Nestled among venerable estate homes in DC’s sought-after Kalorama neighborhood, a small, circa-1950s house had a lot to live up to. When a busy DC lawyer bought the home, she turned to Mary Douglas Drysdale to update it. The designer, who was raised in Kalorama, was pleased. Though the house was dated, with a dearth of storage and antiquated bathrooms, she knew it showed a lot of promise.
“It had a garage, a front yard, the potential for a nice garden in back and really nice living and dining room spaces,” Drysdale says. “But I felt we should compensate for the fact that it was newer in this historic area; I needed to give her glamour on the bathroom front and excellent storage—the things people look for in a house.”
Drysdale and her client reviewed their goals. The plan was to completely reconfigure the upstairs, which included a master suite and two spare bedrooms. On the ground floor, the living and dining rooms would be updated with a warm, sophisticated sensibility. A backyard makeover would create space to relax and entertain.
The designer and client tackled the upper-level renovation first. “There were three rooms on the second floor and that hasn’t changed,” says Drysdale. “But I took the walls down to the brick and started over.” The two spare bedrooms would be used as a dressing room and study, respectively, so she incorporated storage into both, and lined one wall of the study with bookshelves. The hall bath was moved and lavishly updated with gleaming Thassos marble tile, a Philippe Starck sink and fixtures from Waterworks.
In the master bedroom, a custom, hand-tufted headboard is built into a wall of architectural paneling that adds visual depth. Drysdale designed a walk-in custom closet and carved space out of one wall for a shallow cupboard dedicated to shoes and handbags. Sleek, glazed white-oak millwork, a Patterson Flynn Martin rug and Duralee cotton drapes with an embroidered border by Michael Savoia contribute further notes of glamour.
The original master bath was only five by seven feet—but Drysdale had big plans for it. To gain square footage, she incorporated part of the master bedroom on one side and the former hall bath on the other, adding a custom double vanity and a sculptural soaking tub by Kohler. On a mirrored wall behind the tub, she centered a sunburst mirror by Baker. A walk-in shower and W.C. are tucked into an adjoining space. Like the hall bath, the master bath is clad entirely in sparkling Thassos marble, to sumptuous effect.
On the first floor, Drysdale and her client created drama and interest with unexpected color palettes. The homeowner chose a deep brownish-red hue for the dining room that reminded Drysdale of two abstract paintings by Tati Kaupp she’d seen at Cross MacKenzie Gallery. She brought them to the house, and her client loved them. An existing walnut table and sideboard were paired with leather stools that Drysdale found online. Vibrant Robert Allen drapes add green and eggplant hues to the mix.
By contrast, a monochromatic, pale-gray scheme prevailed in the living room, where elegant John Saladino sofas were customized for the narrow space. Drysdale designed a Parsons coffee table and added ottomans by Lee Industries. A sleek limestone fireplace replaced a traditional one of wood. And after much lobbying, Drysdale convinced the homeowner to strip the orange-tinged floors and stain them a pale matte gray, which unified the living and dining rooms. Baltimore decorative painter Tom Hickey glazed the walls, then sealed them with a matte finish that adds subtle depth. “People think a faux finish has to be dramatic, but that isn’t the case,” Drysdale says.
Above the fireplace, an abstract painting by Julie Wolfe draws the eye. It’s flanked by platforms that Drysdale designs in different sizes for displaying art on walls; here, they hold artisanal ceramics from the Schaller Gallery in St. Joseph, Michigan. “This is a great way to display real ceramic art rather than a print of a piece of artwork,” she comments. “They also become architectural elements, as they draw a line across the room.” On the coffee table, Sam Scott ceramic vases pick up the colors in Wolfe’s painting.
The client is a fan of photography, so a large-scale black-and-white image by Maxwell MacKenzie is showcased on the opposite wall. Two photographs by Maryanne Pollock hang in the corner. “They are all by Washington artists,” Drysdale observes, “so they create a bit of a Washington story.”
In the brick-walled backyard, a wood deck holds dining and sitting areas with woven furniture by JANUS et Cie. Drysdale added colorful perennials in planters on casters that can be rolled over to the hose for watering—making them functional as well as beautiful. The client “wants to be able to use the garden easily,” Drysdale says. “There was a practical component to everything we did.”
RENOVATION, INTERIOR & LANDSCAPE DESIGN: MARY DOUGLAS DRYSDALE, Drysdale Design Associates, Washington, DC.
LIVING ROOM—pages 118, 119, 120, 124: Sofas: saladinostyle.com. Ottomans: leeindustries.com through americaneyewdc.net. Sofa & Ottoman Fabric: manuelcanovas.com through cowtan.com. Sofa Pillows: larsenfabrics.com, manuelcanovas.com through cowtan.com. Art Platforms & Coffee Table: Custom by marydouglasdrysdale.com. Rug: Custom through J. Brooks Designer Floors; 703-698-0790. Black-and-White Ceramic Vases on Coffee Table: samscottpottery.com through schallergallery.com. Ceramic Pieces on Platforms: schallergallery.com. Draperies: larsenfabrics.com through cowtan.com. Drapery Fabricator: marydouglasdrysdale.com. Paintings above Platform: maryannepollock.com.
REAR GARDEN—pages 120, 121, 122, 123: Furniture: janusetcie.com. Planters: campaniainternational.com. Pillows with Circle Motif: americaneyewdc.net. Striped Pillows: cowtan.com. Striped Pillow Fabricator: marydouglasdrysdale.com.
FRONT GARDEN—pages 120: Cement-Like Chair & Stool: zacharyadesign.com.
DINING ROOM—pages 124, 125: Table & Sideboard: Owner’s collection. Draperies: robertallendesign.com. Drapery Fabricator: gretcheneverett.com. Stools around Table: marydouglasdrysdale.com. Dishware: hermes.com. Flatware: juliska.com.
MASTER BEDROOM—pages 126, 127, 129: Draperies: duralee.com. Embroidery: Custom by marydouglasdrysdale.com and villasavoiainc.com. Drapery Design & Fabrication: marydouglasdrysdale.com. Chair between Windows: marydouglasdrysdale.com. Headboard Fabricator: Sosa Upholstery; 703-491-3516. Bedding: matouk.com. Coverlet: manuelcanovas.com through cowtan.com. Pillows: kravet.com, cowtan.com. Rug: pattersonflynnmartin.com. Nightstands: Custom by marydouglasdrysdale.com.
MASTER BATH—pages 128, 129: Vanity: Custom by marydouglasdrysdale.com. Tub & Basins: kohler.com through ferguson.com. Sunburst Mirror: bakerfurniture.com. Marble Tile: architecturalceramics.com. Sconces & Fixtures: waterworks.com.