IIn 1934, a certain Baron von Hohenschleyer took a fancy to a French rococo salon that he had spotted in a 200-year-old Bavarian castle. The baron, who lived in Washington, decided the salon was just the thing he needed in his home, and so he bought the room and imported it, piece by piece. Enhancing his home with a piece of history was not outrageously unusual at the time, since around the corner from the baron an entire 17th-century home (The Lindens) had just been imported and installed.
Decades passed, and by the time Marie Drissel and her husband moved into the baron's English- style brick town house, the once elaborate rococo room was a drab gray. The less than perfect mirrors looked shabby. In fact, Drissel and her husband actually thought about gutting the room. It was gold-leaf artisan Bill Adair who convinced the couple that the room was not only worth saving but also worth restoring -- inch by inch.
Every month the couple gave Adair a budget, and Andy Leon Harney contributes regularly to The Magazine on design. he would put as much gold onto the elaborate plaster decorations as money would allow. As the work progressed, Adair taught Marie Drissel to gild using a water-based method in lieu of the more expensive oil-based gilding that Adair had executed on the crown molding.
The room, in its restored state, is bright and cheery in daylight and magical at night. Each of the mirrors is intentionally set on an angle to catch the candlelight on the sconces on either side of the of the mirrored panels. The candlelight combines with the 150-year-old Baccarat crystal chandelier, which has permanently afffixed perfume vials at the top.
The house, says Drissel, is haunted by a friendly ghost, a young native Washingtonian who married the baron and died young. In her day, she held fabulous parties in the room. To keep up the tradition, the Drissels have opened the house up to several charities for fund -aisers and have had several properly flamboyant parties in the room. "It's a fun room," says Drissel, "but we try to keep a sense of humor about, it and not take it too seriously."