The Cheshire is aptly named: Accessing the creative wonderland is a bit like falling down a rabbit hole. Rather than the Cheshire Cat or a white rabbit, seekers should look for a white sandwich board marking the alleyway leading to the green door of the garage covertly nestled between 18th and Columbia streets NW in Adams Morgan.
The Cheshire is a nonprofit, office space, and events venue “geared toward supporting D.C.’s creative community,” according to its website. The former luxury car garage was built in 1906, and in 2016 Scott and Rebecca Williams of Maga Design purchased the building with the intention of turning it into office space.
Film producer Ian Fay was in the market for a new workspace when Scott Williams asked him to breathe new life into the old garage. Fay ran The Lookout, a video production co-working space at 2439 18th St. NW, for six years before the boom of co-working options in the District and rising rent sounded the death knell to the niche business. He saw rehabbing the old building as an opportunity to bring his experience creating multi-purpose events and work spaces to a venue that could also be a home for the new iteration of Lookout—now a livestream production company in the subterranean level of The Cheshire.
Fay started gutting the “unusable, filthy” building in August 2018, stripping paint, removing carpet, ridding the space of “about eight tons of hoarder trash.”
“I’d been working out of here for a couple months when I saw a note on the door that said, ‘Hey, we’re looking for a space,’ with a phone number,” Fay recalls. The phone number connected him to Romain Papassian and Adelaide Prevot Sailler. The husband and wife were looking for a showroom for their nascent furniture design firm nôs/nös.
The seemingly abandoned warehouse near their Adams Morgan home intrigued the couple for two years. “We’d knock, we’d leave notes, but nothing,” Papassian says. “And then one day, the door opened.”
The couple started nôs/nös, which means “50/50” in Arabic, to bring simple, elegant, and ethically sourced furniture with international flair to D.C. The capsule collections are designed and sold in the District, but the pieces are sourced and built in the country that inspired each individual collection. The first collection channels Indonesian mid-century-modern and is made of Balinese teak wood, bamboo, and rattan.
Before The Chesire bloomed into existence like a tenacious alley dandelion, the nôs/nös founders had considered sharing a space with like-minded Tribute, a sustainable design and vintage clothing and accessories collective co-owned and curated by their friend Joelle Firzli.
“For us it was a way to create a new space where we can have design, fashion, art, and furniture, but also events—a place to bring community together,” Firzli says, describing her decision to partner with nôs/nös and move her 15th Street NW showroom to a shared retail space in the rehabbed warehouse.
Tribute’s internationally and ethically sourced clothing and accessories and nôs/nös furniture can be found at the end of the entrance hall in an annex on the left, but some pieces, like a rattan crib and a living room set, spill out into the main warehouse space among the art installations curated by PAKKE Social experience curator Amy Morse.
PAKKE, which hosts events and provides a tech platform for ticketing, coordinating, and connecting event goers, will serve as the events partner for The Cheshire. Morse and Fay had put on events together in the former Lookout space, so when the time came to bring in creative collaborators for The Cheshire, Morse and PAKKE co-founder Emmett Ferra were among the first to come to Fay’s mind. “We want to make it easier for people to connect with artists and the creative community in D.C,” Morse says. “We are hosting interesting, unusual, creative happenings in the space.”
The visual art will rotate out over time and include a variety of traditional and digital mediums. “The art we have for sale right now goes from $18 to $8,000,” Morse says. “We have a broad range of artists, I really like the energy it creates. We want to be accessible and make people feel good and welcome and be representative of different voices in D.C.”
Fall down the rabbit hole Thursdays through Sundays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., and keep an eye out for upcoming events.