Pamela Ryder Creates A Horse Country Haven

pamela ryder
Tall wooden-louvered windows and white painted floors create a sense of serenity in the master bedroom.

Text: Marion Laffey Fox
Photography: Gordon Beall

Among the rolling hills of Virginia’s northern landscape, D.C. designer Pamela Ryder creates her ultimate country escape with a bit of European charm.

There’s little doubt that designer Pamela Ryder and husband Bradford are unabashedly in love with Atoca Run, their weekend place in Virginia’s horse country. “It’s a pretty unique spot,” Pamela says. “There are 600 acres on one side of the property and around 100 on the other, so we see lots of wildlife—foxes, herds of deer, and glorious birds.”

In contrast to the vast estates that typically dominate the rolling landscape, the D.C. designer describes the 35-acre property of fields, gardens, and streams as “manageable and quite wonderful, especially on any given Saturday during fox-hunting season when 100 horses gallop through.” Acquiring their little slice of paradise happened quickly in 2005 when the Ryders were given a take-it-or-leave-it opportunity. “We bought it in two weeks, but it was a leap of faith,” says Pamela.

“My husband was not super set on the decision. Now he loves it and is an active part of the equestrian community.”

The original house was small but had great possibilities, says Pamela, and she was eager to put her own imprint on it. Within a few months, the designer partnered with Gretchen Yahn of Castlerock Enterprises, Inc., to address landscaping, lifestyle, and entertaining issues. They began by refreshing the 200-year-old log cabin midsection of the house and then adding a library, another bathroom, and concealed storage areas.

The log cabin, which is the heart of the house, was totally refreshed in the makeover. A custom-hooked wool rug sets the tone for 
the space, while a sofa covered in herringbone camel linen sits beneath a 12-foot-wide panel of antique French wallpaper.

The result of the ambitious year-and-a-half project is a creamy two-story stucco farmhouse full of European charm with its zinc metal roof, stacked chimneys, and tall French doors flanked by black-green custom shutters. One outdoor terrace overlooks a special boxwood garden, while another stretches across the back of the house and offers what Pamela refers to as a forever view.

Inside, airy spaces take cues from nature with grasscloth walls above white painted floors. And although rooms are furnished with antiques of every genre, a complete lack of pretentiousness underscores Pamela’s chic and sophisticated approach. “I like to think of it as a nod to a bit of modernism that is classic but transitional,” says the designer. “Even though the house is filled with collections, it conveys a fresh, young look.”

Giving credit for her signature style to a 10-year stint with the French company Pierre Deux, Pamela admits to being the “ultimate shopper” and has acquired many of her beloved items during worldwide travels. “Each one is a treasure and has a purpose,” she says.

“So the house is stocked with the best linens, tableware, and anything else we need for guests, tailgates, and after-race parties.” The result is the perfect turn-key weekend getaway within the rare beauty of Northern Virginia. Says Pamela, “It encourages me to exhale and relax the moment we arrive, and then I never want to leave.”

The guest room enjoys views of the rolling landscape from its corner perch. The Greyhound painting is an old sign from an English pub.


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