Rendering by Jayson Koback.
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?
Maria Galiani: Initially, we designed this room in a month but due to COVID-19 it was delayed and we had an additional three months. The extra time was nice.
aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process?
Maria: My biggest challenge was what we sometimes refer to as a “window well.” It was a small window off-centered in my room hugging the ceiling. A purpose of a window well is to provide light into the lower level of the home when the window is located below the grade of the home. Because I wanted to create a moody lounge within my billiards room, I chose to cover the window with two French oak Louis XV doors from France from 1720. The interior of these doors was over 12” deep. The concept was that you would house your billiards equipment and create a cabinet behind the doors still keeping the windows that you could bring in light if you prefer. It was a success, guests were curious as to what was behind the mysterious doors.
aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
Maria: We chose a midcentury modern billiards table by AE Schmidt through Chesapeake Billiards. The original pool table company backed out because they were located in New York City and they were trying to get back on their feet because of the pandemic. We then found a billiards table that needed to be made in 5 weeks. AE Schmidt normally takes 10 weeks to build a custom pool table but Chesapeake Billiards pulled some strings and came through for us.
aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Maria: I was inspired by two classic cocktails lounges from NYC and San Francisco, two of my favorite cities. These lounges are in Saint Regis in SF and the Iconic Plaza Hotel in NYC. My favorite way to design is to mix the timeless classic elements with the modern designs of today. I wanted a smoky moody vibe surrounded by modern and classic elements. I chose to use a “one of a kind” antique piece such as the 1720 French doors to create something mysterious all while highlighting and mixing with some modern pieces such as the midcentury modern billiards table and the ombre painted walls, a neutral gradation from charcoal to ivory.
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?
Maria: As a designer, cohesiveness within a home is key to establishing a well-balanced interior. As we all know in designer showhouses, interior designers like to use their own voice and it is important to show your uniqueness to your potential clients. My neighbor Kiyonda Powell and I collaborated and discussed our designs with one another so that our rooms would not clash. We wanted our designs to stand out individually showing our styles without being overwhelming by fighting one another visually.
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?
Maria: Whether the space is large or small does not matter, it is most important to create a memorable moment. When the viewers walk away from the showhouse, you want them to remember your designs.
aspire: Describe the town of McLean in one sentence.
Maria: If you drove through the town of Mclean, it feels “small town” but in reality, it is home to many Fortune 500 companies, diplomats, military, members of Congress, and high-ranking government officials partially due to its proximity to Washington, DC, The Pentagon, and the CIA.
This or That?
aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
aspire: Saturated Color or Black and White?
Maria: Black and White
aspire: Brunch or Dinner?
aspire: Midcentury or 18th Century?
Maria: 18th Century
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
Maria: If the room is amazing architecturally, then nothing!
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Maria: The English Patient
aspire: Week at the spa or Week of Broadway shows?
Click Here to view more interviews with our Aspire House McLean designers.
Photography by Ron Blunt.
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