Leslie Rylee’s Coastal Maine Home

June 8, 2023

Designer Leslie Rylee holds fast to her happy place, embracing calm on the wild coast of Maine.

Text by Maria LaPiana    Photography by John Gruen    Produced by Karin Lidbeck Brent

The rocky shoreline and stormy seas off the coast of southern Maine inspired nineteenth-century American painter Winslow Homer to create some of his most compelling and unsentimental works.

It’s in Maine that designer Leslie Rylee feels most at peace—especially from the screened porch of her summer home.

Rylee has been visiting the same stretch of coast since she was in her teens (she, her sister, and their mother actually summered in Homer’s cottage at one point). Her future Shingle-style vacation home, built circa 1920 at the ocean’s edge, caught her eye years before it came on the market.

Rylee closed on the house in September 2018 and set to renovating it the very next day. The most substantial structural change she made was moving the staircase from the middle of the living room to the back of the house. “It changed everything,” says Rylee. The relocation created a wide-open space—with nothing in the way of the light or water view. New French doors maximized both. “The move changed the way air flows through the house, too,” she says. “It’s nice and breezy now.”

The beach just steps away from its door, the seven-bedroom house is welcoming, brimming with wicker and rattan and awash in shades of sea and sky. It’s filled with antiques and works by Maine artists—including plenty of seascapes. Both elements complement Rylee’s own custom designs, like the living room’s immense striped rug with its Greek key border. Rylee had it woven on a special loom in a factory in India run by women.

With its two distinct sitting areas, the living room is the heart of the home, where friends and family, including Rylee’s two daughters and two dogs, gather on the weekends, in the summer, and whenever Rylee can get away from her New York City home and design studio. (Just as the coast inspired Homer to create, the three women enjoy painting in watercolors when they stay at the house.) The screened porch is another favorite gathering spot, as is the formal dining room, studded with pops of red, where “big dining room dinners” take place at every opportunity.

Rylee sums up her overarching design for the house in four words: “bright, comfortable, durable, and blues.” (Lots of blues.) What was it like to furnish a storied home? “It was easy because it has a great, logical, functional floor plan,” she says. Even as she took pains to honor the home’s architectural integrity, there was one “controversial choice” she had to make. “All the wood in the entire downstairs was unpainted, and my biggest internal conflict was whether to leave it that way or not,” she recalls. “In the end, I wanted my family to have a light, bright house. So, I painted it white.”

Five years in, Rylee says she wouldn’t change a thing. “I love, love, love this house,” she says. “I love to have it full of my kids and their friends, all spilling out onto the beach. Some of the happiest days of my life are spent here.”

Project Team
Interior design: Leslie Rylee Decorative Arts and Interiors
Builder: Eider Construction

Find A Resource

Search from hundreds of home services, products, destinations, and real estate opportunities.

View All Resources