The transformation of an urban warehouse created a vibrant, open studio space for internationally renowned artist Sam Gilliam.

Set in the Brightwood neighborhood of Washington, DC, the site originally included a two-story brick building that had been modified several times, serving as a store, gas station, office, and warehouse. The award-winning adaptive use project created a large working studio, with a woodshop, an office, and storage for paintings and supplies. 


  • Conversion of a 5,250-SF warehouse into an open, light-filled studio space, woodshop, and office
  • Multiple freestanding interventions to create distinct spaces
  • “Canvases” of gypsum board create backdrops for creating and displaying art


  • Inform Award: Interiors
  • Award of Excellence in Interior Architecture, Washington, DC, Chapter, AIA
The “box within a box” design marries the existing masonry structure with a bright working studio space.A compelling blend of old and new materials provides an engaging environment for creative work.The clean design of the interior space features painted white walls, glass, and bamboo flooring.


Modified many times through the years, including an infill of the entire site with a high-bay masonry structure, left the interior as a patchwork of building materials. The design solution involved the insertion of multiple freestanding interventions within the existing structure. A two-story volume, composed of metal studs and gypsum board, created a box within a box to serve as the office. The original brick building now houses the woodworking shop on the first floor and storage on the second floor. 

“A great marriage between the building and the client’s needs. The design intelligence brought to bear in the transformation of this warehouse space transcended its modest materials and budget…It’s the perfect foil for the artist’s colorful work.”

– Jury, Inform Awards

The expansive studio supports the fabrication of the artist’s multi-story color-stained canvases.

Exterior modifications enhanced the building’s presence along the street front.


The exterior of the building was improved to create a more cohesive street front. The building was painted gray, and the front door was accented with a new metal awning, lighting, and street numbers. Building upgrades also included a new roof and PV solar panels to augment power requirements.  


In the studio space, canvases of white painted drywall serve as neutral backdrops for the composition and display of art, with windows cut into the drywall to reveal sections of the old masonry for contrast. Throughout the building, selective openings enable artists and visitors to view fragments of the old brick building, as reminders of its storied past. 

“Windows” cut into the drywall reveal the existing brick structure.

“We realized the whole building should look like a container with little interventions introduced into it so you could read a history of how the space evolved—the tension between the old and new parts.”

– Steven Spurlock, FAIA


“Intervention as Art”  
DC Mud, November 10, 2012 
“Return to Splendor” 
Washington City Paper, March 27, 2015 
“The Not-So-Simple Comeback Story of Pioneering Artist Sam Gilliam” 
The Washington Post, July 9, 2016 
“Inside Addition” 
Interior Design, August 2012 
“Architecture for Art’s Sake: New Studio Gives Painter Room to Create” 
Architecture DC, Fall 2011