Tipping the Scales

“Design changes people’s lives,” say Maria Viola, principal of the award-winning Viola Interior Design firm. “It creates an interior space that you are glad you’re coming home to everyday. It gives you peace and organization.”

Viola’s clients feel a certain sense of peace that she’s designing spaces they are going to love not just on day one but for decades to come. Her eye for scale and proportion, and innate ability to gracefully balance traditional and modern styles make her a highly sought-after interior designer throughout the greater Philadelphia area. 

When a young couple approached her to design their new home in Bryn Mawr, Viola appreciated their long-range view of interior design. Her clients’ first priority was the living room and foyer, but they weren’t just thinking about their immediate needs for these spaces.  

“Since they were recently married, they knew they would have a growing family and that the family room was going to be for everyday use. They needed an additional space that was more sophisticated and special,” Viola explains. The goal was to create an inviting and elegant living room so they wouldn’t have to rely on the family room for entertaining guests.

Viola and her clients approached the project with three words in mind: “classic, stylish and current.” Her clients liked traditional lines, but didn’t want the living room to be fussy or “old world” traditional with dark woods and tasseled fabrics.

One of the biggest challenges was the set of large windows flanking both sides of the room. The windows were different sizes and not centered within the walls, and Viola knew she’d have to address this asymmetry in her design using a thoughtful furniture layout and window treatments. 

Furniture selections beautifully relate to the existing architecture of the older main line home, but in a fresh and current color palette. It’s this balance between historical references and new ways of thinking that inspires Viola’s work. Viola holds a Master’s degree in Interior Architecture and Design from Drexel University, and she also teaches at the University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. This helps her remain grounded in academia and design history, but alive to new trends.

Viola also looked for a lighter and ‘fresher’ twist on a traditional rug for the living room. She found exactly what she was looking for at Beatrice and Martin in the Philadelphia Designer Center. “Once I saw this rug, I knew it was the one,” she recalls. “It met all of the design requirements - good quality, all wool and hand-knotted. 

Finding the right lighting for the space proved to be more of a challenge. “The table lamps actually became one of the more challenging aspects of the room design. Since we wanted to create this serene, elegant space, I didn’t want lamps that were screaming for attention, yet they needed to be special,” Viola recalls. She considered lamps in muted colors pulled from the rug’s palette, but they detracted from neutral upholstery. She also played with scale, but diminutive lamps seemed to disappear in the space. She ultimately landed on the perfect artistic and shapely table lamps that are larger in scale. “We love the way they turned out!” says Viola. 

She also played with a mix of materials and finishes in the space. In fact, Viola explains that “in order for a space to look cultivated, there has to be a mix of different textures, tones and finishes. Otherwise a room has the potential to look sterile or devoid of any creativity and unique attributes.” Her clients welcomed Viola’s introduction of unique elements, such as patterns, metals, and saturated pops of color. These distinctive touches elevate the design and kept it from being too safe. 

For Viola, a project isn’t a success unless her clients feel comfortable using the space. “We create homes that our clients want to be in, that they enjoy being in,” she says. In Bryn Mawr, her clients are enjoying their elegant and serene living room to host family and friends. It’s a warm, inviting space that looks as beautiful as it functions. Success, indeed.



Katie Groves