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Taylor Gourmet's Owners Renovate Living Space Above Deli in NE Washington

Taylor Gourmet deli owners David Mazza and Casey Patten live above the shop in apartments they gutted, built and redesigned.

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By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 27, 2009

What happens when two best friends from Philly move to D.C. and can't find a decent hoagie anywhere? They buy a building, open a deli and move into identical apartments on the two top floors.

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David Mazza and Casey Patten now have arguably the region's best commute, working at Taylor Gourmet on H Street NE, in the booming Atlas District, and living upstairs in separate 850-square-foot apartments they gutted, redesigned and rebuilt themselves.

Friends since middle school, they both attended Penn State and moved to Washington soon after graduating. While working separately in construction, real estate and computer software, they also co-owned a two-unit property together. Their partnership worked so well, they decided to leave their jobs and start a business of their own.

Two years ago they bought a three-story, turn-of-the-century brick building, less than a mile from the Capitol. Their idea was to run a food-related business on the ground floor and live on the two floors above. While waiting out the lease of a hair salon that occupied the ground floor, the entrepreneurs concentrated on renovating the upstairs. The task proved formidable, to say the least.

"It was awful," says Mazza, 30. "Absolutely awful."

Both floors were dirty and dark with nonsensical layouts and multiple layers of plaster on every wall. But those were the least of their concerns. There was also asbestos on the walls, and there were blood stains on the hardwood floors and drug vials scattered all around. At one time, Mazza says, the building served as a crack house. Not exactly homey and inviting.

The renovation budget was low ("a shoestring," says Patten, 29, "and it was ripped in half"), but they found a way to make it work.

Today, both units are bright, open and airy with a warm and welcoming urban and industrial aesthetic.

To save money, Mazza and Patten, both of whom have an interest in design, did most of the demolition and reconstruction work, refinishing and reusing any materials they could. They knocked down walls to open up the spaces. They removed three inches of plaster and drywall from the remaining walls to expose the original brickwork. They pulled up the carpeting and refinished the hardwood floors.

They also found clever ways to cut costs on the reconstruction.

In the kitchen, they bought stainless steel appliances (last year's models) off the floor from M&M Appliance in the District. They installed the tops of stainless steel Ikea tables directly over sets of green-faced cabinetry, also from Ikea. (That color is now discontinued.) Precise measuring allowed them to slip their dishwashers between the store-bought cabinets and to cut holes in the tabletops-turned-countertops to drop in commercial-grade sinks. The result was a pair of custom kitchens fashioned from inexpensive, off-the-rack items. "We mixed and matched to make it look like it didn't come off the shelf from Ikea," Patten says.

Through negotiations with a seller on eBay, they were able to buy the one-inch, gray-and-white ceramic tiles used for the bathroom and kitchen backsplash on both floors for $2.99 a square foot. They bought their HVAC system through eBay, too.


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