Inside Homes: Playful Irreverence

by Catherine Trifiletti

Sarah Potts and Nick Papadopoulos bring edgy style to an old George Washington University fraternity house in Foggy Bottom.

Photos by Nick Ghobashi

Nothing tests one’s resolve quite like a home renovation, but for recently married couple Sarah Potts, 31, and Nick Papadopoulos, 33, it turned out to be fun. Four years ago when Papadopoulos’ father came across the four-floor, 1,700-square-foot property through his real estate connections, the former George Washington University fraternity house needed major attention. “The floors were warped,” Potts explains. “It was just a nightmare.”

Despite its dire state, the imaginative duo saw potential where other buyers may not have and were excited about the possibility of creating a home completely customized to their taste. Having met as undergraduates at GW they felt right at home in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, just southwest of Washington Circle. Potts, a Miami Beach native, is in the process of transitioning from advertising sales to commercial real estate, while her Maryland-raised husband works for his family business, Papadopoulos Properties, a full service brokerage firm specializing in restaurants.

The house is outfitted with a custom speaker system by Bowers & Wilkins; the kitchen, accented with violet up- lighting, sits under a large metal beam that contractors found in a junkyard.

When it came time to tackle the massive project,“Nick came in with a rubber hammer and literally did part of the demo himself,” Potts says. That proactive approach carried them through a vigorous three month renovation they spearheaded themselves to save time and money. Only the labor was contracted out. For inspiration, Potts scoured the internet and printed out ideas for layouts and materials.They spent countless hours at Home Depot, shuttling samples back and forth and worked closely with contractors, often communicating their precise vision through drawings. From the experience, the two were pleased to learn how well they worked together, agreeing on almost every design decision.“Everything in here was a full conversation between us,” she notes.

Bull dog figurines.

After being gutted top to bottom, the once-dilapidated space took on new life. The couple opened up the kitchen and added a bathroom to the living space, combined two upstairs bedrooms into a master suite with a dual-entrance walk in closet (to accommodate Papadopoulos’ impressive sneaker collection) and exposed ceiling beams to add vertical depth. The house is full of creative design touches, including track lighting that runs through the exposed beams and multi-colored LED up-lighting reflecting the couple’s modern taste. For the floor, they chose tile mimicking wood to avoid damage from their 10 year-old bulldog Ghostface Killah.

Potts’ favorite part of the house is the metal beam their contractors found at a junkyard, which to their pleasant surprise cost only a couple hundred dollars.What it lacked in cost it made up in labor, taking 10 workers to transport and install it between the kitchen and living area.

Once the renovation was complete, the couple began to put up eye-catching art sourced from their globe-trotting adventures.They love seeking out edgy street pieces from hip neighborhoods and have a storage room to attest to that. However, art snobbery doesn’t play a part in their buying process. “We just like what we like,” Papadopoulos says simply. Over the years his keen eye has paid off and several of their pieces have sky-rocketed in value.“I don’t give him a hard time for buying art now,” Potts adds with a laugh.

Their avant-garde aesthetic teeters between dangerous and cynical – Potts describes their baseline style as “minimalist contemporary” and their art collection as “edgy, questionable and irreverent.” Everything on display has a story, down to the metallic Flavor Paper bathroom wallpaper, but it’s the custom neon sign hanging in the living room that’s most significant. It depicts lyrics from rapper Nas’“The Message.” Though “Felt my leg burn, then it got numb,” is not the most romantic line (it references getting shot), it’s the song Potts played at a party the night she and Papadopoulos first met. Like the unique art, the space is a reflection of the couple.“It feels like us, it feels like home.” Potts says. “After we go on vacation, we’re always happy to be back here.”

After meeting D.C. based artist Kelly Towles at a party, the couple commissioned him to do a graffiti mural on their deck’s exposed brick wall.

This article appeared in the February 2018 issue of Washington Life Magazine. 

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