Modern Traditions With D.C. Designer Mary Drysdale

Modern Traditions With D.C. Designer Mary Drysdale


“There’s a real respect for older buildings in Washington, D.C.,” says interior designer Mary Douglas Drysdale, “and a great desire to preserve them.” But there is also a younger generation inside the Beltway craving spaces that are a little more modern than the ornate neoclassicism of this historic area, and looking for homes that exude a contemporary sense of comfort.

Through the years, Drysdale has often been called upon to impart her particular brand of updated traditionalism to many capital residences, blending fine antiques with soft upholstered furnishings, a lighter palette and less clutter. Such was the case with Barbara Sullivan, a brand development professional, and her husband, Bill, in private equity, who moved to Embassy Row to start a family some 20 years ago. They purchased a neoclassical town house originally built in 1925 and, as it happened, Drysdale had decorated it for the prior owners. The Sullivans liked what she had done but wanted to take it further, and so they turned to the designer for guidance in the home’s renovation.

The family lived in the house for some time before beginning the remodel— something, says Drysdale, that can be challenging because “they become used to it, whether it works or not.” But her clients trusted her instincts and asked her to improve the flow of the spaces and bring in more light.

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