Mary Douglas Drysdale Decks Out an Art Lovers’ Master Bedroom

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.”

In our recently released aspire design and home Showhouse Issue, we sat down with Mary Douglas Drysdale to learn more about her creative process in designing the art-infused master bedroom for this project.

Bedroom by Mary Douglas DrysdaleInside the Showhouse with Mary Douglas Drysdale

aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, from start to finish?
Mary Douglas Drysdale: All of the designers had a bit longer than we originally expected, due to delays from COVID-19.  As a result, we all had about 4 months more than initially anticipated. And I needed every minute, as my bed was made in Italy and almost didn’t make the show house opening—even with the extension! 

aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process? 
Mary: My biggest challenge was to make a bedroom that would accommodate generous seating. The original floor plan called for the bed to be located on one of the two side walls, which I used for the placement of large modern artworks.  I wanted to connect the room to the landscape and located the bed in front of the window, which also allowed for better circulation and a seating area in front of the very striking recess for books and art we designed into the space. 

aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
Mary: The curtains: I wanted to create a leading edge detail based on a Greek Key, and it was difficult to find a fabricator who was capable of making the detail desired on time and by hand!

Bedroom by Mary Beth DrysdaleSeeking Inspiration

aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Mary: I imagined the owners to be collectors of modern art, wanting to look at some of their favorite pieces, and I also wanted the room to be connected strongly to the beautiful landscape and sense of estate provided by the plantings and trees. 

aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Mary: Working for clients, as a designer, one is always focused on the clients’ choices and vision. This room was totally within my comfort zone; I wanted to do a room that I would like to live in, and—in that regard—I was very happy with the end result.  I would have been very pleased to live in that room, and was a bit sad to take it all down.  

Finding Cohesiveness

aspire: Despite the fact that there were so many designers involved, there is an inherent cohesiveness to the house. Did your all converse/ collaborate? Or was this completely an individual process?
Mary: I was the Design Chair of Aspire House McLean. One of my strongest goals was to make sure that the rooms flowed well, but that each room was individual—and that cohesion would be created via a consistent planning of details and dimension and proportion.

aspire: Is your preference for a showhouse a small space or a large space? Does one of the other provide a better opportunity to stretch your creativity? 
Mary: I prefer a large space. Typically showhouses are crowded, and people are standing as they walk through. A larger room, in my opinion, allows better viewing for the visitors to a showhouse. Also, people tend to spend a longer time in the larger rooms. 

aspire: Describe the town of McLean in one sentence. 
Mary: Once a bucolic area close to DC, it is now a sophisticated and glamorous setting for large and elegant homes in this well-known and desirable suburb to the District. 

Bedroom by Mary Douglas Drysdale“This or That?” with Mary Douglas Drysdale

aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
Mary: Paint.
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
Mary: Hardwood.
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
Mary: Mountain.
aspire: Saturated color or black and white?
Mary: Saturated color.
aspire: Brunch or dinner?
Mary: Dinner.
aspire: Mid-century or 18th Century?
Mary: 18th Century.
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
Mary: Shades.
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Mary: The English Patient.
aspire: Week at the spa or week of Broadway shows?
Mary: A week at the spa.

Bedroom by Mary Douglas DrysdaleWant More Good Design?

Click Here to view more interviews with our ASPIRE HOUSE McLean designers.

Photography by John Cole.

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