The Aspire House McLean project began in 2018, when Bill Harrison, renowned architect and principal of Harrison Design, introduced aspire design and home CEO and Founder Steve Mandel to a developer he worked with called Artisan Builders. Mandel was immediately impressed, and planning began for a showhouse in this elegant suburb of Washington, D.C.
The residence, which adapts Palladian concepts of geometry, proportion and symmetry, is modern and light filled, with vast windows to flood the space with sunlight. In order to make sure the interior design matched the caliber of the architecture, Mandel invited Mary Douglas Drysdale to be the design chair. Drysdale explains, “A talented group of designers and creatives from the Mid-Atlantic region displayed their skills to create a home that is a modern classic mix, referring to the architectural traditions of our region and to the lifestyle that people aspire to today.”
aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, start to finish?
Jennifer Stoner: That’s a trick question because Covid gave us actually months to design and plan with the 5 month delay of the opening.
aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process?
Jennifer: Our space was a two story room with a grand barrel ceiling. The challenge was how to create any type of intimate dining experience that didn’t feel overly ostentatious. We achieved the intimacy by using one of the architectural alcoves in the space to create a dining banquette and pulling the dining table out of the middle of the room. The opposite side of the room had a mirrored alcove which allowed us to create a bar area for cocktails or after dinner drinks. Another trick to create a little coziness was the installation of long drapery panels at each cased opening into the room. The softness of that long drapery really helped soften the space and dampen the echos.
aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
Jennifer: We did have a last minute stock issue with our side dining chairs. I purchased simple chairs and reupholstered them in our office and added the fun fringe trim along the backs. That fringe became the hit of the space!
aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Jennifer: I had traveled to Spain in January for Cevisama which is an international tile and kitchen/bath trade show. I was inspired by all of the intricate patterns and bold colors of Spanish design and architecture. So, I created a space that was reflective of a small intimate supper club somewhere in the Catalan region of Spain. The custom wallpaper by artist Amanda Moody, reminded me of all of the detailed mosaic work of Barcelona native, Antoni Gaudi.
aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Jennifer: My comfort zone is pretty expansive and my motto for any showhouse that I do is “go big or go home”. So, I’m very comfortable designing with the bold colors and patterns that I used for this project. I can design a lovely neutral space also, but I think that a showhouse is the perfect place to push visitors to the edge of what they’re comfortable with so that they can expand their design tolerance.
aspire: Despite the fact that there were so many designers involved, there is an inherent cohesiveness to the home. Did you all converse/collaborate? Or was this a completely individual process?
Jennifer: For the most part, it was an individual process, but I did have an idea of what was happening in the spaces around me. Therefore I tweaked my design plan along the way to a palette that I thought would be more cohesive.
aspire: Is your preference for a showhouse a small space or a large space? Does one or the other provide a better opportunity to stretch your creativity?
Jennifer: I love doing a large space where you can really show the breadth of your design vision.
aspire: Describe the town of McLean in one sentence.
Jennifer: It’s a very charming and picturesque area with some of the most immaculate homes and estates in the country.
This or That?
aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
Jennifer: Both – meaning “Rug” and not carpet.
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
aspire: Saturated Color or Black and White?
Jennifer: Both – I’m known for color, but I have an obsession with black and white and blending them together. It’s that bold contrast that works so well!
aspire: Brunch or Dinner?
Jennifer: Dinner – better cocktails.
aspire: Midcentury or 18th Century?
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
Jennifer: Drapery! I love a great fabric treatment.
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Jennifer: Tough call – but I think I lean more English Patient. Who doesn’t love the accents and the clothes!
aspire: Week at the spa or Week of Broadway shows?
Jennifer: Week of Broadway shows (when we’re able to enjoy them again)
Click Here to view more interviews with our Aspire House McLean designers.
Photography by Ron Blunt.
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