Monday, July 11, 2011


Just recently I had the honor of corresponding with the iconic Washington D.C. based interior designer Mary Drysdale to bring you an exclusive personal interview. Mary is regularly published and recognized by major design magazines both nationally and internationally. Her traditional designs are layered with sophisticated furnishings and contemporary art to create a timeless and classic look. Having received numerous design/achievement awards, in addition to plentiful press, this very established designer is highly respected and admired within the industry for her positive influence on the design world. Today on MALLIE+POSH her work will be showcased along with a more personal take on Mary with Part 1 of my interview with her. Enjoy!

The Interview Part 1:

M+P: What would you say is the most rewarding part about being a designer?
Mary Drysdale: I love a great challenge, and I adore working for those who really care about the outcome. I enjoy being able to do a complete job, and those jobs where I have the confidence of the client. And historic projects with a modern twist are usually a treat. I love to travel for my work and many of my projects are remotely located. My dream would be to travel the world doing inspired design! I would love to work in Hawaii.

I try to make all of my projects special. Making something special is not a line item in a budget, it is an attitude I bring to my work.

My tag line, I suppose might be, unifying art, architecture and decoration. It is only as a result of the proliferation of engineering, building trades, and communications that the role of chief architect and designer disintegrated in the 20th century. It is my belief that buildings today suffer from too many chiefs in the kitchen. Design is very much like a movie, there are many professionals required, and various skills and talents brought to the table, but the director has to have the whole movie in his or her head and work on each and every piece. In today’s world we have “facadamists” space planners, detailers, decorators, art consultants…..and on down the line. But, unlike in the movie business, it is no longer clear who is in charge of the aesthetic content. I try to bring the connectedness of design which existed prior to the development of all of the specialties, to my work.

What makes each of my projects work is the strong rational architecture to which I bring softened and personalized by the wonderfully idiosyncratic collections and ideas of my clients who have personalities I try to express and whose taste I hope to develop and share.
M+P: What would you say is the secret to successfully marrying modern with classic to accomplish stylish yet timeless designs?
MD: Perhaps the strongest stylist influence I had in forming my own ideas, with respect to merging modern and traditional come from my experience of living in Paris with and among the French and their wonderful and totally aesthetic culture.

Americans in comparison, score much lower in terms of visual literacy. The two great lessons of the Paris years were: 1) Everything can be an aesthetic experience 2) the history of the decorative arts and architecture are revered, and great style is often reflected in an ability to blend the past successfully with the present, respecting both.

Beyond just style, my passion and connection to classicism comes from my profound respect for the completeness of the classical understanding of design, and its fascination with symmetry and proportion. My own view is that design should represent a continuum of life, past, present and future. In my own work, I hope to capture this connectivity. I like to think that my designs communicate a place where past meets present.

I am very tight when it comes to the architectural detailing. I ensure the “backgrounds” are very well planned. My emphasis on alignment and classical guidelines allows for a certain strength of order to emerge…without one stick of furniture. However, with color {which I feel is the most subjective tool in these projects} I will use tones which are more keyed to today. I may take an antique chair and upholster it in a fun way. And for the most part, my clients collect contemporary art. I am never afraid to put something into the mix which is unexpected…indeed I like to do that.
M+P: What ensures the longevity of designs?
MD: Strong plans and clear, appropriate detailing. And to that I would add balance, intelligence and sensitivity, which resonates through planning. I think that the details are in fact most often what make the success of a design. The details are the design…

In my process, I must know the goals of my clients, I need to know what they want to achieve, and what the constraints will be. I will also clearly be guided by the history and existing architecture in my design proposals. My process is highly organized and follows a path of proposal, discussion, consensus, re-development and re-submission at each step from initial concept to completion. I only want to work with clients who have high expectations and are personally involved.

I draw far more than most; my work relies on proportion and accuracy. I remain open to change, if in the development of a project something really should change.
[All Images via Mary Douglas Drysdale]

Can't get enough? Don't worry.. Part 2 is coming up next!


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