Neighborhood Nomads
places we belong

Category: The Home

A Resolution & A Celebration


January 4, 2015: In 2015, those of us at Neighborhood Nomads resolve to spend more time where we belong. We got a headstart, actually. A few months ago, we changed the tagline here from “a guide to exploring close to home” to “a celebration of places we belong.” The new description more aptly describes what’s been happening here the whole time: the blog has never been an instructional how-to focused on any one geographical location so much as a collection of observations — a celebration, really — of various locales that evoke a sense of belonging. I feel rooted in my D.C. neighborhood close to home, but I’ve also felt this sense of belonging in transit at the airport moving between homes or getting to know locals in a town I’m visiting for the first time. I now know this celebration of belonging was the intent from the get-go during year one of this chronicle, and it’s remained the thread since, whether in interviewing people about why they love where they live and work or jotting down thoughts about the city and neighborhood. Despite being wanderers, we crave connection, we yearn for community, and we see beauty in the simplicity of the places and spaces we gather offline. We travel slowly, both in our own neighborhoods and foreign cities, to collect bits and pieces of places we feel at home, stash them away in our bags, and tote them along to the next locale.

Celebrating these places and spaces is the easy part, of course. It’s finding time to be there that’s the challenge. We all wish each other a new year full of something or other, but in this case, may your New Year be a little less full, and may you find time to celebrate there, wherever it is you belong.

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The Upside to Cabin Fever


June 26, 2014, Washington, DC: I’ve spent more time home than ever since little one arrived. She made her debut just before the temperature hit sweltering and the azaleas out front wilted away in the midday sun. Without warning, the heat of June cut short our daily outings and postponed strolls with friends until after dinner in the shade of evening. Within the confines of our air-conditioned oasis, I’ve teetered between going downright stir crazy and suddenly loving this home more than ever — in large part because the little person who lives here now has transformed it.

That’s why it felt serendipitous to finally get around to reading the rest of Kinfolk’s Home issue recently during an afternoon nap. I happened to open to an essay called “A New Lease on Life” and it was just perfect. It was everything I’d want to tell you here if its author Nikaela Marie Peters hadn’t so eloquently already done so.

“When my son was born, my house became alive,” she writes. “I noticed it in the first week. The structure I’d come to accept as ordinary—an early-1920s middle-class home with a stone foundation, hardwood floors and limestone moldings in the porch—started acting extraordinarily. In the otherwise silent night, save for the sounds of a suckling newborn, I was sure I could hear the house breathing.”

If you subscribe to Kinfolk, (I highly recommend!), you can read the essay here in its entirety. It’s all quite beautiful.

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Tiny Houses & The Culture of Stuff


June 12, 2014, Washington, DC: Home on a cloudy weekday morning: The dishwasher is humming. The dryer is broken. Miniature wet clothes hang off chairs, drape over the table, and dangle off the bicycle and stroller in this room now littered with baby products. In addition to the many joys that arrived with our newborn, she also came with a lot of stuff.

I left all that stuff at home earlier this month to take a quick tour of Boneyard Studios a tiny house community in the DC neighborhood of Stronghold that’s showcasing the merits of living small with a lot less gear.

History Of A House


March 11, 2014, Washington, DC: Our new house is older than we imagined. The real estate listing noted it was built in 1906, but during the home inspection, we were told it could very well be older. The inspector reported that judging from the foundation beneath the house, the home may have been raised up 6 feet or so, perhaps around the date listed, but chances are it was built earlier, likely at the same time as the shorter homes on either side of it. The homes built on Capitol Hill in the late 1800s , he said, often housed workers continuing to construct the US Capitol Building. Fascinating, right? That this house may have stood here as the statue was heaved atop a new Capitol dome or as painter Constantino Brumidi finished his fresco in the Rotunda beneath?

It turns out the inspector was right. A few days ago, one of our new neighbors dropped off an incredible packet of house history, completed by a man named Paul K. Williams who has made a business of researching local homes. His findings relay the story of these six homes in a row, built all at once and originally of wood by an Irishman named Patrick McCormick sometime between 1860 and 1869. Public records reveal ours received the makeover that sets it apart from the others on this row around 1899, and that it was one of three Patrick kept for various members of his family. One of his sons, Thomas, who operated a carriage making business across town with his twin brother, lived here with five of his seven children around 1900, just a few doors down from his older brother Michael.

