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?
Nile Johnson: We had approximately seven months.
aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process?
Nile: Finding vendors to partner with for my space was extremely challenging. It’s beyond me why most furniture manufacturers and vendors are reluctant to donate or even let designers borrow product to use in a showhouse, especially when it comes to higher-end ones, such as the Aspire House McLean. Who would want to miss out on such a significant design moment? Photography, press, & in-person, and social media engagement make it a win for all involved.
aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Nile: The home’s exterior inspired my concept for the Wine Salon. The streamlined contemporary facade and incorporation of negative space were of significant influence. I wanted to mimic that in the minimal and modern design of the Wine Salon.
aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Nile: Yes, I love this project because it allowed me to flex my design muscles in a way they hadn’t been. I’m more of a layered designer, and creating a minimal design requires balance and restraint, which was good practice.
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?
Nile: The house demanded a particular style and aesthetic. I just tried my best to respond to what that was. However, I was aware of the wine bar aesthetic, and I kept in constant contact with the designer of the rec room, Kiyonda Powell.
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?
Nile: I prefer a room that will allow me to grow as a designer.
This or That?
aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
aspire: Saturated Color or Black and White?
Nile: I love both, but if I had to choose: saturated color
aspire: Brunch or Dinner?
aspire: Midcentury or 18th Century?
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
aspire: Week at the spa or Week of Broadway shows?
Nile: A week of Broadway shows, followed by a week at the spa.
Click Here to view more interviews with our Aspire House McLean designers.
Photography by Ron Blunt.
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