House Tour: Amber Karson’s Historical Washington DC Home

Amber Karson is one half of the uber talented twin sister duo behind Karson Butler Events… and also a Be Inspired PR TastemakerAs she leaves behind her historic home on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, she gives us a peak inside and fills us the design dreams that came true in her first home. This place really is a dream, full of character and impeccable taste – we expect nothing less from the wedding planning extraordinaire! We love hearing how it all came together and picked up some helpful homeowner/interior design tips along the way!

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Capitol Hill is a dream spot for lots of home shoppers! How did you find your house and why did you decide it was the one you wanted to call home?

We absolutely knew we wanted to be in Washington, DC proper. Capitol Hill is a dream neighborhood as you’re in the city, but still get the neighborhood feeling you might expect out in the suburbs, cute homes, a ton of green space and parks, restaurants, bars and of course, Eastern Market! Sure, you sacrifice a little space to live in the city vs out in the burbs, but it is SO worth it in our opinion. This particular house had an incredible amount character and large outdoor space for the Hill, so we instantly saw the potential it had.

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What are your favorite architectural elements to this home? 

I love the brick! As a California gal,you don’t see brick everywhere growing up, and that is something I definitely love about this house. From the brick staircase, to the exposed brick walls, to the brick patio, I love how “East Coast” it feels.  Our home was built in 1908 in the historic district of Capitol Hill. I also really love the pineapples out front. (Quick lesson on the pineapple  –  Christopher Columbus brought pineapples back to Europe as one of the prizes of the New World. In later centuries, sailors brought pineapples home to New England where a fresh pineapple on the porch signaled the sailor was home and excepting visitors. Pineapples were the crowning glory of lavish American banquets, and were considered the height of extravagant hospitality in Colonial times. It is now a symbol of hospitality used widely in the South and I loved that this house has two out front!)

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Were there any DIY projects involved in making it look how it does today? 

Yes!! Pretty much everything you see in terms of updates were DIY projects we took on. Our biggest projects include the kitchen renovation and backyard revamp. Smaller projects included our closets and cutting our own spiral topiaries (because if you haven’t priced out topiaries before, they are crazy expensive.)

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What is your favorite room in the house? 

It changes depending on time of day!!  In the morning hours it is the kitchen hands down. I love the way the light comes through the door and the backyard and kitchen feel like one big open space.  In the afternoon, my bedroom has the best light. I’m not a big napper, but this a perfect rest-in-the-sunshine type of spot. Because we are on a hill and the house is two-stories, the bedroom overlooks onto the tops of two magnolia trees. I love staring out the windows onto the glossy green leaves and blooms. In the evenings,you can’t beat sitting in the backyard. It is a little urban oasis. At sunset, if you listen carefully,you can hear Taps playing from the Marine Barracks a few blocks away.

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How did you combine you and your husband’s style to make a home that reflected both of your personalities? 

I likely wouldn’t normally choose to have Bob Dylan artwork up for example, but we totally made certain pieces like that work by incorporating them into a bigger design plan.Our gallery wall in the second bedroom is a collection of our artwork – pieces we both had before our marriage (like a piece of a quilt from my great grandmother), art from our travels (like the laser cut paper from India) and items we collected together while married. The fruits & veggies market painting was something we picked up on our honeymoon in Mexico. Collecting art together on trips is a great way for couples to personalize their houses. Our hallway lamp was an anniversary present. I like pieces that have stories – whether they are old or new – a good story is what makes a house a home. 

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How did you stay on budget for the redesign of the house? 

I love mixing old and new pieces, and high-end with budget-friendly. Patience is the biggest requirement for staying on budget. But don’t be afraid to splurge on something you really want. In the kitchen, I spent way too much on the hardware (but I LOOOOVE it), but ended up buying All-Clad pots with AMEX points.  🙂

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This was your first home, something that will always be special to both of you. What is your fondest memory in this space? 

The excitement of actually moving in – dreaming together – and imagining what this home would be like one day. We didn’t finish all our projects here I wanted to, but we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in five years. It has flown by.

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What is your best advice to first time home owners? 

This house wasn’t the first one we bid on. In fact, on crazy Capitol Hill, bidding wars are fierce, so “losing” a home you never had to begin with is a common feeling for first timers. Somehow, through the temporary heartache of losing out on another home, we ended up with this absolute gem with an even better address and better footprint. Everything works out the way it is supposed to. I can’t imagine not having this be our first home now!! So, I like to tell that story to other first time home buyers.  Because the process of being a first-time homeowner has ups and downs. 

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Biggest Splurges for Home Decor: The mirrored buffet, the marble counters, the antique Italian brass chiavari, the door knocker…  I have had a few splurges over the years!

Biggest Steal for Home Decor: The red rocker chairs in the backyard are from Kmart.Everyone loves them and they were cheap! The nightstands were a steal from Craigslist- had them painted and added mirrors to the tops.  Look for things with good shapes – paint can fix anything! 

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Dream House Renovation: For this house? Realistic renovations – I would have loved to tackle the bathroom (a claw foot shower – yes shower – is on my design bucket list), added a juliette balcony off the second bedroom, and conquered an espalier project along the fence. If we stayed here another year, those would have been our next projects. In my dream unrealistic renovation for this house, how about a little tiny pool to lay out in (I love ornately tiled pools like the one at Graycliff in the Bahamas.) No one has pools here in DC though! 

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Biggest Home Renovation “Oopsie”: When we first moved in and had the floors stained, the color was much too red for my liking. We had them re-stained darker before they sealed and it is SOOO much better! I know myself too well to settle for something I didn’t love.

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Where You’re Off To Next: I’m headed back to California – San Luis Obispo to be exact –we’ve just opened our second office. Karson Butler Events is officially on both coasts!



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