessories that add panache to boudoirs and boardrooms.
They've framed their combined talents with the creation of Adobe Design Center & Showroom in Northeast, a one-stop-shop for those who want their personal spaces whether it's a 3,400-square-foot brownstone on Capitol Hill or a 500-square-foot condo in Silver Spring to reflect a signature style.
And the pieces in their collection offer a mine of ideas for homeowners who want to jump-start their own thinking.
Can a cement-and-wrought-iron bed be beautiful? Most people would say no. It's something you might find in the room of a person who just got out of college and has no money. They'd be dead wrong.
It took Ms. Buffalow two seconds to look at the four-poster canopy bed she found in Guadalajara, Mexico, and say to herself, "This belongs in our collection." When she asked the price her judgment was confirmed. $3,500, the artist said.
The king-size, cream and gold colored canopy bed has a decorative scalloped wrought iron top with netting draped from its four corners. The concrete makes a design in the headboard and the footboard.
"We're not conventional. We're not traditional," Ms. Buffalow says of Adobe Design Center's style.
"We have an eclectic mix of accent pieces and furniture from Central America, Europe, Africa and Indonesia. Adobe, actually, means clay, in Spanish. When Mr. Lewis and I first started this venture in 1997 we had collected a variety of clay pots in various sizes and shapes from our travels to Mexico. The connotation being back to the earth natural. So, many of our pieces are earthy and soft," the Portsmouth, Va., native says.
Another unusual find included in the collection is a deep chocolate brown leather and wrought iron desk. What makes the desk unique is its design it's shaped like a rare leather-bound book. Its base is made of wrought iron, and there's a custom made chocolate brown leather chair to acccompany it that they found in Monterrey, Mexico, Ms. Buffalow says.

The airy, New York-style loft that's home to Adobe Design Center sits in the midst of a warehouse district in Northeast. Huge bay windows allow natural light to stream through the 3,200 square-foot-showroom that begs for a great bottle of wine and interesting conversation. Adobe Design Center will celebrate its grand opening on Oct. 6 from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. at 606-C Rhode Island Ave.
"I've always had a love for unique furnishings; it's nice to have a few conversation pieces in a home. But it's even nicer to have an entire home furnished with conversation pieces at affordable prices," Mr. Lewis, 39, says, smiling.
But it's not only about one-of-a-kind furnishings. Ms. Buffalow says Adobe Design Center provides wall treatments fabulous faux and floor treatments in either hardwood or ceramic. They can even shed light on lots of subjects with their wide range of lamps and shades.

Not long ago Ms. Buffalow and Mr. Lewis tested the waters, so to speak, by inviting local interior designers and a few select clients in for a sneak peek of their intercontinental collections. The invited designers sauntered from one platform area to the next making mental notes of finds for their clients.
"Eclectic works," said interior designer Lorra Rivers of LR Designs in Northeast.
Although the Washington area is conservative, Ms. Rivers, an interior designer for 14 years, has noticed a change, especially among younger designers.
"My clients tend to be more contemporary in their thinking and extremely well traveled, which speaks to their eclectic tastes in furnishings. Some of the old school designers prefer florals and brocadesBut more of the up-and-comers have an appreciation and awareness of natural materials and interiors," Ms. Rivers says.
Espanola Hughes, a personal shopper who lives in upper Northwest, spotted a bronze patina sculpture from Spain titled "In Transit." The 20-inch sculpture depicts the partial torsos of a woman and man mounted on a marble base. She says the accent piece would work nicely on a coffee table, or the two-piece sculpture could be used as bookends.
A bevy of small boxes and clocks covered with a leopard pattern material sits atop a round beveled-glass and wrought-iron table in the center of the showroom. The grouping caught Mrs. Hughes' eye. The assortment of shapes some square, others oblong, and still others shaped in the form of miniature chests adorned by gold and white tassels are but one example of the showroom's accent pieces that start at $20 and work in every area of the home from the den to the bedroom.

Art will play an integral part in Adobe Design Center. Ms. Buffalow says she will display only originals, and artists' work will rotate monthly.
In 1987, long before black art was considered collectible by many, Ms. Buffalow, a graduate of Norfolk State University, started to sell works by Charles Bibbs, Kathleen Wilson and local artist Joseph Holston among others from her Silver Spring home. The following year, she hosted her first art exhibition at the Zambian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest. That same year, Ms. Buffalow opened Ramee Art Gallery .
"It was a time when black artists were beginning to be recognized for their achievements. Most of the artists held other jobs, even Charles Bibbs, who was a graphic artist and now has built an empire," Ms. Buffalow says.
With the establishment of the brick and mortar gallery in 1991, at 5427 14th St. in Northwest, she set out to educate blacks about buying art and how to begin a collection. A top priority for Ms. Buffalow was to create a venue for up-and-coming artists, she says.
Mr. Lewis met Ms. Buffalow 10 years ago. A native of Eufaula, Ala., he moved to the District in 1987. He had started collecting black art 15 years ago and was always on the lookout for new and exciting works in different cities. His search led him to Ramee Art Gallery and Ms. Buffalow. During his travels to the Southwestern part of the country, Mr. Lewis found the look and feel of art galleries to be quite different from those in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.
"I visited several galleries in San Antonio, Texas, in 1996, and noticed they had a totally different style, one that I had not seen on the East Coast. Many of the galleries had a definite Spanish influence. It was different, doable and beautiful," Mr. Lewis says.
"I wanted to bring that flavor to this area, but finding a space to make it happen was difficult," he says.
He teamed up with Ms. Buffalow at her 6,000-square-foot gallery space. Together, the two gradually incorporated unique furnishings for the home into a gallery setting and got rave reviews from clients, Ms. Buffalow says.
"That's when the concept for Adobe Design Center & Showroom started to take shape," Mr. Lewis says with a smile.

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