A Rock & Roll, DIY-Inspired Apartment for Two Washington, DC Creatives

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There’s an undeniable change in the air in Washington, DC, a city known for its wonks and notorious for its nondescript steakhouses and sleazy political scheming à la “House of Cards.”

For those of us who don’t spend time downtown or on the Hill, the city has become a blossoming artistic hub — a capital that welcomes and fosters creative growth and exploration, whether it takes the form of food, drink, visual art, the written word, or even DIY spaces where experimental collaboration can take place.

Nowhere is this spirit of artistic community more present than in the home of Morgan Hungerford-West and Mitchell West, two artists who have done admirable amounts of work to pave the way for other DC creatives to do their thing. Morgan, a content creator and consultant for several local brands and blogger behind Panda Head, is the founder and director of A Creative DC, an Instagram hashtag-turned-real-life-event-and-workshop-host-and-sponsor that seeks to promote and support any and every type of artistic endeavor and creative entrepreneur in the DMV. By day, Mitchell analyzes political media campaigns for Kantar Media/CMAG; by night, he fulfills all of your (and my) secret rock star dreams as the bassist for DC-based punk bank Loud Boyz.

Their home is an eclectic, unique, and, most of all, fun mélange of art, memories, and conversation-starters — from a blown-up and framed A Creative DC Instagram snap (a token from a street art project), to a cryptic note from a friend dangling beside a creeping plant (“CONGRATULATIONS, DON’T USE THIS TO MURDER EACH OTHER”), to their envy-inspiring record and guitar collection. Though the couple has lived in the apartment for several years now, it wasn’t until recently — when Morgan moved her freelance equipment into a studio space in DC’s Brookland neighborhood — that they were truly able to start making it feel homey. They’ve since dedicated time to filling it with pieces they love and working towards physically turning the space into their dream apartment, including a full kitchen remodel they recently completed to make room for Mitchell’s side home brewing projects (why, yes, they do have a beer draft in their kitchen). If you’re wondering how they have enough hours in the day to do everything they do and still have social lives, don’t worry — I’m currently scratching my head at that one, too. Their apartment is truly a snapshot of their incredible relationships with each other, with their friends, with their families, and with this amazing city. I’ll let Morgan take it from here — Enjoy scrolling through!

 

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I can’t say there’s really been a strategy as much as an evolution: I bring things in off the street; I pick up pieces here and there; things flow out. I’m constantly moving things around and re-arranging (…) Things are placed so specifically, even when they’re not! 

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For years, before I got my studio, we’d move every piece of furniture into the bedroom to host a dinner party for thirty or a movie night or something like that. Now that I’ve got a secondary space for my business we’ve been able to treat our home like, well, a HOME, and we’ve been able to take on bigger projects like redoing the kitchen, and we’ve made some larger, adult-ish purchases like the couch or the rugs. And in terms of style evolution? It’s probably hard to believe but my taste has actually gotten more minimal – I can’t imagine our place wouldn’t want to make a Kinfolk-phile scream in agony but truly there’s way more negative space over there than there used to be. 

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Most every piece has a little story behind it, and the ones that don’t we just love for the visuals. I got the phone for Christmas a couple of years ago for the sole purpose of it becoming a vehicle for the Mr. Yuk sticker.

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The Dupont Metro artwork is by a friend, Bryan Minnich – he’s got a whole series of DC prints that I’m obsessed with. The ocean canvas was a thrift store find that I popped out of its frame and painted on.

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N: What’s the deal with the hanging garland and the note about not killing each other? M: A friend and I used to teach a monthly craft workshop and the garland I made with some ceramics + wood pieces I had hanging around from that – and that note! It was a card sent by our friends Dave and Brittany – they got us some really great knives for our wedding and the sentiment cracked us up.

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My parents and grandparents were DC printers, and when my Dad retired there was an entire warehouse in Anacostia filled with equipment – all of which was amazing looking, and most of which was too heavy/unwieldy to reasonably move over to a less than 800 sq foot apartment in Adams Morgan. The light table was the one exception. 

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Mitchell is great about supporting bands + musicians, local and otherwise, and is always bringing home records from shows or just ordering them new. I, on the other hand, should likely have been born a little earlier: most of our collection is 70s soft rock (with an emphasis on Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, etc and the like). 

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Mitchell’s been in bands since high school, and while he’s played bass in his last few (including his current one, Loud Boyz), he’s great at guitar and is always picking them up + monkeying around with songs. The guitar stands were cheap-o Amazon.com buys – if they weren’t out he wouldn’t get them out of the cases to play, and we keep a small amp in the house for when he needs it. 

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I made a stop motion video about 5 years ago that used the metal door/magnetic letters and we just literally never took them down! We hardly notice them anymore but guests love to play with them – and so does our four year old niece! Worth noting: she’s also a big fan of “the big green couch.”  

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So funnily enough, the entire impetus for the remodel was to integrate Mitchell’s kegerator into the counter! He’s a homebrewer and the keg in the corner of the living room was killing my vibe a little bit. Overall it was so worth it – both time and cost – but it took forever from start to finish. Like 2 years forever. We had every appliance in the living room for 4 months and then plywood counters for probably another year. We DIY’ed the demo but let professionals handle the rest, and worked with our family friends – Kevin + Michelle Schmauder on the final (and our favorite) details: the subway tile and shelving took it from “OK, I guess we’re finished” to “IT IS DONE AND WE LOVE OUR KITCHEN.” 

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I wore that shirt every day for years and couldn’t bear to fully retire it. There are few things more beautiful than a perfectly worn-in black tee, no? 

