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On Location: Sourcing in Adams Morgan, Washington D.C.


On Location: Sourcing in Adams Morgan, Washington D.C.

A shop that lives up to its name: a collection of brass knobs at The Brass Knob.

Photo by Jennifer Quail

Like all major cities, Washington D.C. is a city of districts, each with its own vibe and unique offerings. More and more in this city, each of those districts has something to enrapture the design enthusiast -- from unique shops covering every design theme imaginable to historic house museums to some of the greatest museums in the world.

The Adams Morgan district has a reputation for being young and edgy, vibrant with bars and restaurants, vintage shops and curiosities. In particular, 18th Street packs its blocks with an array of options that can easily fill a day.

For a rest from the shopping, stop in for a coffee break at Tryst, a cavernous, friendly cafe with enough sofas and chairs to fill 10 living rooms; and for something a little more, time your visit around brunch at L’Enfant where the croissants are light and airy and the French onion soup bubbles with a life of its own.

Skynear Designs

There is creativity at every turn inside Skynear Designs, a shop and design studio dedicated to artists and designers of all trades. Imaginative vignettes find sculptural sheep dining on a shag carpet the very color of springtime grass, decorative guitars by D.C. artist Mark Behme decorate the walls, and jewelry and accessories by The Women of Umoja work to benefit the women’s collective.

Here you’ll find an entire section devoted to the colorful art of Romero Britto. The artist’s imagination is represented in everything from framed art for the walls to pet bowls and one very creative chess set. There is also a meeting of the eras: a transparent plastic bar stool sits beneath a striking piece of Beaux Arts wall decor and a portrait of JFK and Jackie overlooks a very contemporary dining set.

The staff themselves are trained artists, designers and architects and design consultations are a regular part of the business. Skynear’s experience in the D.C. area is well-known as the company has participated in multiple showhouses and in the redesign of bars and restaurants, hotels and even embassies.

The Brass Knob

Set one foot in the door of The Brass Knob and you know this is an operation very true to its name. They refer to their stash as Architectural Antiques and it couldn’t be more accurate. This shop holds an amazing array of knobs, switchplates, sconces and chandeliers. On the lower level you’ll find stacks of decorative mantels, piles of fireplace pokers and an entire crate filled with decorative brass eagles (a quiet reminder that you’re in the nation’s capital).

And though there are filing cabinets with endless drawers organized by latches, locks, mortises and more, the larger pieces throughout the shop will really amaze you. Chandeliers sparkle with colored and cut glass, architectural screens impress with their detail and decorative window panels hang from the rafters.

The owners buy their treasures from other dealers from all around the country with the bulk of the larger items, like mantels, coming from the D.C. area.

Toro Mata

Specializing in beautiful handmade goods from Peru, Toro Mata has done its specialty justice by working directly with artisans and bringing the culture of the area to Washington D.C. On a regular basis, the shop works with 17 different Peruvian artists whose work includes painted ceramics; woven carpets, textiles and wall art; eclectic and sophisticated jewelry; and handcarved woodwork that is simply hypnotizing.

In addition to the artists whose work regularly graces the shelves here, Toro Mata’s owners also work with additional Peruvian artists on a seasonal basis to bring in items like handwoven alpaca scarves. Everything here is made by hand using techniques and materials native to the area with the idea being to showcase the talent and the history of the region and its craftspeople. These are the types of pieces that allow a bit of the artisans’ personalities to shine through and infuse a space with an unmistakable sense of culture and significance.

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