Meg Ryan’s Rustic Martha’s Vineyard Retreat

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This story originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of ELLE DECOR. For more stories from our archives, subscribe at ELLE DECOR All Access.


With her tousled blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes and megawatt smile, Meg Ryan has carved out an on-screen persona as a slimy-headed woman whose heat can melt an iceberg. Imagine Ryan at home and one would expect to find her surrounded by bright colors and cheerful patterns.

But Ryan has a more serious side, which is evident the moment you walk into his Martha’s Vineyard home. The house is one of many she has lived and furnished in since early adulthood, as her acting career has taken her from place to place. “I feel like I’ve been renovating houses all my life,” she says. “I’ve renovated apartments, lofts, a log cabin in Montana, tons and tons of places. I am constantly tearing pages from magazines in search of inspiration. I found ideas everywhere, from a friend’s kitchen to a hotel lobby.

The actor at home.

Guillaume Waldron

Several years ago, Ryan was looking for a haven where she could spend time with her two children. Originally from Connecticut, Ryan is drawn to the seaside communities of the North Atlantic. “The light in this part of the country is the most beautiful light there is,” she says.

While visiting Martha’s Vineyard, Ryan fell in love with a large cedar-shingle house on a seven-acre property. “It’s absolutely beautiful, just opera,” she says. “It is located on a small hill and surrounded by water. The sun rises over a shallow bay to one side. And then the moon rises over the bay.

dining room with high ceilings and dark floors and a white table with white upholstered chairs at the table and the word flowers in large letters above the door

The dining room pendant lights are by O’Lampia Studio, the armchairs are upholstered in Summer Hill fabric and the metal sign is vintage.

Guillaume Waldron

But while the setting was perfect, the house itself was far from ideal. The post-and-beam house had been built over a decade earlier in England, where the pieces had been broken down into a jigsaw-like kit and barged across the ocean to be reassembled on site. Ryan appreciated the craftsmanship of the house but felt the structure was unfinished. It was as cavernous as a barn, with its beams and rafters fully exposed. “It’s a solid thing that survived the northeast,” Ryan says. “But post and beam design is all about seeing the skeleton of the house. I needed walls – I had to come and add the skin.

Ryan decorated the place with the help of Marsha Russell from Satinwood, an interior design firm based in Bedford, New York. “Meg wanted someone to give her ideas and find things for her,” says Russell. “But she is the visionary of this project. She has a wonderful aesthetic and a terrific eye.

Visit Meg Ryan’s Quiet Island Retreat

entrance hall with dark wood flooring and a round pedestal table in the center with flowers on it

Ryan says his goal was counterintuitive: to add to the structure of the house with the ultimate goal of simplifying the space. With Russell’s help, she cut the massive interior into discrete pieces, separating the kitchen from the great room and the bedroom bath. She created a series of cozy spaces, including a breakfast nook, a computer room and an upstairs playroom for the kids. “It’s funny,” Ryan says, “Usually I walk 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 over there.’ Room dividers consist of glass doors, steel-framed casement windows, and walls with inset windows or transoms, so every room has a great view.

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 equally understated, a mix of industrial and vintage lighting, hand-hewn wooden furniture, and sofas and armchairs upholstered in pale linen. “I like what you might call brutal elegance,” says Ryan, “where form and function are really evident. There is nothing easy to break in this house.

white bedrooms with peaked ceilings and a bed with a purple blanket and a heavy dark chest of drawers at the foot

The Marsha Russell-designed bed and chest are by Herrick & White, the linens are vintage, and the sconce is by O’Lampia Studio.

Guillaume Waldron

But Ryan being Ryan, all is not calm with her. Her sense of whimsy is evident in several quirky touches, including the large vintage metal FLOWERS sign hanging above the dining table. “There were birds nests inside when I got it,” Ryan says. “My friends keep joking that I have to add the numbers ‘1-800’ in front.” Ryan put the metal numbers on the room doors, hotel style, so his frequent guests could easily identify their rooms. “I tell them, ‘You’re in 2 this time, and you’re in 4.'”

Like his character in When Harry Met Sally, when Ryan is enthusiastic, she doesn’t hold back. One day, Russell visited an antique shop and discovered a set of industrial pieces, which she envisioned as corkscrews fitted with Edison bulbs that could hang above the soapstone sink in the master bathroom. . She took a picture with her iPhone and emailed it to Ryan. The Sally-style response came back quickly, unrestrained. “Yes!” said Ryan. “Yes yes!”

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