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N: Tell me about your super minimalist bedroom. M: I went on a cleaning rampage one afternoon and by the end of the night (early morning, really), we’d moved a ton of furniture to the curb, pulled all the art off the walls, stored the patterned blankets we’d had on the bed, and just generally done away with STUFF. What’s not pictured is one wardrobe and a really minimal desk set-up from which Mitchell works from home – I’m telling you, it’s changed my whole brainspace and contributes to way more zen mornings/bedtimes. 

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photos by Morgan Hungerford-West

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the feminine mystique

from Stellar, by Ignacio Torres

I’ve written ad nauseam about the trials and tribulations women face in their professional and personal lives. I am a woman, and the struggle is very real for me and my fellow females.

But today is International Women’s Day, so for this one day of the 366 days this year, I will not tear my hair out in worry. I will celebrate my femininity in all its beautiful, graceful, wild, and imperfect glory. I will dance and sing and love every inch of myself. I will send love to all my fellow women in the hopes that they, too, get some reprieve from the everyday battles and have a peaceful moment today to simply exist and to enjoy their existence.

Happy International Women’s Day to every girl and woman out there, whether you were born this way or identify this way. The fight continues, but that fight should never get in the way of everyday gratitude and self-love.

best [night] ever // the lone bellow at 9:30 club

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For the second year in a row, my friends and I gathered to celebrate the birthday of one of our own with one of my favorite traditions: a live performance by the incredible powerhouses that make up The Lone Bellow.

The very first time we saw them perform, after I’d chanced upon them on Spotify and just had to share their breakout hit “You Never Need Nobody” with my nearest and dearest, was back in 2013 at the intimately small music venue DC9. We were close enough to touch them, close enough that we could feel every note belted out by Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist vibrate deep within us. I was lucky enough to score a picture with Zach and Kanene, and we all left that show with wide, sappy smiles on our faces. Their first album was the soundtrack of that holiday season; we played our favorite songs on repeat when our college friends came to visit for New Years Eve.

Two years later, they were back at The Hamilton just in time for Sarah’s birthday. And what better way to celebrate your birthday than with what you know will be a spectacular show? Of course we went. Of course it was amazing.

When we found out that they’d be playing this week at the 9:30 Club, again for Sarah’s birthday, it was like they knew our story and came back just for us. We immediately made a plan to go.

The show started out strong, obviously, but things got really incredible when the backing bandmates left the stage and Zach, Kanene, and Brian gathered around one microphone with just their guitars. A technical issue with a guitar and a “fuck it, we’re doing this a capella” moment from Brian later, they got the entire crowd humming along to “Watch Over Us.” For the entire duration of the song. It was a perfect moment. People (myself included) were in tears.

The greatest part of the night, however, was when Zach pulled a couple onstage so the guy could propose to his girlfriend. The crowd screamed in delight — And the screams got even louder when the band then proceeded to cover Mariah Carey‘s “Always Be My Baby.” At this point, people all around were incredulous. How could the concert possibly get any better?

We all know the answer to that could only be MORE 90s R&B covers. Witness The Lone Bellow perform K-Ci & JoJo‘s “All My Life” and Boyz II Men‘s “I’ll Make Love to You” in my shaky-from-laugh/crying videos below.

They closed out the show with their openers, Escondido, covering “I Shall Be Released.” If you’ve seen Big Easy Express (and if you haven’t, you should), we left that performance with the same high you get from watching Edward Sharpe, Mumford & Sons, and Old Crow Medicine Show singing “This Train is Bound for Glory” at the end of the movie. It’s a nearly indescribable, completely enveloping feeling of joy and wonder at the transformational power of music. We made our way home on a cloud — I’m still feeling it, two days later.

It’s been an awesome experience to watch a band make it so far in their career so quickly. Kanene, who grew up in Virginia, intro-ed one song with the note that she saw her first show at the 9:30 Club when she was 16 years old. She explained how special it was to be performing on that very same stage years later. We all felt that excitement and, more importantly, that gratitude from them in every performance that night. There’s nothing sweeter than a band that’s so humble they freak out when the crowd hums along to their music.

As one of my friends noted, The Lone Bellow’s albums are incredible, but they are so much better live than they ever will be in recordings. Having created such spectacular memories from all the times we’ve seen them perform — and knowing that every performance to come will be equally memorable — I’m OK with only getting to experience that feeling once a year.

The 9:30 Club is celebrating their 35th anniversary this year, and will be featured in a new PBS music variety show called “Live at 9:30.” Stay tuned for more news on the show’s premiere date and which episode will feature the Lone Bellow’s concert, but in the mean time you can watch the preview, here.

//sky above me // earth below me // fire within me//

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D O N ‘ T  B E L I E V E  T H E  H Y P E. The above quote, though largely attributed to the video game Skyrim thanks to the Internet being a seemingly endless source of misinformation, actually has pagan roots as a chant or prayer of serenity.

Today I’m practicing mindfulness, remembering that not all thoughts are important or even real. I am a part of the Earth and the Earth is a part of me. Sometimes you’ve just gotta let things be. I am bigger than my thoughts. There is fire inside of me.

Today’s inspiration comes via Invisibilia, a new NPR podcast exploring all of the invisible forces that mold us and determine the course of our lives. I love their motto:

Listen.

Feel different.

Here’s their pilot episode, which tackles those inner demons known as our thoughts. It’s heavy stuff, but SPOILER ALERT: the ending is pretty upbeat. Take a listen:

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/375928124/375928444

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/375928581/375929362