Talking Shop with Apartment Therapy Founder Maxwell Ryan

Maxwell Ryan
Maxwell Ryan

A pioneer in the interior design blogosphere, CEO and founder of Apartment Therapy Maxwell Ryan is a maven when it comes to all things design. He founded Apartment Therapy in April 2004 to help readers create organized, beautiful and healthy homes, posting about the latest home design trends, DIY projects and tips for making the most of small spaces. The East Hampton resident discusses his background, design pet peeves and Hamptons style.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

My first love was as an artist, but I became disillusioned with the shallowness of decorating and went back to school to become a teacher. Over the next seven years I taught elementary school and came to have a deep understanding and respect for the power environments have on children and adults. Putting this learning together with my love of design, I began Apartment Therapy with an almost pedagogical understanding of space and a desire to teach people how to make good spaces, not just decorate. Along the way, I learned all about the furniture business and have developed an expertise in decorating basics as well.

What are the first things you notice in a home?

Lighting. Lighting is everything and every room should have three points of light as a starting point to assure that its warmly lit.  After that, I find floors are really important and strong indicators of a person’s relationship to the space.

What’s a design pet peeve of yours?

Most homes I visit are under-lit. Windows really need to be finished. They are big holes in your walls and a bit of a devastation to a room and should be softened and cared for by finishing them with curtains, shades or both.

Any favorite design details?

I love a beautiful window and windowsill. Windows with window seats or just nice big frames that allow you to place objects and books in the light.

What are some of the most memorable home amenities you’ve seen?

Two dishwashers and two refrigerators! I love when people overkill a problem and take care of it that way.

What about Hamptons architecture/design do you find particularly appealing?

I love the shingled homes. The old ones particularly, not the new McMansions. Beyond that, I’m loving some of the newer modern houses that use the shingled style in a sort of Japanese way. They have a lovely handmade quality but with modern lines.

How does designing for an East End home compare to a New York City apartment?

The Hamptons are all beach houses. They are all country retreats that want to be open, airy, more minimal and simple so that they don’t require as much maintenance. That’s the key: a comfortable, relaxing environment where you can be more in touch with the elements. City homes are indoor havens with thick walls. They are inward experiences and want to carry a lot more emotion and, yes, belongings.

For people in the Hamptons looking to give their home a “mini face lift,” do you have any tips?

Throw out 50% of your stuff, paint the walls China White (not white white), and put nice soft headboards in every room.

What brands and stores should people checkout if they’re decorating their Hamptons home?

Restoration Hardware does a great job with a lot of relaxed basic furniture, Sylvester has tons of style, and BoBo Intriguing Objects is an awesome source for rustic, chic handmade furnishings to spice it up.

What’s an ideal day in the Hamptons for you?

Taking breakfast down to the beach with my daughter and collecting driftwood for making boats, more coffee and reading the paper in the sunny window, out into the yard until lunch working on a project, lunch outdoors with a little rosé, quiet time for one hour, back outdoors to play with my daughter or go fishing at the bay, back for dinner prep and a lovely meal with friends.

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