Rothesay, the Richmond Symphony Orchestra League’s Designer Show House, is well worth the trip. My husband and I took a four hour round trip road trip to Richmond on a crisp, fall-like Sunday to view Mary Douglas Drysdale’s room in the RSOL Designer Show House. We arrived early to meet Mary there so we could take some pictures. Getting there before it opened to the public, allowed us to meet the day crew captain and volunteer staff and help them by turning on all of the lights in all of the rooms. There were so many rooms, that I lost count. You could tell it’s an older house, come to life with all the renovated interior design, partly because of the “old school” punch light switches. Georgie, the caged finch in the Morning Hall, which was designed by Karen Farrow and Jonathan Williams, was chirping away, happy to be greeting people. There was some necessary vacuuming and then before we knew it the house was abuzz with visitors.
- Back view of Rothesay. Photos by C. Ashley Spencer
We still had time to take a few preliminary angle shots for Mary in anticipation of the photo shoot next weekend.
- Photos of Mary Douglas Drysdale’s Living Room Design at Rothesay
When Mary arrived, she went right to work explaining her room to a group of visitors. She reiterated what she had explained to us that her objective in the room was to combine traditional elements with modern, all in a balanced, sustainable room. The geometric floor pattern that Mary designed is contemporary but repeats the hexagonal shape found on the 18th century American piece and the stenciled bell flower harkens to a well known folk-life motif.
- Geometric pattern in the floor repeats the pattern in 18th century piece
The carved Great Dane above the fireplace by Mark Perry, a well known folk-life artist, was carved just for this space. Its stark dark contrast compared with the subtle decorative finish of the cream walls lends a modern feel.
The two large portrait photographs by Max Hirshfield, purposely captured in one shot, serve as bold injections of color as well as unusual pairings with traditional, Cuban, folk-like furniture. These photos have an uncanny look of hyper realistic paintings.
Mary carries the subtle geometric patterning into the stenciling below the crown molding and with patterning on the drapes. The textiles for the furniture and curtains are made of the softest alpaca and linen and striking side tables are made from reclaimed river wood, all proving sustainability can be beautiful.
Mary is a master of proportion and balance. What I like about her work is it unveils itself like a well written story with subtle yet sublime reflections that reveal themselves through discovery; however, she has thought of them all in advance. Like a true spatial architect she works with the foundation and presents the details with significance.
We were able to grab a coffee, talk with more volunteers about where to go afterwards (that pleasant and gracious Southern hospitality just comes naturally in Richmond) and then we took in the spectacular grounds with the beautiful vista of the James River. I had a little time to do a quick 5 min sketch.
- Rothesay grounds looking over the James River & Bridge
- Rothesay. Overlooking the James River.
- Quick sketch of James River Vista
- Terrace — drawing spot
Fortunately, we also had a chance to see the informative movie that the RSOL had produced about the history or Rothesay leading up to the present owners, George and Anne Anderson. Rothesay is an 8 acre estate built in the grand English Tudor tradition. However, the original house looked quite different, complete with a large tower at the entrance. It was built by Jonathan Bryan in 1913, brother of John Stewart Bryan a newspaper publisher, and named for their grandfather’s hometown in the Isle of Bute in Scotland. Family friend, Charles Gillette, a well known landscape architect completed the landscape design. After his brother’s death in 1933, John Stewart Bryan sold the house to Edward and Isabel Anderson. Isabel, herself an accomplished pianist, was also one of the founding members and patrons of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, so it is very fitting that her house is a part of this designer tradition today for the RSOL. It is her son, George and his English born wife, Anne, who presently hold ownership of the house and their daughter, Randy Trainor, coincidentally enough, is the interior designer who’s work is in the library. Music evidently was constant while growing up through generations in the house.
- Study and colored books by Blaise Adams & David Barden
Here are few more pictures of some of the other designers’ marvelous rooms. There are 32 interior designers, 28 interior spaces, 12 landscape designers for 14 exterior vignettes. Every one of them had a different feel, which makes this Show House so interesting. Go quickly, it closes after next weekend, on October 11th.
- Tobie Fairley’s Entrance Hall
- Jennifer Stoner’s Dining Room
The designers’ inspiration in the sunroom below was to highlight the fretwork to make the room feel as if one was inside a Chines Porcelain jar.
- Sunroom by Kevin Malone & Kathy Morgan. Photography by John Magor
- Sunroom (with little sun). Photo by C. Ashle Spencer
I couldn’t help but get a kick out of the David [Hick's] & Kelly [Wearstler's] imagined romance spaces for the loft by Kat and Mike Liebschwager. I actually was drawn to the Kelly room before I knew the significance. How clever.
- Imaginary romance loft space by Kat & Mike Liebschwager
The bamboo upon leaving also struck me as enchanted.
Richmond is a perfect spot to take in some fall color and while there, I’d recommend the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and dining at the Water Grill, where we lucked out in finding it in Carytown and had a delicious and reasonably priced meal. A wonderful way to top of a great adventure.