To place the people who lived here before us in the context of history is truly unbelievable. What might those earlier occupants have seen out these windows and throughout the neighborhood? Could workers have been hammering away on constructing our home that evening in 1865 when John Wilkes Booth sped through the neighborhood on his escape from Ford Theater? Did Patrick venture over to Eastern Market to shop there on opening day 1873? Could he have known groundbreaking journalist Emily Edson Briggs who lived in the Maples just a few blocks away? Might his sons have crossed paths with John Philip Sousa as children?

House history is as captivating as a family tree. Though not connected by blood, we have joined a lineage of people connected by place. In this strange sense, we are family, brought together under one roof over the course of 150+ years.

How much do you know about the history of your home? We’d love to hear what you’ve learned in the Comments section below.

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Moving Days


December 24, 2013, Washington, DC: We moved about ten days ago. For weeks, it seemed, carpets were rolled up, boxes piled sky high, and rooms smelled like cardboard. That’s largely the reason we’re staying put this Christmas. There’s been so much in flux, a few too many loose ends to keep track of during the craze of the holiday season.

But it’s worth a few moments during this hectic time to recognize that my 27th home was good to me. It’s the place we moved into the week our first niece was born, and the place where dad and I pushed the living room furniture aside to choreograph a father-daughter wedding dance. It’s a place that was full of lovable imperfections, marked by days spent carefully building a fire in the back right corner of the fireplace so as not to smoke out the entire apartment, and cooking with no hood above the stove, and bathing in the smallest shower known to man. It’s an apartment where I enjoyed my morning coffee in a stream of perfect sunlight back by the kitchen, and the only place we’ll likely ever have an octagonal living room. It’s the home from which we could hear musicians performing above the Metro and see straight into the game shop and library windows at night. Home #27 was also the place where I began this blog and became heavily invested in exploring the meaning of the living spaces and surroundings that shape our everyday lives. And it’s the place I fell in love with Capitol Hill and came to truly understand the value of a great location.

Which is why we didn’t go far. Home #28 is just a few blocks away and we couldn’t be happier about staying put in the neighborhood.

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Sweet Weekend, Continued


September 2, 2013, Washington, DC: It’s morning and I’m lounging in our coffee chair. The newspaper is strewn across the apartment’s back room. Through open windows, the noises of the neighborhood trickle in: the voices of early risers who share our alley, Duran Duran’s Rio playing on a nearby radio, a neighbor’s alarm clock sounding next door. The sounds of the morning are audible but not bothersome, subtle rather than overpowering. The city is beginning to hum again after a quiet summer with the windows shut. Softly and slowly, we are tuning back in to the beauty of the everyday.

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A Bit of Housekeeping


July 18, 2013, Washington, DC: A bit of housekeeping has slowed the pace of my posts in recent weeks. I’ve been busy cleaning up the layout of Neighborhood Nomads and figuring out how to best organize all the stuff that lives here. As a result, my writing efforts have been somewhat stymied. Each time I log in to write, I’m instead distracted by the technical challenges of customizing the look and behind-the-scenes structure of the blog. But I’m happy to report I’ve since found solutions to several of these puzzles. I’ve cleaned house and feel more clear-headed in this space as a result.

Isn’t that the way at home too? The organization and design challenges I face in this virtual home of mine are not unlike the challenges we face in our physical living spaces. In spending lots of time in both spheres, I’ve noticed that what paralyzes me in one is similar to what paralyzes me in the other. How many times have we been unable to move forward or focus when faced with something unresolved about our physical living space? How much better and more at ease do you feel after a good spring cleaning or a few simple changes to a favorite room?

So about this virtual housekeeping: I’ve organized the content collected over time on Neighborhood Nomads into four buckets: You’ll notice new navigation across the top of the website inviting you to explore the Landscape, the City, the Neighborhood, and the Home. The old staples and key pages of the website remain; as always, you’re invited to participate, to read interviews with nomads, to escape with Miles from Monday, to revisit The Original Project, and to learn about the blog. All changes have been made in alignment with the site’s new tagline: Neighborhood Nomads: A Guide to Exploring Close to Home.

The hope here is to make this place more streamlined, more welcoming, more comfortable and more visually appealing. We hope the same for our favorite rooms.

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