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MADE: in America, Rethinking the Pope-Leighey House

Pope Leighey House
By Blair Bunting (MA student, Interior Design)

This spring, students in the Interior Design Program here at the Corcoran College of Art + Design had the opportunity to participate in a unique design challenge. The Pope-Leighey House is a national historic property on Woodlawn Plantation, near Mount Vernon. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939, Pope-Leighey was designed with the common man in mind, one who would live without hired help and in tune with nature. Wright’s design embodied a simple, minimal approach (only 1,200 square feet) and a strictly American outlook. Home & Design explains more about the exhibition in their blog post.

Photo: Erin Miller

Photo: Erin Miller

The Corcoran’s graduate and undergraduate Interior Design students were given a challenge: How can you take this vision and transform it for a 21st-century family? Furthermore, we were limited to vendors who belong to MADE: in America (a nonprofit committed to the competitiveness of American commerce and industry)—not a simple task in today’s design marketplace. Thirteen students produced seven different comprehensive re-designs for the house. The winner was Monica Mesa, an Interior Design graduate student. Here, Monica describes her proposal:

My initial design concept behind the re-imagining of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House began with exploring the architect’s interest and inspirations found in the writings of transcendentalists, most notably Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” As I continued to develop my overall re-design I concentrated on translating Wright’s perspective on “organic architecture” by detailing the home through organized spaces and an expansion of volume, both interior and exterior. Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs’ for the Usonian Home created distinctive spaces that would optimize the utility of the home and its natural surroundings.  Inspired by the spirit of American democracy my re-design of the home includes the idea of transparency through the addition of glass doors, thus blurring the boundaries between indoors and outdoors.

Monica 1

Image Courtesy of 1st Place Award Winner Monica N. Mesa,
MA Interior Design.

My concept development furthered as I continued my assessment of the balance between nature and geometry.  This study has been reinforced in my design through the introduction of newly defined spaces and geometric patterns and details, to include 2 custom furniture pieces and a custom design carpet for the family interior recreation room.  Extending the impact of an open floor plan the new kitchen now features a custom made bar, while the lines of vertical height have been re-defined through the introduction of a “sunken living room” and a newly designed outdoor patio space.

Monica 2

Image Courtesy of 1st Place Award Winner Monica N. Mesa,
MA Interior Design.

MADE: In America; All-American House exhibition at Woodlawn is open Wednesdays-Mondays, April 20 – June 16.

Visit on Saturday, May 18 at 1 pm to meet Eleanor McKay, the CEO of Niermann Weeks, one of the award-winning American furniture companies with pieces on display in the exhibit.