25th Anniversary Countdown to Christmas! Day 1

Throughout December, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Martha Stewart Living magazine, I will examine some of the most exciting highlights in this 25-year period of Martha Stewart's company: the Martha Moments that fans are especially grateful for. I hope you enjoy these reflections on twenty-five years of excellence!


In the late 1980s, during an interview with House & Gardens magazine, Martha Stewart discussed how she wanted to start a magazine: it would have an initial run of one-million copies and grow from there. She wanted to write about the subjects she enjoyed because she knew there were so many other women (and men) out there who wanted the same kind of information about how to care for a home, a garden, a family.
 Martha is shown, above, holding the very rare test issue that Time Warner Inc. made for Martha.

Using her high profile as a best-selling author (Entertaining, Gardening and Weddings) as well as her visibility through her new product line at Kmart and her PBS holiday specials, she was poised to take the magazine world by storm. And that's exactly what she did! Martha Stewart Living magazine became the seed for Martha's eponymous company. It was the cornerstone of everything she later designed and created, from her television show to her mail-order catalog, from new product lines to more books.

It wasn't a home run, however. She was rejected by every major publisher in New York City, including Conde Nast and Murdoch publishing. It was on her third try at Time Warner that someone finally sat up and took notice. Time made a test issue for Martha, under her specifications, and mailed it out to a handful of longtime female subscribers of Time's other lifestyle publications. The response rate was over 70 percent, which was an astronomical rate! What's more, 100,000 subscription orders came back from direct response mailing and advertisers were clamouring to be a part of the first issue as well. Martha Stewart Living went on to become one of the leading publications of the 1990s, winning numerous awards for design, photography and content.
This is one of the first subscription order forms that came inside the magazine.

For Martha Stewart collectors, the first issue is a must-have. They are becoming more and more rare but can still be found on eBay for a pretty penny: issues that are in good condition can cost anywhere between $70 to as high as $300.
 On the left: an early advert for Martha Stewart Living that ran in other Time Warner magazines. On the right, the first issue of the magazine was available on newsstands nationwide in November, 1990.


Will Cotton's Sugary Wonderlands

When I first saw the cover of the December issue of Martha Stewart Living, I did a double-take: "Is that Martha? Is she on some kind of a set? Wait...is it a painting?" I was almost giddy when I realized that the image was, indeed, a painted portrait. For me, the cover represents a leap of faith that the editors took - a creative and daring approach that brings home the artistic aesthetic this magazine has always aspired to. While using a painting on the cover may be a literal approach, it has never been done before at Martha Stewart Living and represents another "first" for a magazine that has always been groundbreaking. It now ranks as one of my favourite covers.
I wanted to know more about the artist who painted the cover: Will Cotton. I had actually not heard of him before but a little research revealed that he is very much renowned. He painted the cover of Katy Perry's hugely successful album Teenage Dream and is known worldwide for his paintings of confections and sugary wildernesses filled with sugarplum mountains, lollipop forests, caramel rivers and gingerbread chalets. It may all sound rather sweet and twee, but Will brings a kind of edge to the paintings that keeps them from slipping into the world of children's art. Many of the landscapes seem slightly dark. Some of the gingerbread houses appear ruined or abandoned to time behind a scrim of mist. Below is a selection of his work. His paintings make me want to step inside and explore the confectionary worlds he depicts, and maybe take a nibble or two. Click here to visit his website and see more of his work. There is also a great profile of the artist in the December issue written by Amy Conway.


Anthropologie's Holiday Windows

Working for a company like Anthropologie means being surrounded by creativity, inspiration and beauty. When I go to work every day it is like going to a fantasy land of beautiful ideas made real. This is especially true during the holiday season when the window displays and the in-store visual concepts come together to create something truly magical. For the windows this year, Anthropologie was inspired by Scandinavian towns and European night markets. To add a festive twist, the buildings were made to look like gingerbread confections, complete with piped-icing trim, gumdrop details and wafer rooftops. Below are photos of the windows at the flagship Anthropologie store at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. I hope they make you smile! Click here to watch a behind-the-scenes video of how the windows were made. Each store has a display coordinator (or team of display coordinators) who realize the vision created by head office. It's a lot of work and requires an enormous amount of talent and craft, but the results are always well worth it.
Almost everything you see in the photos above is made from cardboard and paper.
Look closely in this photo and you'll see that the backdrop is made of a mosaic of measuring cups, measuring spoons, whisks, scoops and cake tins.
A closer look at the bunt-pan flower with its peppermint-candy center.
Layer upon layer of cardboard cakes!
This is the talented team of display coordinators who made it all come to life. All photos by @epiphanyjones1 via Instagram.


