Designer Interview with Mary Douglas Drysdale

3 min read

Designer Interview with Mary Douglas Drysdale - Architessa

Architessa had the absolute pleasure of interviewing renowned Washington D.C. based interior designer, Mary Drysdale of Drysdale Design Associates. With her years of experience and numerous awards and achievements, Mary continues to create elevated spaces that evoke emotion. Take in her thoughts on ethos, clients, and tile as gold nuggets of information from an expert design authority.


Tell us briefly about who you are and what design ethos is.

"My name is Mary Douglas Drysdale of Drysdale Design Associates. If we're going to talk about design ethos - who are we, what's our brand - we are a boutique interior design firm. We are not so big in numbers because I prefer to have a smaller staff, but we've made a very strong impression on the interior design market over the last 30 years. I've had 73 career cover stories. I was listed last year as one of the top 50 women interior designers and architects in America. I've just been named as one of the top 100 designers in the world - all of our stories are published. We like to work at a very high level and we are a personal, caring firm."


What is your design process when planning and executing a project?

"It's really a special relationship between the interior designer and client who is hiring. The more information designers have, the better. Very broadly, there are two approaches to interior design. There are style-centric designers and firms who have worked incredibly hard to develop a look that is theirs. Every one of their projects is identifiable because it bears the look of that firm. On the other hand, there are problem-solving designers. I consider myself to be a problem solver. My recommendations are based on the stated goals, reality, budget, timelines, and possibilities of the building someone is working in. This kind of relationship requires a lot more conversation. The client is in fact becoming a part of the design team.


Please describe your clientele and who is your ideal client?

"I wish there was an app out there like that would pair up ideal clients with designers. It could ask, 'Do you make up your mind quickly, and if you do, do you keep with your decisions? Do you have a partner and does your significant other even know you are doing this project? Is there going to be a project leader on your side?' I think it would be so much fun.

What my little app story underscores, is that so much of this really is about chemistry. You need to put aside for one moment the actual project, qualifications of the potential designer, etc. You really need to find another company, person, partner to work with you in a way that you understand as the client - that feels comfortable to you. Work with a person you can trust so you have an open relationship with respect to sharing ideas and dealing with the little things that come up. In choosing, you are choosing someone's ability to work with you and prioritize your project."


Do you have any stories about how you've used tile to transform a space?

Absolutely - I love tile. Floors and walls are big common uses of tile. A number of years back, I did a 16,000 sqft historic project with Architectural Ceramics, now Architessa. It was a French-style house which is unusual for these parts. We did a classic black limestone floor in this house and it was so beautifully done. The quality of the stone was extraordinary and really one of the prettiest floors I've seen in my whole life. Even the edges were absolute perfection. That was massive and made a huge impact. There was another project, a Mexican restaurant, called La Fonda. I had decided that since it was a small space, this really has to be about tile. I was experimenting with color and Mexican food. We did the floors and walls - a very unusual and interesting project.

I've been working long enough to remember a time when there was a limited variety of tiles. Now, I don't think that anyone who is a designer could conceive of working on a home without multiple expressions of tile. 


Architessa extends gratitude to talented designers who select our tile to beautify spaces for themselves and their clients. 

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