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?
Olvia Demetriou: I was invited in early January and was on schedule to complete the room in time for the original opening ( n May). Since the COVID virus delayed the project, we completed our space by the 3rd week of July.
aspire: What was your biggest challenge? Did you have a Eureka moment during the process?
Olvia: The Wine Room had no daylight and given that our concept was to make it a tasting room, it was important that the lighting design provide luminosity to the space. I designed the display towers to be backlit – but access would have been complicated and required to have moving parts. I discovered that I could access the lighting from a storage room that was adjacent – this really helped me control the quality of light without compromising the millwork.
aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
Olvia: Given COVID complications, fabricators and delivery service were already committed with other designers on the project. We are pleased that we managed to sequence the deliveries and installations in time for opening.
aspire: What was your inspiration for this room?
Olvia: The Wine Tasting Room was conceived – not as a storeroom for wine – but rather as a destination place to celebrate wine as a shared social activity. Our concept was to make the room feel like a glamorous escape- perhaps enough to get dressed up for – and within the comfort of one’s home. Designed to stand out as unique, we chose to make the room seductively dark and atmospheric, with a dramatically lit wine feature wall.
aspire: The room features luxurious materials – smoky-gray stained wood wallcovering, stained Oak ceiling, and a richly veined black marble counter create a space of high contrast and drama.
Olvia: Each wine bottle is held on steel pins so that the bottles appear to float off the (faux) white marble focal wall. The bar is flanked by two tall Black & Ivory lacquer display cabinets featuring the Owner’s collection of glassware. The atmospheric palette of the room accentuates the wine feature wall and provides a rich contrast to the pale white Oak flooring.
aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Olvia: Not really. Artisan made things happen.
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?
Olvia: Surprisingly, we did not see each other’s designs until the PR started rolling out releases. We never had a chance to collaborate – perhaps given COVID it limited our interactions.
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?
Olvia: Sometimes a smaller space can be a jewel if it’s done well. Although larger spaces may offer more room for design interventions, they are a more costly endeavor.
aspire: Describe the town of McLean in one sentence.
Olvia: McLean is one of the wealthiest communities in the US and its proximity to the capital makes it even more desirable.
Photos by Ron Blunt.
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