In the light of Sept. 11, it doesn't seem the most propitious time or place to launch a new store, but an enterprising local duo has decided to persevere in the face of current events.
Gallery owner Edith Buffalow and designer-contractor Nate Lewis have unveiled Adobe Design Center, a 3,000-square-foot art and home furnishings store in a gritty warehouse district in Northeast Washington.
"This part of town was missing an upscale place for people to shop. We saw it as a diamond in the rough," says Buffalow. "The city has been on an upswing, and as the president has said, we've got to move ahead."
A long-vacant loft space above Flash Glass, Lewis's glass and mirror workshop, seemed the place to start. Months of renovation have created a polished, light-filled interior. A stained-glass panel depicting an abstract African mask sets the tone for a colorful mix of local and imported pieces: beds, chairs, sofas, desks and dining room furniture as well as lighting, sculptures, paintings and accessories. Among the wares are unexpected items such as a wrought-iron screen door that can be personalized with African Adinkra symbols. Prices range from $20 for an earthenware jar to $3,500 for a bedroom suite. (Stained glass by neighborhood artist Donald Cox starts at $1,000.)
Many pieces have an Afrocentric focus: Shona carvings from Zimbabwe, ceramic boxes with elephant finials, lamp bases with lions in bas-relief, shades in leopard and an elegant giltwood settee with Sphinx-like wings.
But Buffalow, whose Ramee Art Gallery at 14th and Kennedy streets NW has promoted well-known African and African American artists for a decade, intends for Adobe to be more international.
A bedroom suite in black faux-crocodile would be as at home in a Ralph Lauren room as a four-star safari. Etched glass decanters are by Steve Resnick, a Silver Spring artist known for avant-garde Judaica. Fountains, glass-top tables, gilded "King Chairs" with towering backs and a matching console are designs by Lewis. A former programmer for EDS, he originally designed the furniture for his own use, but decided to go into production after a successful exhibit of his work at Ramee. A longtime collector of black art, he says, "I had shallow pockets but always loved beautiful things.
-- Patricia Dane Rogers