Real estate agent Kara Johnson, 38, lives in a converted historic church in Park View. It was built in 1905 by William Sidney Pittman, who was the first African-American architect commissioned to design a federal building.
Johnson, who was born and raised in DC, loves the Park View/Columbia Heights area for its plethora of restaurants, coffee shops, and bars, as well as its residential vibe. “I enjoy the laid-back community feel of the neighborhood,” she says. “Additionally, it’s an easy central location for me in terms of getting around the city for appointments and showings.”
But, of course, “the main draw, though, was the ‘old-meets-new’ character of my converted church condo,” she says, which she’s lived in for a year-and-a-half and outfitted in glam, neutral-hued tones.
Who lives there: Real estate agent Kara Johnson, 38
Approximate square-footage: 1,400 square-feet
Number of bedrooms: Two
Number of bathrooms: Two-and-a-half
Favorite piece of furniture: Her Jonathan Adler oversized desk, which is lacquered in a peacock blue and has brass legs. “It’s technically a ‘partner’ desk, but I enjoy the entire workspace myself,” says Johnson, “and it fits perfectly in my office nook, a corner of the former church where a door was replaced with leaded glass windows.”
Favorite home interior store: Johnson loves Jonathan Adler, West Elm, CB2, Wayfair, Hayneedle, Joss & Main, All Modern, and Rejuvenation. She’ll frequently take clients to Room & Board for inspiration, and she loves Restoration Hardware for design hacks: “You can do Ikea cabinets in a kitchen renovation and elevate the look with high-end pulls or knobs from RH,” she says.
Favorite DIY: Much of the artwork on the walls is Johnson’s own, which she intends to frame soon. “As the granddaughter of a former local framer and art gallery owner (Mickelson’s Gallery, for those old enough to remember), my framing game should really be stronger,” she says.
Splurge: The 42-bulb Jonathan Adler chandelier in the dining area. “I had been eyeing it for months, then went into the store during the once-in-a-blue-moon sale that just so happened to coincide with the timing of my move,” says Johnson. “It’s a real statement piece.”
Steal: A 1920s Hollywood Regency bench, which she found in the basement of an interior designer’s Bloomingdale home. Johnson had it regilded and reupholstered in a metallic chintz leopard print.
Design advice: Keep the walls and big furniture pieces neutral, then add color with decor and accessories, says Johnson. Also, don’t be afraid to mix metals, and turn to millwork and light fixtures to make a statement. “I get inspiration from high-end designer lighting stores like Circa Lighting and then source something similar on sites like Foundry Lighting, Lamps Plus, and Wayfair (sorry Circa).” But, most of all, enjoy the process: “Real estate is my passion,” says Johnson, “and design is a joy for me.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.