Only a block away from her parents’ home in the Central West End, Lauren Mathis saw an abandoned lot and envisioned a new building rising from the overgrown weeds and rubble.
At the suggestion of her husband, Tom Nations, the couple chose to build a four-family condo on the lot and decided to move from his downtown loft into one of the units.
The architect along with the builder, Lauren’s father Mark Mathis, owner of MLM Homes, worked diligently to satisfy the requirements of the neighborhood association and the preservation board. “They’re very rightly strict about new construction and additions to the neighborhood—preserving the historical feeling of the area,” Tom says.
Since they were building from scratch, Tom and Lauren were able to request building design choices. Tom says his favorite part of the condo is the large, carefully-engineered folding glass door that opens to a patio off the main living area. “You can feel fresh air and spend time outside,” he says. They also left structural beams exposed, which helps the room feel “cozy, but open,” he says. They also have an open-concept master bathroom.
Lauren and Tom moved into their condo unit in the fall of 2019. For the most part, they waited until after they moved in to do the interior design to give them time to get a feel for the space. Tom then used his expertise as a graphic designer to look at each room and come up with design ideas. Much of his inspiration was from design choices he saw in hotels and restaurants.
Hiring Lauren’s mother, Joyce Mathis, owner of MJM Design Company, as their designer was the natural choice. She helped with interior and exterior design. “They were a lot of fun,” Joyce says of working with her daughter and son-in-law. “Tom is a creative director; it’s really his forte. It’s one of the reasons he’s so fun. He’s so creative.”
Tom enjoyed working on the interior design with his mother-in-law. “I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to design and how the space should feel. Joyce was kind of the perfect partner for me that way,” he says. Tom would describe to Joyce what designs he liked, and she would connect him with the right vendor from her many sources. For instance, after seeing a damask wallpaper in a Lafayette Square restaurant Tom sought a damask wallpaper for the master bedroom wall. “She turns up with four books of wallpaper that are all pretty close to that, to make that happen,” he says.
Tom and Lauren have had two children since they began the building process. Their son is now three and their daughter is nearly two. They feel good about building for their family in the Central West End and believe that developing in the area was worth the effort. “It feels nice to make a contribution to the Central West End,” Tom says. “We’ve added a brick addition to this neighborhood. We feel good about it.”
Photography by Anne Matheis
Builder MLM Homes
Interior Design MJM Design Company
Architect Anton Architecture