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ASID Industry Partner

September 2008


FEATURES

Raise The Roof
By Eleanora Kennedy
Photographs by Tom McWilliam

A PAIR OF BARNS FROM THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE TRANSPLANTED TO THE EAST END EXUDE HAMPTONS SPIRIT

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The summer Carol Ryan and Ed Victor met, Ryan was renting a converted barn on Bridge Lane in Bridgehampton. A few years later, after they were married and living in London, they decided they needed a home base in their native land. Ryan and Victor knew that barns were perfect for summer living and that English barns transplanted to Long Island would connect the transatlantic lives they led. The buildings are open, airy and informal, allowing for flexible, spacious living—the way summers should be lived.

It was also natural for them to want their barn to be in Bridgehampton. When they were introduced to architect David Howard, he mentioned he was the U.S. sales representative for an English company that held options on several old English barns; they were a perfect match. Victor and Ryan fell in love with the first barn they saw, on Holt Lodge Farm in Kintbury, Berkshire, England, and bought it on the spot. A few years later they acquired the second barn, which was converted into their master bedroom suite.

Both barns had been built in England in the mid 17th century, coincidentally at the same time Bridgehampton was being settled by the English. They are constructed of hand-hewn black oak timbers, many of which had past lives as ship beams. Some of the supporting beams even weigh 700 pounds. The barns were meticulously measured, drawn and labeled with numbered steel staples, then disassembled, fumigated, reassembled to establish their structural soundness, and finally disassembled and shipped via sea container to John Falkowski, the Bridgehampton builder. He received the first barn in the autumn of 1981.

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While all this was happening, Victor was busy running his successful London literary agency, Ed Victor, Ltd. (Victor's recent New York Times best sellers include Tina Brown's Diana Chronicles, Eric Clapton's autobiography and Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell) and Ryan was practicing entertainment law. She sent sketches via fax of how the barn should be built and situated on the property. Basically, though, they left Falkowski alone to continue his work.

Their faith was well placed. On June 10, 1982, their second wedding anniversary, they were able to move in. In the ensuing 26 years, there have been many additions and refinements, most notably, the erection of a second barn (hence the name of their summer home—"Two Barns"), a swimming pool, a tennis court and additional landscaping. The gardens are an homage to the famous White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle; Victor and Ryan were tenants at the property's South Cottage for many years.

From September to June, they live in London, making frequent trips throughout Europe and back to their native locales, New York and Los Angeles. But they, along with their sons, Ivan, Adam and Ryan, spend their summers at Two Barns, "living in a work of art," Victor says.

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For the couple's friends and family, summer begins at their annual Fourth of July party. Guests hailing from diverse creative fields, areas of society and finance gather to join Victor and Ryan in celebrating what many consider the true beginning of summer. The welcoming congeniality of Two Barns promotes games of tennis, golf (nearby), movies, barbequed meals and outdoor parties all season long.

Victor credits Ryan for the relaxed atmosphere and understated decor. "There were really two architects at work on Two Barns: David Howard and Carol Ryan," Victor says. "All of the exquisite details and touches were her inspiration. Maybe she missed her calling and should have been an architect rather than a lawyer," he continues.

Carol, on the other hand, credits the barns. "It was an exercise in restraint," she says. "The barns are the statement, so I wanted all the elements to be neutral—beige, white-and simple: the airy central living space, high windows and doors, the white stuccoed walls, the grandeur from the huge beams and cathedral ceiling." The furniture is extremely comfortable (oversized sofas in white canvas adorn the great room), and there is no clutter. As Ryan admires the wood in the structures, she muses, "It is indestructible and timeless."

The Lutyens-inspired casement windows and doors allow a spectacular flow of light to enter from all sides, reflecting on the pale bleached-wood floors. It continues dancing on the hand-hewn beams that soar skyward. At night a giant candelabra gives a totally different, but equally stunning, look.

Perched on the vine-covered, decked veranda on this ridge in Bridgehampton, surrounded by pine trees, blueberry bushes and mountain laurel, Ryan cannot help but reflect: "The compound has grown and been added on to over the years. Everything was built seriatim, but the entire experiment was happy and easy."

Victor and Ryan are power brokers with a passion for music, four-star cooking and good conversation—an attractive couple in all ways—who revere history, family, friends, each other and living in this work of art. They are also a true Hamptons classic.

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