The former owner of Sixteen Fifty Nine, a Georgetown shop specializing in vintage modern furnishings, Johnson now works for District designer Lori Graham. “I was a big fan of Mike’s store from the day the doors opened and grew to rely on it for unique finishing touches during project installs,” says Graham. “One of his strengths as a designer is a keen eye for composition, be it the composition of a room or a vignette within the room.”
Johnson closed his store in March 2011 after business declined during the economic slump. “It started getting slow in 2009, picked up in early 2010, but by June 2010 it tanked and never recovered,” he recalls.
About the same time, the designer’s personal life underwent a major change. He and a longtime romantic partner decided to separate in 2008 and sold their remodeled 1920s house in Cleveland Park and most of their furniture. Johnson then rented an apartment before buying his current home in 2010.
The Shaw penthouse, part of a multicolored structure completed by District architect Eric Colbert in 2008, typifies the open-plan layout of newer apartments in the city. Kitchen, living and dining are part of an open room entered directly from outside the unit.
“I wanted a space that was clean, simple and modern,” Johnson says. “I didn’t want to do a lot of renovations.”
Adding his own touches
But true to his design interests, he made several improvements to put his stamp on the condo. Leaving the raw concrete ceiling and bamboo floors intact, he added track lighting in the living area and, in the kitchen, installed a bold pendant fixture and a glass-tile backsplash.
In the hallway between his bedroom and bathroom, the designer removed closet doors to create a wallpapered niche for a desk. “When I first lived here, I still owned a business and needed a place to work at home,” he says. “I didn’t need the extra closet space.”
Within the condo’s main space, Johnson separated its various functions through the judicious placement of furnishings. He achieved the effect of a foyer separated from the kitchen by wallpapering an alcove next to the front door and hanging a mirror over a Danish bench upholstered in faux crocodile.
A glass-topped console table pushed up to the back of an L-shaped sofa divides kitchen from living space. At the end of the room nearest the windows, a square wooden table and four 1930s chairs provide a place for dining and card games.