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Darryl Carter and the thrill of the hunt

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Shopping at Darryl Carter Inc., which opened Saturday in Shaw, is like a treasure hunt through the home of a very tasteful friend.

A wander through the many rooms of the rehabbed 19th-century brick building will uncover handcrafted pottery and custom-bordered napkins from local artisans, twisted-branch floor lamps, corkscrews made of antlers, Swedish sake sets and the designer’s own clean-lined sofas and chairs upholstered in oatmeal-colored linen. Peek in a drawer of a massive ,glass-fronted cabinet salvaged from a Georgetown manse and you’ll discover a row of beautiful steel and brass textile shears. Walk past farm tables with lightly scented burning candles, a woodsy fragrance based on Carter’s own cologne, to the tippity-top level, where whitewashed brick walls and hand-hewn beams set off concrete toothbrush holders, Spanish linen towels and old-fashioned shaving brushes and soap mugs.

“I wanted to let people meander and experience the various venues, much like you would experience a home,” says Carter, who has had his own interior design business in Washington since 1998. “Rather than overwhelm people at once, I wanted them to progressively experience the place as they walk through.”

Carter bought the crumbling building at 1320 Ninth St. NW and the carriage house out back in 2008. A year ago, he finally began an extensive renovation to transform the property into a European-style retail store and studio for his staff of interior designers. Customers will be able to sign up for design consultations, buy a cake of $12 soap made in Virginia or commission a custom plaster relief portrait by Joanna Blake of Brentwood. (You’ll see one on display of Carter’s dog, Otis.) In the sophisticated, pared-down style he has executed in clients’ homes from Miami to Manhattan, Carter has used his talents to arrange antique chaises covered in taupe suede and a wall of leather satchels and messenger bags. In the coming weeks, he will have installed an espresso bar and a line of flowers and bulbs planted in raw ceramic pots. Art openings are planned for future months.

The space has been organic in its evolution. “I didn’t come with a finite vision of how it was going to operate,” Carter says. “I responded to the building.”

He also responded to the revival going on in Shaw, an emerging part of the city that is now a sea of construction sites of future lofts and wine bars.

“I see a great renaissance in this neighborhood that is craft-driven.” Carter says. “I see artisanal chefs, art galleries and a vibrancy and a return to a communal spirit. We are all pioneering together.” He sought out local craftspeople to custom-make designs that suit his aesthetic, such as the nice-to-hold pottery bowls and mugs created in greige (gray-beige), Carter’s signature non-color. “Darryl doesn’t want unnecessary frills,” says Ani Kasten, the Brentwood potter who made them. “He likes essential design in its most elemental form.” His style is also seen in the sturdy steel bookends crafted by Columbia Heights metalworkers Scott Cummings and Joe Wills of Square Form. There is also original art, including “Indivisible,” a map of the United States composed of license plates, by U. S. Marines Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez.

One room has a fabric library with hundreds of textile samples stored in wire baskets. “I know everyone expects there to be nothing but Belgian linen naturals in there. But I have toiles and acid greens and pale orange fabrics, too,” Carter says. “Even I can take a walk on the wild side sometimes.”

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Darryl Carter Inc.

1320 Ninth St. NW. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon to 4. Closed Monday.

202-234-5926.

Chat Thursday at 11 a.m. D.C. designer Darryl Carter, owner of the new Darryl Carter Studio and Shop, joins staff writer Jura Koncius for our weekly online Q&A on decorating and household advice. Submit your questions.

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