Inside Homes: When Home and Lifestyle Align

by Catherine Trifiletti

Boutique real estate developer Martin Ditto is finally making the best use of the Logan Circle condominium he designed and built five years ago. 

Martin Ditto with Oslo. Portrait by Joy Asico

When we reached out to Martin Ditto for this article, the timing was salient. The week prior, the 40-year-old boutique real estate developer had decided to stay in his two-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot condominium in the buzzing Logan Circle neighborhood of Northwest Washington instead of building something new. “I basically decided I don’t need anything bigger,” he explains. In an effort to resist “the societal urge” telling you to move every few years, Ditto plans to improve upon the current space to better fit his lifestyle. He bought and gutted the historic Victorian rowhouse in 2014, transferring it into two light-filled modern condo units, the top of which he later sold.

The staircase from the living area to the bedrooms is the most interesting architectural detail in the house, Ditto says. The steps are steel posts covered in white oak. Each were individually engineered and attached to the wall, giving the staircase a comb-like appearance.

Ditto shares the bottom two floors with his girlfriend Cami Wolff and a three-year-old Golden Retriever named Oslo they adopted late last year. The addition of a furry friend is just one way they have breathed new life into the minimalist modern home, which was originally decorated by designer Darryl Carter. Now there are plants with names (“Olive” and “Fern”), energy-laden crystals and a growing stack of books on consciousness and mindfulness.

The library and the rest of the condo are evolving in tandem with Ditto’s lifestyle, which has dramatically shifted in the past year. Through a variety of healthy practices including reflexology, massage therapy, infrared sauna sessions and meditation, Ditto has lost 35 pounds and gotten in touch with a better version of himself, he says. It helps that Wolff is a wellness coach who keeps him in line – as we’re chatting, she hands him a fresh glass of celery juice and a probiotic to start his day.

The kitchen counter is made of compressed quartz overlaid on a layer of cortex steel. The millwork in the entrance is made of Japanese sen wood and custom created by a former designer from Bulthaup. Photo by Joy Asico.

“Where you live and what it looks like affects how you live. That was a big deal for me. So, without even knowing it, or without my conscious knowing it, my subconscious did this,” Ditto sagely observes. “This is my manifestation of the life I want to live.” He credits his subconscious for his design philosophies that center on clean lines and classically modern style, in other words an aesthetic that will stand the test of time. “I never want to do something where it will be obvious I did it in 2018 or 2019,” Ditto says. When it came to design, he enlisted architect Chuong Cao of Dep Designs to help realize his vision for a basement that didn’t look or feel like one. They challenged odds to create a curtain wall system of glass, rarely used on residential projects due to its high cost and maintenance. In choosing materials, they focused on durability and classic design, sourcing from obscure tile and flooring companies globally.

The same principles apply to Ditto’s real estate development firm Ditto Residential, which is behind many of the city’s most ambitious projects. Similar to his home, Ditto’s work ventures maintain a level of sophistication that is hard to replicate. The company, which acquired $230 million of new business last year, recently transformed the District’s historic Buchanan School into 41 condominiums and notable upcoming commissions including construction of 44 new townhouses in Watkins Alley on Capitol Hill.

Ditto’s living room has evolved since he first moved in. He wants the space to feel “lived in.” The burnt red canvases were created by a British artist in Annapolis to reflect good energy and prosperity. A television, which rarely gets turned on, hides behind the art. Spotify speakers are built in across the house. Photo by Joy Asico.

As for the continued effort to maximize his present living situation, Ditto plans to turn his second bedroom into a meditation and reading retreat and transition the dining room into an additional sitting area for entertaining. He emphasizes the importance of the condo coming alive with guests, dogs and even kids. Though its minimalist design helps keep Ditto tidy and thoughtful about his belongings, he doesn’t want to turn people off. “I want this house to feel lived in,” he explains. With time, he is confident his home and personal ethos will align even further. “I’m coming into my own,” Ditto says. “I’m really working to make it more personal.”

Ditto’s bedroom is level with the backyard. The bathroom is encased in frosted glass to allow natural light in.

Oslo, Ditto’s three-year-old Golden Retriever. Photo by Joy Asico.

An image of the exterior of the townhouse at night highlights floor-to-ceiling glass windows that make up a commercial curtain wall system. Ditto sold the unit above his in 2015.

This appeared in the February 2019 issue of Washington Life Magazine. 

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