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Dwelling Museum – House & Design Mag

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It was a beautiful blank slate,” reflects Mary Douglas Drysdale, describing the spare interior of a modernist home in Ashburn, Virginia—before she set to work. With 12-foot ceilings and glass expanses celebrating a scenic landscape, the spaces held promise. “But there was an emptiness to the house,” the designer continues, “and it did not reflect the welcoming and generous spirit of the owners.” Over the next two years, she curated a collection of furniture, fittings, art and artisan-made objects to help achieve the home’s full potential.

Drysdale’s clients—he’s a CEO and she’s a retired business executive—purchased the residence brand new in 2015. Crediting her Dutch heritage, the wife says she was drawn to the “clean, sleek and modern European” model conceived by the Netherlands-based Studio Piet Boon and developed by K. Hovnanian Homes. Their lot backs up to protected woodlands within Willowsford, a farm-to-table community or agrihood. 

Back then, the couple had recently wed (a second marriage for each) and combined households. Their blended furniture, along with bare walls, left much to be desired. “Our space lacked personality and didn’t feel well-utilized, and our furnishings were not of the right scale or really suited for the home,” recounts the wife. “We wanted an interior that would be synergistic with the design of the house itself and integrated across each room.” 

They enlisted Drysdale after the wife observed her talent at a 2020 show house. Early on, the designer decided to preserve the home’s black-painted door and window frames. “I started by asking, ‘What have we got here, what can we work with,’” she recalls. “The black trim was a jumping-off point for me.”

Taking cues from that trim, she transformed the fireplace wall in the living room. Before, the television had been mounted over the linear firebox, where it stood out in stark relief against an expanse of white-washed drywall. Drysdale clad the area in dark-stained, rift-sawn oak and recessed the TV within, attaining a chic, integrated look. “I think about creating useful beauty,” reveals the design doyenne. “That wall is so dramatic now and grounds everything.”

Drysdale then drafted furniture and decorative plans with the goal of establishing a “soft, modern” aesthetic throughout. She sourced transitional-style furnishings and conjured several bespoke pieces, including a dining table, for the project. Airy glass lighting bows to the scenery outside. The breakfast area and kitchen, which join the living room at the home’s rear, feature prime examples.

A cohesive palette of black and white prevails. “I like there to be relationships between the rooms,” the designer says. “As you go through these spaces, you’re still connected.”

That simple scheme allows the creativity of numerous artists and artisans to shine. And it dovetails nicely with the wife’s affinity for elements that express a tribal quality. Take the dining room, for instance, where a graphic rug woven in Afghanistan lays the foundation. Black-and-white pottery by Oregon-based ceramist Sam Scott graces the tabletop. Drysdale notes, “The primitive, the handmade are a strong subtext in the story that’s being told here.”

Bold artwork also delivers a resounding message; it was part of the plan from the get-go. “Exploring the house, I felt immediately that colorful modern art on a grand scale would bring enormous interest and excitement to the experience of each room and the views from room to room,” says the designer. A trip with her clients to Washington’s Hemphill Artworks yielded the first three pieces in what is now a goodly trove. 

Those selections received prominent placements. A painting by DC artist Steven Cushner commands the wide hall linking the front and back of the house. An abstract work by the late Jacob Kainen adds verve to the dining room and offers the wife an inspiring vista from her office across the foyer. Likewise, dinner guests enjoy a clear sightline to the vibrant, multi-media creation of another local artist, Julie Wolfe, positioned behind the desk. 

Later additions include photographs by Anna Beeke and John Cole, which animate the main-floor primary bedroom. “I feel that one of the great obligations of a home is to delight and engage the viewer,” Drysdale offers. “Everywhere you turn or sit or gaze, there’s something interesting to see in this house. It’s a living museum, a stimulating—but not over-stimulating—visual experience that is comfortable.” 

Not only do the well-appointed spaces please the eye, they also support the couple’s relaxed yet social lifestyle. For example, the main hall is no longer just a utilitarian passageway; it now functions as “another beautiful room where they entertain,” says Drysdale. “They’re using their house in better and more complete ways.”

The wife concurs, sharing that the covered porch off the living room has become a destination too. “This area was nothing more than a transition to the backyard. With Mary’s redesign, the space is now used for intimate dinners with friends, as a gathering spot when hosting large groups—or merely for having a cool drink on a hot summer afternoon.”

Interior Design: Mary Douglas Drysdale, Drysdale Design Associates, Washington, DC.

RESOURCES
THROUGHOUT
Drapery & Upholstery Fabrication: myatelierva.com.

LIVING ROOM
Fireplace: kossaridesign.com. Diptych Art: ruriyi.com. Sofas: Owners’ collection. Sofa Fabric: kravet.com. Small Stool: jomofurniture.com. Side Tables: janusetcie.com. Coffee Table: marydouglasdrysdaleinteriordesign.com. Armchair & Ottoman: leeindustries.com. Armchair Fabric: kravet.com. Rug: starkcarpet.com. Leather Chair: allmodern.com. Pillow Fabric: williams-sonoma.com. Paint: sherwin-williams.com.

COVERED PORCH
Table & Sofa: janusetcie.com. Art: Kaiser Suidan. Pillow Fabrics: aliciaadamsalpaca.com.

ENTRANCE HALL
Art: Steven Cushner through hemphillfinearts.com. Photographs: annabeeke.com. Small Paintings: juliewolfe.net through hemphillfinearts.com. Chandelier: julieneill.com. Rug: pattersonflynn.com. Paint: sherwin-williams.com.

DINING ROOM
Painting: jacobkainen.com through hemphillfinearts.com. Table: marydouglasdrysdaleinteriordesign.com. Chairs & Chair Fabric: bakerfurniture.com. Pottery: samscottpottery.com. Rug: amadicarpets.com. Lighting: ochre.net. Drapery Fabric: larsenfabrics.com. Drapery Banding & Pouf: marydouglasdrysdaleinteriordesign.com.

KITCHEN
Rug: loloirugs.com. Island Pendants: kellywearstler.com through visualcomfort.com.

CASUAL DINING AREA
Table: Owners’ collection. Striped Chair Fabric: perennialsfabrics.com. Chandelier: reginaandrew.com. Artwork: Owners’ collection. Chairs: rh.com.

WIFE’S OFFICE
Painting: juliewolfe.net through hemphillfinearts.com. Table: Owners’ collection. Desk Chair & Poufs: marydouglasdrysdaleinteriordesign.com. Glass Orb: nickleonoff.com. Rug: carpetcreationsandflooring.com. Paint: sherwin-williams.com.

OWNERS’ BEDROOM
Photographs over Bed: johncolephoto.com. Grouping of Photos: annabeeke.com. Art on Left Wall & Poufs: marydouglasdrysdaleinteriordesign.com. Bed: roveconcepts.com. Coverlet & Bolster Fabric: fabricut.com. Rug: carpetcreationsandflooring.com. Drapery Fabric: larsenfabrics.com. Paint: sherwin-williams.com.

 

 

 

 



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