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FROM THE ARCHIVE: MEG RYAN’S RUSTIC MARTHA’S VINEYARD RETREAT / ELLE DECOR / By INGRID ABRAMOVITCH

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FROM THE ARCHIVE: MEG RYAN’S RUSTIC MARTHA’S VINEYARD RETREAT / ELLE DECOR / By INGRID ABRAMOVITCH


With her tousled blond hair, twinkly blue eyes, and megawatt smile, Meg Ryan has forged an onscreen persona as the screwball leading lady whose warmth can melt an iceberg. Picture Ryan at home and one might expect to find her surrounded by bright colors and perky patterns.
But Ryan has a more serious side, which is evident the moment one steps into her Martha’s Vineyard home. The house is one of many she has lived in and furnished since early adulthood, as her acting career has taken her from place to place.
“I feel like I’ve been renovating houses my whole life,” she says, “I’ve renovated apartments, lofts, a log cabin in Montana—just tons and tons of places. I’m constantly ripping pages out of magazines in search of inspiration. I’ve found ideas everywhere, from a friend’s kitchen to a hotel lobby.”

meg ryan

Several years ago, Ryan was looking for a refuge where she could spend time with her two children. A Connecticut native, Ryan is drawn to seaside communities along the northern Atlantic. “The light in that part of the country is the most beautiful light ever,” she says.
On a visit to Martha’s Vineyard, Ryan fell in love with a large cedar-shingled house on a seven-acre property. “It’s absolutely beautiful, just operatic,” she says. “It’s situated on a small rise and surrounded by water. The sun rises over a shallow bay on one side. And then the moon comes up over the bay.”

dining room

The dining area’s pendant lights are by O’Lampia Studio, the armchairs are slip-covered in Summer Hill fabric, and the metal sign is vintage.
But if the setting was perfect, the house itself was less than ideal. The post-and-beam home had been built more than a decade earlier in England, where the parts were collapsed into a puzzlelike kit and barged across the ocean to be reassembled on-site.
Ryan appreciated the craftsmanship of the house but felt that the structure was unfinished. It was as cavernous as a barn, with its beams and rafters fully exposed.
“It’s a sturdy thing that has survived nor’easters,” Ryan says. “But post-and-beam design is about seeing the skeleton of the house. I needed walls—I had to come in and add the skin.”
Ryan decorated the place with help from Marsha Russell of Satinwood, an interior design firm based in Bedford, New York. “Meg wanted someone to bounce ideas off and to find things for her,” Russell says. “But she’s the visionary on this project. She has a wonderful aesthetic and a great eye.”
TOUR MEG RYAN’S TRANQUIL ISLAND RETREA
Ryan says her goal was counterintuitive: to add to the structure of the house with the ultimate goal of simplifying the space. With Russell’s help, she carved the massive interior into discrete rooms, separating the kitchen from the great room and the bath from the bedroom.
She created a series of cozy areas, including a breakfast nook, a computer room, and an upstairs playroom for the children. “It’s funny,” Ryan says, “Usually, I go into a space and say, ‘What’s that wall doing there? Let’s take it out.’ This time I said, ‘Let’s put a wall there.’” The separations consist of glass doors, steel-framed casement windows, and walls with inset windows or transoms, so every room has glorious views.
When Ryan moved in, the decor was dark and drab, with orange-brown wood and a red ceiling and walls. She covered every surface with one of several different shades of Farrow & Ball paint.
The interior design is similarly understated, a mixture of industrial and vintage lighting, hand-hewn wood furniture, and sofas and armchairs slipcovered in pale linen. “I love what you might call brutal elegance,” Ryan says, “where form and function are really obvious. There is nothing easily broken in this house.”

bedroom

The Marsha Russell-designed bed and trunk are by Herrick & White, the linens are vintage, and the sconce is by O’Lampia Studio.
But Ryan being Ryan, not everything in her home is sedate. Her sense of whimsy shows up in several offbeat touches, including the large vintage metal FLOWERS sign that hangs above the dining table. “There were bird nests inside when I got it,” Ryan says.
“My friends keep joking that I need to add numbers ‘1-800’ in front of it.” Ryan put the metal numerals on the bedroom doors, hotel style, so that her frequent houseguest could easily identify their rooms. “I tell them, ‘You’re in 2 this time, and you guys are in 4.’”
Like her character in When Harry Met Sally, when Ryan is enthusiastic, she doesn’t hold back. One day, Russell visited an antiques dealer and discovered a set of industrial parts, which she envisioned as corkscrew lights fitted with Edison bulbs that could hang over the soapstone sink in the master bathroom. She snapped a picture with her iPhone and emailed it to Ryan. The Sally-style response came back quickly, with no holds barred. “Yes!” Ryan said. “Yes! Yes!”
INGRID ABRAMOVITCHEXECUTIVE EDITOR, ELLE DECOR
Ingrid Abramovitch, the Executive Editor at ELLE Decor, writes about design, architecture, renovation, and lifestyle, and is the author of several books on design including Restoring a House in the City.
FROM THE ARCHIVE: MEG RYAN’S RUSTIC MARTHA’S VINEYARD RETREAT / ELLE DECOR / By INGRID ABRAMOVITCH

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