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An urban rowhouse with a sense of home

  • The Hoburgs, who combine old and new, have a number of family antiques and have picked up pieces at flea markets. This dining-room vignette is set on a drop-leaf table, a family piece. Mike Morgan / Washington Post

  • Because cabinet space was limited, Meg Hoburg added open shelving to her kitchen. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post

  • Meg and Glenn Hoburg have spent the past 14 years renovating their three-bedroom rowhouse on Capitol Hill. Mike Morgan / Washington Post

  • The master bedroom has an airy, pencil-post canopy bed from Restoration Hardware Outlet that the Hoburgs painted black. The chandelier with a leaf motif is from Ballard Designs. The oval mirror over the bed is a family antique. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post

  • The Hoburgs took down the wall between the living and dining rooms and added columns to define the spaces. The living room is painted Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post

  • The tiniest bedroom in the house is also Meg Hoburg’s home office. Bedding and the lambswool pillow are from Ikea. The gray linen pompom-trimmed pillow is from Ballard Designs; the bold floral Schumacher print pillow made by Hoburg's mother. The desk, from World Market, has a glass top to give the illusion of taking up less space. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post

  • Isabelle Hoburg’s bedroom has a kilim from World Market. The bed and nightstand were garage-sale purchases that were painted. Her flower creations hang throughout, including on the $2 chandelier found at a yard sale. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post

  • The tiny powder room just off the kitchen was originally a pantry. To add some personality to the space, the Hoburgs put up removable wallpaper tiles by Hygge and West. The metal mirror with shelf is from Shades of Light. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post

  • The exterior of the original claw foot tub is painted with chalkboard paint; the feet are painted silver.At left, a wall-mounted shelf unit from Pottery Barn holds towels and other things as the bathroom has no built-in cabinet. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post

  • With no coat closet on the first floor, the Hoburgs put up some pegs in the tiny entrance foyer, which they wallpapered in a bold folk-art print. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post

  • The exterior of the Hoburgs' 1900 Capitol Hill brick rowhouse is painted Fairview Taupe by Benjamin Moore. (MUST CREDIT: Mike Morgan/For The Washington Post) Mike Morgan—The Washington Post



Washington Post
Saturday, October 21, 2017

In an old house, there are endless places to spend money. But for the Hoburg family, whose Capitol Hill rowhouse is 117 years old, it’s never been about perfection. In the 14 years the family of four have lived in the narrow, three-story house, they have patiently carved out a sense of home – one exposed brick wall and yard-sale chandelier at a time.

“Living in smaller, older spaces, you have to be creative,” said Meg Hoburg, 50, a designer whose specialty is budget-minded jobs. “We did things in stages as we were able to afford them.” Her husband, Glenn, 52, a pastor at Grace DC, said he used to dread the word “project,” but he’s continually mastering the skills needed to keep home improvements moving forward.

“I didn’t grow up learning how to fix anything, but Meg had a vision of what the space could become and wasn’t afraid to take risks,” he said. “Now I can install wallpaper and tile and change out faucets.”

The Hoburgs are one of many urban, space-challenged families who love their neighborhoods and will make lifestyle compromises to stay in the city. There’s not a bathroom adjoining each bedroom and no massive trophy kitchen in the Hoburgs’ 1,500-square-foot home. There are no walk-in closets, though their teeny third upstairs bedroom is the size of one. But by using every inch, doing much of the work themselves, continually coming up with new storage solutions, repurposing furnishings, and constantly condensing and purging their stuff, they found affordable ways to make the house functional and comfortable.

No coat closet? They put up hooks in the small entry vestibule and enlivened the space with a navy-and-white wallpaper inspired by Mexican folk art, Otomi by Hygge & West. Limited kitchen cabinets? Because they have high ceilings, they looked for extra storage vertically and added a wall of open shelving and a Crate & Barrel pot rack. No back patio? They Googled how to build one themselves and bought a truckload of bricks. With the help of friends and family, they carried the bricks through the house to the back, as they have no rear access to their tiny yard.

Their daughters Isabelle, 17, still at home, and Maddie, 20, who recently moved out, have contributed to the overall design of the house and developed their own DIY projects. Isabelle’s art installations involve paper flowers of her own design. She embellished her bedroom chandelier, bought at a community yard sale in Grafton, Vt., for $2, by painting it bronze with touches of gold leaf and dangling her white-and-gold flowers from it. She also created artwork using a piece of driftwood from which an armload of her handmade blooms are suspended. Maddie painted her closet doors bright aqua (Benjamin Moore), and her own framed artworks hang throughout the house.

When the Hoburgs moved into the house in 2003, previous owners had already given it a basic renovation: a simple Ikea kitchen, updated bathrooms, replastered walls and a finished basement that serves as a family room, guest quarters and storage. But some of the charming quirks of a house that dates to 1900 were still there: slanted floors, wooden doorknobs that rattle, and brass hinges layered with paint. The tiny back yard was a patch of dirt and weeds. When it rained, water occasionally trickled into the master bedroom through the light fixture.

But the house had its original pine floors, tall ceilings and claw-foot tub. The Hoburgs invested about $45,000 in the past 14 years on major improvements including a new roof, air conditioning and built-ins, as well as exterior improvements; most years they spend $2,000 to $3,000 on repairs, upkeep, furniture and accessories.

Meg majored in interior design in college and then attended a seminary. She continued decorating for family and friends, then opened her own business last year.

As her own client, she knew her challenges: choosing furniture that was the right scale for the rooms, using mirrors to open up the spaces and providing plenty of lighting, as rowhouses are notoriously dark inside.

The first floor of the house had a small living room and a small dining room. In stages, the Hoburgs took down the walls between them, put in crown molding and added two plaster columns to define the rooms. They exposed a brick wall to add character and added a built-in bookcase. In the kitchen, the original tin ceiling had been painted white; they painted it silver (Modern Masters’ metallic paint) to make it look more authentic. The kitchen pantry had already been turned into a utilitarian powder room; Meg and Glenn upgraded it by installing removable wallpaper tiles and added a new mirror, light fixture and faucet to give it more personality. In the dining room, a 19th-century pew that was a gift from a former church has stylized floral pillows by Rifle Paper Co. A gallery wall above is hung with an assortment of art including works by Maddie, framed silhouettes of both girls done by Isabelle, and vintage mirrors.