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Favorite Spaces: Up on the Roof

The sky was the limit on this DC renovation. A new rooftop sanctuary features day beds, a flat-screen TV, and monumental views.

Printz and Swanson have hosted everything from a lobster-and-steak dinner to a wedding. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Chris Swanson and Jeff Printz have turned the century-old Pierce School in Northeast DC into their dream home. A state-of-the-art kitchen now occupies an old classroom. Other spaces include a movie theater with vintage airline seats and a rustic “Ozark” room with twin clawfoot bathtubs under the eaves.

But the couple’s favorite space is the roof, where they love to host parties.

“The rooftop resonates with our friends, our family, and employees. We happen to have a cool place to share with them,” says Printz, who with Swanson runs a development and apartment-management company.

The roof has views of the Washington Monument, Union Station, Capitol, and Washington National Cathedral. “You can hear the city and see the city but feel very removed from it,” says Printz.

There are a few day beds and a flat-screen TV. An old chimney now encloses a refrigerator stocked with wine, beer, and soda. Flowers, plum and willow trees, and a small vegetable garden add a touch of nature year-round.

“As soon as the snow starts to fall, we make a mad dash up here with a pot of coffee or hot cocoa,” Swanson says. Heat rising through the building keeps the deck toasty late into the fall, while a solarium provides shelter from the elements.

Seven rental lofts take up the first and second levels, and the owners live on the top two floors. Original features such as old blackboards and floors were preserved, even a student’s graffiti scrawled in 1896.

The pair have hosted everything from an intimate lobster-and-steak dinner to weddings: Swanson’s cousin chose to marry on the roof in front of 40 guests. The gas fire pit was converted to an altar.

“It would be a waste of space if you didn’t have great friends to share it with,” Swanson says.

This article first appeared in the November 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here

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