All American House: A design house event at historic Woodlawn glorifies past and present

Historic Woodlawn Estate originally belonged to Mount Vernon. The land on which it  lies was gifted by George Washington to his nephew in 1799; the house was built on the site in 1806.

Historic Woodlawn Estate originally belonged to Mount Vernon. The land was gifted by George Washington to his nephew in 1799; the house was built on the site in 1806.

On a recent, cherry blossom-scented spring afternoon, Home & Design attended the press preview for All American House at picturesque Woodlawn Estate near Mount Vernon. Sponsored by MADE: In America—a non-profit that fosters American industry in a global economy—the event is the first in a series that will pair interior designers with historic house properties; the goal is to create show houses that offer an updated design aesthetic against the backdrop of history.

Woodlawn’s designers bring a particularly fresh and youthful perspective: They’re students from George Washington University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. With oversight by New York designer Alexa Hampton and McLean designer Barbara Hawthorn, each team participated in a juried competition, designing a total of eight rooms in the house. Meanwhile, students from the Corcoran College of Art + Design virtually re-imagined the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Pope-Leighey House, which is located on the same grounds. Their concept boards are showcased at Woodlawn.

The student designers encountered plenty of challenges—and they definitely rose to the occasion. The rooms deftly combine original furnishings with new, interesting pieces by a list of American furniture companies that includes Century, Hickory Chair, Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman, Niermann Weeks, Duralee and Keith Fritz. Paul Montgomery Studio provided custom triptychs. There were constraints as to color choices (they were made by the National Trust for Historic Preservation) and care had to be taken not to alter the walls. “It was so valuable for the students because it’s exactly what they’ll be doing for clients. Working around an already existing situation is how it happens in the real world,” Hampton commented.

“The objective was to blend the historical furniture and still create something fresh and up-to-date,” Hawthorn added. “They succeeded beautifully.”

All American House is open for tours through June 16. Contact woodlawnpopleighey.org/events for more information. —Julie Sanders

The juried competition was chaired by Alexa Hampton (right), who is a designer and author based in New York. Designer Barbara Hawthorn (left) lent her years of experience to the role of  advisor for the students.

The juried competition was chaired by New York designer and author Alexa Hampton (right).  Designer Barbara Hawthorn (left) served as advisor for the students.

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The dining room combines old and new with a gold-framed painting that’s original to the house, and a gold-finished chandelier and fireplace screen by Niermann Weeks.

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Professor Nancy Evans of George Washington University is flanked by students Jasmine Callender and James Michaud, who designed the dining room: ; both are currently juniors at GW.

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Designed by students from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the winning room was the parlor, which pairs a bust of Washington—original to the house—with modern architectural photography. A stencil was added that reflects the Federal period when the house was built.

The music room includes furnishings by Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman against a sage-green backdrop. An animal hide rug from Century modernizes the space while the marble fireplace is original to the house.

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