We are thrilled to be introducing a new series to you today on Hadley Court: The Inspiring Studios of America’s Top Interior Designers!
We are so excited to be able to take you on an inside tour of the beautiful design studios of America’s top designers and to share with you our interviews with them, where they will share about what presentation tools and branded materials they use, how they set up for their client presentations, and more!
Who doesn’t love knowing the stories behind the working environments of those who inspire us with their beautiful design work, day in and day out? What colors they choose to surround themselves with, what objects and artworks speak to their sensibilities, how they approach their design presentations?
We are honored to be starting this series by featuring the interior design studio of iconic American interior designer, Mary Douglas Drysdale, the founder of Washington, DC – based Drysdale Design Associates. Her interior design work has been featured on more covers of more magazines than any other interior designer in the history of design.
Here are some of the many magazines where Mary’s interior design work has been featured:
Her own homes have been featured on the covers of 15 magazines and her work has also been featured in the books: Interior Design Master Class, House Beautiful Windows, The Soft Furnishings Book, Signature Style by Traditional Home, The Artful Home and Sun Country Style.
Just this month, March 2017, her work for another one of her clients has been featured on the cover of this magazine:Kitchen and Bath Business.
To read more about her body of work, please see her Wikipedia entry here.
HADLEY COURT: What Does Your Workspace Look Like?
Mary: “There is a lovely hall on the entry level that is a very nice entry, where the client passes by art and artifact and there is a sense of luxury.”
As they arrive to the second, floor, my office takes up this entire floor. The studio is at one end and the conference area is at the other.”
“What dominates the entirety of the space is the presence of beautiful project images, including 60 of the covers which have been framed. There are drawings everywhere one looks. Either current and out on surfaces to review or rolled and historic. We treasure our drawings, there are some that should be framed. I consider those drawings my art. The colors are faded white and light tones all, so there is a hint of modern, but many of the pieces are antiques. I love it. My only regret is that older pieces don’t hold up to the abuse that commercial environments often dish out.”
HADLEY COURT: How Do You Set The Mood For A Client Presentation?
Mary: ” I seem to have evolved 180-degrees during the course of my career, with respect to client presentations. Earlier in my career, I rented commercial spaces located within the core of Washington, DC’s prime business district and I always did my presentations in a very corporate looking conference room. I would ask every staff member to wear black on those days, and in those days, I only wore black! As time went by and I felt more comfortable in the project success that Drysdale Design Associates was experiencing, I knew that the way we present and interface with clients needed to change.
I found there was a big disconnect with having our offices in an office building environment, when we were doing primarily residential work. So, in 2006 I took the leap and invested in an historic building in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC. “
“I knew immediately that I had done the right thing for my business. This was a prominent building, built in 1904 in a very hip area, with ceiling height, windows, floors, columns, moldings, fireplaces….. all the things we talk about with our clients daily as being important, and now I was speaking about them in the right architectural context. We now have our client presentations in the area that was originally designed to be a formal living room.”
“The ceiling height is 10 feet 6 inches and there is a working fireplace. In the winter, on a cold day, we make a fire in the office, since we love the smell and the warmth that a fireplace lends to our studio and our clients feel welcomed and comfortable there. There is no dress code, and while it is perhaps a rare occurrence, I have worn jeans, often wear clogs, and we don’t have any special scents, music or other calculated gestures for our clients.”
“When a potential client comes to our office, they are surrounded by framed images of the many covers our work has garnered over the years, which lends both credibility and confidence to their decision to work with us. Sometimes clients are intimidated by the sheer number of covers and awards. As a former girl scout, I share that I think of them as *badges*……that they reflect a process of collaboration in the design process.”
“All of the furniture in the studio is one of a kind antiques, and none of the chairs match. I hope this communicates comfort and a certain creative chaos. There are also interesting objects on tables and surfaces to inspire them, which often lead to conversations that are insightful and helpful. My intention is to help clients feel at ease, surrounded by calm and beauty, and to help them viscerally see how good the work is, in a career decidedly committed to excellence in architectural design and decoration. “
HADLEY COURT: What branded presentation materials do you use?
Mary: “Architectural drawings and concept drawings are central to the work that we do, and to how we approach our client work. So our drawings are the biggest product we produce. Our logo is prominently featured on every page. Additionally, we have folders which are branded with the Drysdale “D” and stationery. There is a Drysdale book of project images which we give to our best clients, and we have a system of tagging each finish selected or considered for each and every surface in a project.”
“In most cases the tag is designed to fold, so that the Drysdale logo is on the front and the data, which can be filled in appropriately as the process moves on, is on the back side. I can not tell you how many times this system has saved my life. We used to have black Drysdale tote bags, but I decided we did not need to do that anymore. I like to hand out writing pads at the beginning of a meeting so that the participants can take notes. I don’t have pads with Drysdale printed on them, but that is something I should do.”
HADLEY COURT: How do you utilize online tools in your presentation?
Mary: “We don’t. I want my clients to hear me speak, and to communicate with me, not a computer. We sit around a table and I present materials with an assistant, and I watch their faces and see what notes they are making and I ask them how they feel about ideas as we roll them out. This is a very personal, bespoke process, and preprogrammed presentations just don’t work. I make changes to the work, right then and there. I ask them to look at the sketches. There is a lot of back and forth. And, I will admit, they love to watch me draw and it is a way of showing them that I listen, that what they say counts.”
HADLEY COURT: “What presentation materials do you give to your clients, once the presentation is complete?
Mary: “We give our clients copies of all of the drawings and sketches. We also give them small swatches of materials if they want them, and we photograph everything and forward those images. We don’t, for anyone who has not already hired us, do proposals in the sense that some designers do, where the work is specified in writing and then a potential client, accepts it – or does not. That’s not the way we do business. We have a very strong process of presentation and approvals.
“Once we have an architectural scheme that is approved, we try to develop reasonable budgets, prior to moving further ahead. With respect to finishes and/or furnishings, we will advise our clients, typically by email after preliminary selections, of the estimated cost. They are asked to reply and if they indicate the price is approved, we then move forward with formal purchase contracts. I involve my clients in all approvals, be they shop drawings, stone samples, revisions, CFAs – whatever needs approval, we have our clients sign off. I have found that documenting every detail of the history of the project, and getting sign-offs, clears up all questions relating to if something was approved or not.”
Dear readers, here is small sampling of Mary’s work, from images she provided to us for this post.
If you would like to hear more directly from Mary about her work, we invite you to watch this video and to visit her site at www.marydouglasdrysdale.com.
We hope you were inspired today, dear readers, by this inside look at the studio of one of America’s most iconic living interior designers,
Mary Douglas Drysdale.
As always, dear readers, we appreciate YOU, and we hope you will continue to be inspired and informed by our new series on the workspaces of America’s top interior designers!
We’d love to know what you think in the comments, and to hear any questions you’d like us to ask these interior designers in our upcoming features!
Leslie Hendrix Wood
Owner, the Hadley Court blog