500 Square Feet of Style, by Mary Douglas Drysdale

House Beautiful’s “Small Spaces” July/August issue is packed with big ideas. I admit I fall a little in love with every project I write about, and Mary Douglas Drysdale‘s work in a tiny-ish Georgetown townhouse in this issue is no exception. First of all she is so lovely. Her genteel charm so infuses her interiors that they almost seem to smile at you from the page. I can’t think of a nicer compliment.

Mary Douglas Drysdale in House Beautiful
Living Room - Mary Douglas Drysdale in House Beautiful

No wonder I identify her with the color yellow. It’s a happy color. “But why do I think of you with those yellow and white checked curtains?” I asked her. She did them for a show house years ago, then brought them home to her own house, which was later on the cover of Veranda. Ah-ha! Yes! The beauty and freshness of them has lingered in my tiny mind ever since. I am not alone, she tells me, and every now and then–as here–she reprises them for a client.

I love the old Venetian chair by the door. It’s like a piece of sculpture–and a place to put your pocketbook and keys. Every front door needs that.

Look closely at the living room walls and floors, both of which received special paint treatment. That kind of visual layering is how you pack so much style into 500 square feet. I love the snappy Madeline Weinrib rug with the traditional damask upholstery, don’t you? And do you have a pretty set of china somewhere you might dust off and arrange artfully in a bookcase? Just for a change of pace?

Mary Douglas Drysdale in Veranda
Bookcase - Mary Douglas Drysdale in House Beautiful

Here’s the dining area from above. A simple gate leg table and chairs painted white. Multi functional and not obtrusive.

Mary Douglas Drysdale in Veranda
Dining Area from above - Mary Douglas Drysdale in Beautiful

These small row houses were originally built around the turn of the 20th century to accommodate the folks who worked in the big houses a few blocks away.

The two rooms upstairs were re-purposed into a bedroom and closet/dressing area. The owner wanted to use childhood furniture that had been painted by her grandfather. Mary Douglas repeated its delicate floral motif on the walls and bed. Aww. Another family piece, a rather imposing mahogany secretary, works beautifully as a linen press. A custom painted cotton rug gives a light, contemporary touch.

Mary Douglas Drysdale in Veranda
Master Bedroom - Secretary - Mary Douglas Drysdale in Beautiful

Pick up the July/August “Small Spaces” issue of HB while you still can. It’s one of our most popular issues of the year.

 Photos by Björn Wallander for House Beautiful.


  1. I just loved the issue and this house was a favorite! With the painted floors, light fabrics and perfectly placed furniture, it seems much larger – truly charming in every respect. Mary’s work is always beautiful and like you, I vividly remember those billowing yellow and white silk draperies.

  2. Frances, another beautiful not so small in ideas story! thank you again for brightening our day!

  3. Frances, I’m inspired and in love. I love the color choices and the decisions made on pieces to keep. Sweet, kind of like Bee Cottage. We just downsized and I’m enjoying the intimacy of tiny living. Once again, thank you.

  4. I did love this article and Home so much! Light and fresh, of which I am drawn to more and more lately. You did such a nice job on this feature. It made me want to get out the sweet painted toy chest my great Aunt gave me when I was a baby and just THROW it into the mix. Thanks!

  5. I dream of the day I can move back into a 500 square foot apartment! Lucky Mary and beautiful too!

  6. Wonderful article with stunning photography! Mary Douglas Drysdale is unstoppable! She keeps getting better all the time! Thanks to House Beautiful and to Mary Douglas Drysdale for including my paintings in this article. I keep buying magazines to show people and have to keep buying more..they won’t let them go!!!

    1. Maryanne, So nice to hear from you. I love your work and MDD and I spoke of it at some length. Also I think it is so important for interiors writers (like me) to CREDIT the artists whose work can often transform a room. Brava, and best to you, Frances

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