Meet The ASPIRE HOUSE McLean 2020 Designers: An Exclusive Interview With Annie Elliott

Annie Elliott made a smooth transition from art historian to interior designer about 15 years ago, often reflecting on how the principles she learned in her art history training and the skills she employed in her museum work apply to her interior design projects. In the ASPIRE HOUSE McLean show house, Annie Elliott Design is creating a bedroom that captures “a life collected rather than a room decorated.” Learn more about how she blends masculine and feminine elements into a cohesive space in this exclusive interview with Sherry Moeller.

Annie Elliott’s “Favorite Uncle’s Bedroom” at ASPIRE HOUSE McLean 2020 includes a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces, as well as masculine and feminine elements. Rendering by Tania Lee Illustration.

Sherry Moeller: Describe your room at the show house. How did you come up with the concept and what’s the backstory?
Annie Elliott: Our room for the ASPIRE HOUSE McLean is a Favorite Uncle’s Bedroom. This guest bedroom isn’t “granny chic;” it’s “uncle chic” – masculine furnishings paired with traditionally feminine elements to create a warm and inviting retreat.

The room’s blush grasscloth walls surround masculine elements including the quasi-industrial étagère, which has tiny brass rivets on metal strapping, and a black caned bench at the foot of the bed. The bed is canopied, but in Cowtan & Tout’s Rutland – a sophisticated woodland scene in browns, greens and blues – to counter the sweetness of the pink walls. We repeat the fabric on the drapes, layering it over woven wood shades for depth and texture.

The room is a mix of vintage (and vintage-look) furnishings, such as the bamboo bedside tables, French cherry desk, low tufted lounge chairs and contemporary pieces, such as the large-scale photographs by Claire Rosen, and the upholstered desk chair. The combination suggests a life collected rather than a room decorated. In the end, the seemingly disparate elements form a cohesive and delightfully unexpected space.

This Washington, DC guest bedroom designed by Annie Elliott Design features a collection of Moroccan pillows, found and contemporary art, and vintage trunks against a light pink backdrop to create a comfortable retreat. Photo by Angie Seckinger.

SM: What’s a favorite element you plan to incorporate into your space at the ASPIRE HOUSE McLean?
AE: We chose to include a desk instead of a dresser in this guest bedroom. Our lovely writing desk from Port Eliot looks like a charming antique, but the smoothly sliding drawers and stable legs suggest that the piece was recently made. A desk says more about the primary visitor (the academic uncle) than a dresser, and it invites guests to spend time here. This is more than a bedroom; it’s a peaceful space for contemplation and creation.

SM: What projects have you done in the past that most resemble or relate in some way to what you plan to design at the ASPIRE HOUSE McLean? Or is this a completely different concept?
AE: This bedroom represents a new concept, but we did draw on some past projects that feature our hallmark mix of antiques, art and modern furnishings. The “Favorite Uncle’s Bedroom” incorporates richly patterned fabrics and many kinds of artwork, and a recent Washington, DC bedroom design does something similar. The clients fell in love with a colorful Josef Frank fabric, so we used that on the headboard and Roman Shades, and then we found similarly cheerful, ebullient artwork to complement it. Also, there was no question that we’d use wallpaper in the ASPIRE HOUSE because we use it every chance we get! We’ve applied wallpaper to ceilings, backs of china cabinets, and neglected nooks. Overall, the show house bedroom continues our tradition of incorporating old and new, juxtaposing patterns with solids, and, as always, using a bold – and wide! – array of colors.

The same fabric on the headboard and shades establishes a cohesive and colorful bedroom designed by Annie Elliott Design. Photo by Angie Seckinger.

SM: Have you participated in other show houses and why?
AE: This is our first major show house. We thought it presented a terrific opportunity to share our signature style — a mix of antiques, art and modern furnishings — with a broad audience. It’s also an opportunity to push ourselves as designers; with so few constraints, we’re empowered to do our very best work.

SM: What’s next for you design wise—are there some projects you’re particularly excited about? Are there any projects you’d love to tackle, sort of a design bucket list?
AE: We have a terrific roster of projects right now: family residences in DC, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Alexandria, and McLean. Truthfully, any project with fun clients is a great project! We’d love to design more weekend homes on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, particularly in Easton and St. Michaels, where I spend much of my free time.

This nook designed by Elliott incorporates her love of color, wallpaper and vintage finds into a small space. Photo by Jenn Verrier.

About The Designer | Annie Elliott of Annie Elliott Design is a recovering art historian who developed her eye and aesthetic sensibilities studying 20th-century art and working in some of the nation’s top museums. Annie studied English and Art History at the University of Pennsylvania and earned an M.A. in Art History from Williams College. Her career in museums included senior positions at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian. After coursework at the Corcoran College of Art + Design (now part of GW University), she took her love of art and color – and her training in matters of scale, balance and proportion – and made the shift to interior design. An Associate Member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Annie’s design work and insights have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Washingtonian, HGTV Magazine, and other local and national publications.

Sherry Moeller is a contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine.

Proceeds for ASPIRE HOUSE: McLean will benefit First Responders of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to learn more, and purchase tickets for the event; open August 21 – September 7, 2020.

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