Readers Share Their Thanksgiving Photos!

Martha Moments readers know how to do Thanksgiving! I'm proud of the fact that many of the people who read this blog are very talented and love to share their ideas. Inspired so much by Martha's cooking and design aesthetic, as well as her devotion to celebrating and entertaining, they make the holidays extra special by adding their own personal touches to their creations. Below are some Thanksgiving photos by Martha Moments readers that I wanted to share on the blog. They really are beautiful and they certainly inspire me! I hope they inspire you too!
Anthony Picozzi's turkey could have been (should have been?) featured in the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine.
His turkey-shaped cornbread loaves and his assortment of pies and cupcakes (below) are equally gorgeous.
I see a few Martha Stewart cake stands in this photo!
After he set the table, Anthony took some time out to enjoy a mimosa. Looks good!
One of the beautiful side dishes served by Jennifer Doherty in Michigan was this mixture of roasted carrots and parsnips with marjoram and lemon. I love how colourful it looks!
Jeffrey Reed's centerpiece of chrysanthemums arranged in a beautiful antique urn looks rustic and beautiful.
It looks like Jason Tyler had a lot of people over for dinner! I love his gorgeous centerpiece extending the entire length of the table.
Mark Waldron's centerpiece is a gorgeous assortment of treasures. I love how it looks.
Paul Collins set an adorable table for three for his charming Thanksgiving.
And the food on his plate looks mouthwatering!
Jeremy Lambertson made a delicious-looking pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting for dessert! Yum!
Bernie Wong used the new Martha Stewart Collection Jadeite-Green Glass cake stand from Macy's to display his persimmon cupcakes with maple frosting.
Alirio Pirela's pies look gorgeously rustic and so very delicious!


Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to take the opportunity to wish everyone in the United States a very Happy Thanksgiving! I also want to say thank you to all the readers who make doing this blog such a great pleasure for me. You really do inspire me everyday with your creativity and talent. Our shared love of all things Martha is what unites us and I'm always amazed by how one connection can often lead to many others, how a love for one subject can lead to a love of many. I have made many friends through this blog and have had the very good fortune of meeting Martha and many members of her team. Thankful really doesn't begin to express how I feel. Please enjoy your long weekend and all of the bounty we are so fortunate to enjoy in this part of the world. I will leave you with two photographs of Martha's home, taken yesterday, that depict her Thanksgiving table in the Brown Room at Bedford and her servery, just off the main kitchen. Beautiful! Inspiring! Martha!
For her table centerpiece this year, Martha used dried wild corn, grown on her farm, stretching the entire length of the table. (She is having 41 people over for dinner! This table is one of four!)

In the servery, Martha set up a dessert buffet. She used her plaster-cast turkeys and gourds and pumpkins from her garden as decoration. The pies look gorgeous! Photos by Kevin Sharkey.

Yesterday and the day before, Martha invited viewers into her home as she prepared her turkeys and pies for Thanksgiving. You can still watch these informative and inspiring videos, if you missed the live feed:
Click here for "Talking Turkey" 
Click here for "A Chat on Pies"


Martha's Interview in Splash

In a new interview with Splash magazine - a supplement to the Chicago Sun-Times - Martha reveals some of her time-tested tips on how to entertain for the holidays. With her new book, Appetizers, selling like bite-size hotcakes she acknowledges that entertaining has changed drastically since she released her first book on entertaining in 1982. "There’s a new casualness in people getting together,” she says. She adds that Appetizers is the perfect source for easy entertaining: “[The recipes] are pretty easy to make. You can use pre-made puff pastry if you like, and there are a lot of things you can do ahead. There are a lot of good hints for the busy, busy 2015/2016 entertaining maven.”

