Correction to This Article
A photo caption with a May 19 Home article about stores in Cady's Alley in Georgetown incorrectly said that the photograph was taken from inside Waterworks. It was taken from Ann Sacks.

To See and Be Scene

By Annie Groer and Jura Koncius
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 19, 2005

Behold Cady's Alley, Washington's sexiest design district.

Seven years in the making, this once-derelict stretch of M Street near Key Bridge, and an equally neglected rear byway, have become the city's "it" destination for high-end home furnishings: A place to see and be seen, whether arriving in a chauffeured limo, jeweled flip-flops or, in the case of First Lady Laura Bush, shadowed by a Secret Service detail.

The lure is a roster of prestigious stores, including Waterworks, famed for trophy bathroom fixtures; Baker, home to classy, pricey sofas and tables; and three -- yes, three! -- makers of sleek German uber-kitchens: Bulthaup, Poggenpohl and Eggersmann.

For shoppers, it is home-bling heaven: a $7,500 carved-bear German cane stand at Hollis & Knight; an $11,190 B&B Italia sectional sofa at Adlon; $2,600 giant clamshells at Gore Dean; $3,000 leather daybeds by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at Design Within Reach.

The ambience of the place evokes a street of shops tucked away in some old European city: cobblestones, window boxes, urns of geraniums, rooftop terraces, colorful restaurant umbrellas and great people watching.

When bags get heavy and feet get tired, a just-opened indoor/outdoor Austrian cafe at the foot of the stairs connecting M Street to the alley entices the weary with Viennese tortes, flutes of champagne or a full dinner. (California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has visited the alley, has promised to return for schnitzel.)

On warm afternoons, casual strollers and serious shoppers include tourists and locals, stylistas and spenders, matrons and metrosexuals -- exactly the crowd impresario-developer Anthony Lanier was counting on.

As president of EastBanc Inc., a major real estate developer, Lanier pushed his pet project to create a hip urban village complex. He hired five local architects to turn rundown 19th- and 20th-century buildings into luxury condos, offices and home-decor shops on either side of the pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare.

With all but two of its retail spaces now leased, Cady's (rhymes with "ladies") Alley has achieved critical mass. One recent afternoon Lanier, a Georgetown resident, sat back, sipped a cappuccino at his cafe, Leopold's, and surveyed his freshly swept cobblestone empire.

"In D.C. we are latecomers on everything that is good, yet there is a ton of money here. People don't spend the normal ratio of their disposable income on hedonistic pleasures. Who do you know who would buy a $50,000 painting? In a way, we offer higher standards."

Perhaps, he muses, Cady's is for "the person who enjoys a social arena" as part of the shopping experience.

The merchant community, which numbers 18 with the opening of Collectibles Gallery last week, is joining forces to add momentum to the venture. June 2 marks the debut of "Wine and Design," scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month through October. There will be canapes and drinks in the stores and live music in the alley. "We wanted a relaxing, fun way to bring people down to discover what the stores at Cady's Alley have to offer," says Beth Aberg, who owns Random Harvest Studio. "It's like a roving cocktail party."

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