Martha took some time to sit down with Elle Eichinger to answer some questions the modern hostess may have about some holiday entertaining conundrums, like what to do if an invited guests brings an uninvited companion, or how to accommodate rambunctious children at a busy party. Click here to read her answers! Below are two of several photographs that appear in the story by photographer Maria Ponce. Martha looks wonderful, photographed at the Willis Tower.
Photographs by Maria Ponce for Splash


The Kitchens at Bedford

I recently sat down and counted the number of kitchens that Martha oversees at her various residences. There are 13 kitchens that I am aware of, and there are likely several more hidden away in the outbuildings and work areas of her homes. Skylands has at least three kitchens. Lily Pond Lane has two. Her Manhattan apartment has one and there are at least seven kitchens on her property in Bedford (yes, I said seven!) and probably more!

It is these kitchens - the kitchens of Cantitoe Corners - that I will post about today. In my view, these kitchens can teach us so much about streamlining the busiest room in the house and they say a lot about Martha's personal tastes. The sum of their parts and the collective lessons they impart really do deserve a book all their own: "Martha's Kitchens." Wouldn't that be a fun book to read?

Below, I've categorized the kitchens at Cantitoe Corners by abode. There are five houses on the property, as well as numerous out buildings. Each house has a kitchen (or two) and I thought it would be fun to explore some of them. I hope you enjoy this collection.

The main kitchen in Martha's 1925 farmhouse - the one she uses every day - was a new addition to the home when she purchased it in 2000. It is a large space that acts as a connective hub between the main house and her large entertaining room, known as the Brown Room, which extends from the south wall. The outdoors can be accessed through front, side and back doors and there is a lot of light from the numerous windows. Marble-topped surfaces provide durability and great looks that pair nicely with the sycamore-veneer cabinetry, stained a light grey hue. The cabinets were designed by architect Beth Weinstein and they were constructed by Bruce Bjork of Bjork Carle Woodworking in Brooklyn. The kitchen (indeed much of the house) is painted a warm shade of grey: Bedford Grey, one of Martha's signature paint colours available at the Home Depot. Martha opted for open shelving for much of the kitchen, particularly for plates, cups, glasses and serveware that is used daily. A professional cappuccino maker, shown above, is one of Martha's favourite installments.
For the center of the room, Martha designed two large kitchen islands. One is stationary and the other is set on castors. It can be wheeled anywhere in the room for additional space or prep surface but is used primarily for casual dining. The stationary island is used for food preparation and houses more shelving below for storage. The kitchen is fully equipped with professional-grade appliances and cookware: two banks of double ovens, a professional grill and gas elements, two refrigerators, two dishwashers and two deep marble sinks. This is a kitchen designed for frequent (and heavy!) use. The floor is reclaimed marble from a house she once owned in the Hamptons: a modern Gordon Bunshaft home that has since been demolished. It is cool in the summer and retains the heat in the winter, plus withstands heavy traffic from guests and pets alike.
The room is bright with windows on three sides. The windows are kept mostly unadorned. A light, opaque shade acts as a privacy screen at night and shields intense sunlight without darkening the space. Two deep apron sinks made of marble make clean-up a breeze. 
Clockwise: Martha, of course, thinks of everything. The stationary island has room to store linens and is equipped with electrical sockets for portable appliances, such as mixers. Baking pans have found a niche here too in elongated, vertical storage spaces nestled into the island. On one wall, Martha has installed what she calls "command central" - a media center with a large-screen television, stereo system and plenty of jacks and sockets for computers and phones. (She is a media mogul, after all!) An assortment of teas is neatly stacked on a marble shelf with several teapots above.
Next to the elements, grill and ovens, Martha keeps a stainless-steel caddie filled with canisters that proffer all manner of utensils: whisks, spoons, spatulas, brushes, tongs, sieves and ramekins that hold frequently-used spices. 
The kitchen connects to the formal dining room in the main house via a room called the servery. It is ostensibly a very large butler's pantry that enhances the kitchen's functionality by expanding the storage space and providing an area to plate food before it is taken into the dining room. The room is equipped with refrigerator drawers and warming ovens to keep food at an appropriate temperature before it is served. It has an extra sink and an extra dishwasher, plus plenty of storage drawers for table linens, place mats, napkins, flatware and serving dishes. Two glass cabinets hold additional glassware and dinnerware while another marble-topped island on castors in the center of the servery provides extra counter space. It is a lovely space with windows on both sides and double doors leading to the dining room.
Some of Martha's Drabware, shown in one of the custom-built glass cabinets in the servery.

Adjacent to the farmhouse is the tenant cottage, a small abode that Martha's daughter, Alexis, uses when she visits the farm with her kids. Alexis designed much of the interior space herself, including the kitchen, which continues much of the same design themes and features of the main kitchen in the farmhouse. 

This kitchen is a small space, almost like a galley. Open shelving keeps the space looking clear and bright. Soapstone is used on the counter tops and on the tabletop, which is set here for a casual Thanksgiving dinner. I love the high contrast between the light of the subway tiles and the deep black of the soapstone.
For her holiday brunch in 2012, Martha designated the Tenant House as "the Candy House" and filled the rooms with Christmas candies and confections. In the kitchen, she lined the sleek shelf above the counter with peppermint trees from Hammond Candy. In this photo the attention to detail in the finishes and fixtures is very evident.

When Martha designed the stables with architect Allan Greenberg she knew she wanted to occasionally use this space for entertaining large groups. A kitchen was essential. It is very open with high ceilings and tiled floors, designed for functionality and utility. There are several ranges and a cook top, as well as refrigerator drawers and a long galvanized sink. Much of Martha's collection of copper is stored here. The oversize shelf brackets add a lot of charm and architectural detail.

Beyond the stables, nestled in a grove of maple trees, is the Maple Avenue House, a ranch-style home that Martha uses as her primary guest house. The kitchen in this house is one of my favourites; it is bright, painted a sunny yellow, and has a unique L-shaped layout.
We can see several recurring design themes in Martha's kitchens: open shelving, sturdy flooring, stainless-steel appliances, multiple sinks, the use of soapstone and marble for countertops and sinks, and lots of light. I love the slightly Shaker-style design of this kitchen.
New cabinets mix with antique cabinetry, such as the two shown hanging on the walls to the right of the photo above. The cabinet shown beyond the doorway was re-purposed from Martha's old television studio in Connecticut; it was once used in the potting shed studio to showcase terracotta pots.
Martha keeps much of her Yellowware in this kitchen, which is an effective design decision. Notice the open cupboard door with the slide-out trays that can hold serving pieces.

On the second floor of the Maple Avenue House is a guest apartment that Martha very recently renovated. She added a kitchen here, too, using kitchen cabinetry from the Martha Stewart Living line of kitchens at The Home Depot
The kitchen design used was the Martha Stewart Living Viatera Quartz Collection at The Home Depot. This style is called "Snowcap". The upper cabinets were extended all the way to the ceiling, and finished with simple crown molding. The cabinets were also fitted with glass front doors to make them visually lighter. The upper cabinets were mounted a bit higher than standard ones - 22-inches above the countertop versus 18-inches. A long shelf was installed with corbels underneath to store frequently used items. The base cabinets are "Weston" in Timberline textured laminate. The wall cabinets are Maidstone in "Ocean Floor". The main counter features a cooktop and a sink. Tucked inside the island are two refrigerator drawers.
In front of the sink is a tilt-out drawer for sponges, nail brushes, bottle brushes, etc. This is an ingenious idea! The counters are marble.
Using a pegged board style kept dishes safe from hitting each other, and in place, until they were needed: another great design feature.

Well, those are the principle kitchens at Cantitoe Corners! I hope you found the tour insightful and interesting. There are other kitchens on the property, as well, but it was not easy to find photographs of them. (If anyone has photographs of any kitchen at Bedford that I may have missed, please send them my way.) I am sure the Summer House, for instance, is equipped with a kitchen but it has not been shown to my knowledge. The Contemporary House on the property likely has a full kitchen as well, although this is the one house on the property that Martha has not yet renovated. There is also a very small kitchen adjacent to the Flower Room, which is located in the same building that houses Martha's garages. Below, you can see Chef Pierre Schaedelin of PS Tailored Events working with his assistant in this kitchen.
As for the outbuildings, such as the large structure that houses Martha's gym, hobby room and homekeeping room, there is sure to be a kitchen or two that has so far escaped the lenses of Martha's photographers and editors. This is why we need a book about Cantitoe Corners! (Martha, if you're reading this, please do take note!)