6.14.2006

Martha's Manhattan Flat

Martha purchased her Fifth Avenue pied-à-terre in the early 1990s as a city dwelling for those nights when she needed to be closer to her business.

The one-bedroom flat is small in comparison to her larger homes in upstate New York, and Skylands in Maine. The apartment is located in an early 20th Century building and features 15-foot-high ceilings and a beautiful view of Central Park from the living room.

The apartment is decorated in a minimalist, 1940s modernist style with elements of Art Deco and an eclectic mix of international accessories, like a French Cuban pedestal dining table and 1940s tubular metal chairs. Sleek furniture, tall floor lamps, marble floors and built-in work spaces create a tight and well-considered space, maximizing storage and maintaining an airy feeling in tight quarters.

The kitchen was refitted by a New York based company called Duralab, which makes metal laboratory furniture. The cabinets stretch from floor to the ceiling and are made of a metal ply of nickel, steel and lead with baked-on epoxy paint, making them resistant to corrosion and very easy to clean. The base metal is ‘ni-tern’ grade, which is used for automobile gas tanks, making them extremely strong and durable. The cabinets can hold 200 pounds per square foot - ideal for heavy, compact storage.

The finished cabinets in what Martha calls her “galley alley” shimmer in daylight, radiating a soft, pewter-like glow, proving that functionality doesn’t have to mean compromising looks. Stainless steel appliances and restoration glass fronts on all the upper cabinets complete the look and create a surface that is easy to clean and maintain.


A French Cuban pedestal dining table is set with silver. Note the tubular metal chairs, circa 1940.
The walls of Martha’s apartment are finished in Swedish putty, a smooth stone-like substance that plays nicely against the furnishings, including a 1940s limed oak screen, a nickel-plated radiator grill, a Warren McArthur armchair and a hand-painted silk and crystal bead light fixture – a reproduction of one that Mario Fortuny designed in his palazzo in Venice. Martha’s favourite winter flower, the amaryllis, echoes the skyscrapers in the view beyond.


Martha is known to spend occasional evenings and weekends here but also lends the apartment to family and friends.

6.07.2006

Skylands

Martha has called her home on Mount Desert Island in Maine her favourite spot. High atop Ox Hill, 384 feet above sea level, the former house of Edsel and Eleanor Ford features sweeping views of Seal Harbor, 63 acres of wooded land and easy access to Acadia National Park, where Martha is known to go hiking each summer.

Martha purchased the home after a cocktail party she attended here in 1997, thrown by Mrs. Edward Leede, the second owner of the home after the Fords sold it. Martha fell in love with the property instantly. When she discovered that Leede was looking to sell her home, Martha stepped in to sign the check.

The 35,000 square-foot house was designed in 1925 by New York architect Duncan Candler, who also designed public buildings in Manhattan and several residences for the Rockefellers. The rectilinear floorplan of the home is in direct contrast to the curvaceous and wild landscape surrounding the property but in keeping with the ‘rusticated’ motif that was popular for summer residence design at the time.

Made entirely of pink granite, most of it quarried on site, the 12-bedroom, 3-storey home was designed in an Italian revival style, borrowing heavily from the beaux-arts, prairie designs of summer houses on the island that were built in the late 1800s: formal gathering rooms, expansive kitchens, a vast laundry facility, lavish bedroom suites and multi-paned leaded-glass windows that open widely to the outdoors. Skylands features large patios, terraces and pergolas, where Martha grows kiwi vines, displays palms and ferns and encourages moss growth.

The outbuildings on the property include a guest cottage, a play house with an indoor squash court, mechanics' garage, greenhouse, stable and a 200-seat Catholic church. Martha has found numerous treasures stowed away in some of the old storage rooms, including Tiffany silverware. She discussed some of her findings in an interview with the UK Financial Times: "I bought the house fully furnished, with everything from the original light fittings to Mrs. Ford's Danish and French china, including a large service of highly collectable Orange Fitzhugh. The air-conditioned wine cellar was fully stocked with a collection of 1982 Bordeaux."

The landscape at Skylands is very hilly and rocky, with large swaths of moss under tall hemlocks, white pines and Douglas firs. Danish landscape architect and city planner Jens Jensen, who adhered to a prairie ideal of open spaces and natural plantings, designed a free-form space of pine-needle covered pathways through the woods, reflecting pools, moss gardens and a communal sitting circle in the forest where guests could gather around a fire and talk.

"I love to bring guests," she says. "This is an ideal home for entertaining. In fact it's my ideal kind of house - spacious and quiet."
Each fall Martha adheres to the plans Jens Jensen set forth for the owners of the property; she and her staff gather up the pine needles from the pathways and use an antique rotational mechanism designed to filter out flotsam and jetsam from the piles of needles (leaves, bark, acorns and seed pods from deciduous trees) leaving only a pristine collection of golden needles.

Similarly, the crushed pink granite on the roads of Skylands is collected before winter, professionally washed, to free it of mud and grit, and stored until the following spring.

Skylands has ample waterfront, which is accessible by road from the main house. It is where Martha keeps her yacht, the Skylands II – a Hinckley designed wooden picnic boat.

The home has been the focus of many gardening and decorating articles in Martha Stewart Living magazine and there is a collection of Martha Stewart Signature furniture designed around the aesthetics of the home’s décor.

The Great Hall at Skylands features a large fireplace, views of the Atlantic and a table, 9 feet in diameter, which holds a collection of antique books about Maine and Mt. Desert Island. The sofas and stools are upholstered in fine wool damask.
Luxurious details in one of the twelve bedrooms.
A table set for a party with faux-bois planters down the center of the table planted with native woodland mosses. The kitchen at Skylands is a wonderful, casual space.
Rustic stone steps connect meandering pathways on the property.
A pink palette for the Georgian-style guest house echoes the colours of the oceanic sunsets and makes subtle reference to the prolific pink granite on the property. A pair of glazed terra-cotta sphinxes designed by Emile Muller found a home on the Skylands terrace after years in storage. Martha keeps other outdoor sculptures on the property as well, including a 1935 bronze of a reclining woman called La Riviere, by French artist Aristide Maillol. Skylands as it appeared in the 1920s.

6.03.2006

Lily Pond Lane: A History

Perhaps Martha Stewart's second most famous home is the one on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton on New York's Long Island. She bought the home in 1990 after her divorce from Andy Stewart.

Featured in many issues of her magazines and in her books, Lily Pond Lane, like Turkey Hill, was the inspiration and laboratory for many of Martha's business ventures, such as a line of paint colours and furniture with Bernhardt called Martha Stewart Signature.

The three-story house sits on just one acre of land, giving Martha a somewhat restricted parcel when compared to the hundreds of acres she owns elsewhere. Martha completely redesigned the landscape of the property and divided the plot into new outdoor rooms, separated by arbors, hedges, pathways and flower borders.

Built in 1873, the house once belonged to one of East Hampton's most memorable preachers, Reverand Talmage. It stands on the site that used to be called "Divinity Hill" for the many ministers from New York and Brooklyn who stayed at its boarding houses. Old-timers still call Lily Pond the DeWitt Talmage House, named after a longtime summer resident who commissioned extensive renovations to the home in 1893. (Talmage's fiery sermons in the town reportedly attracted as many as 3,000 parishioners on an average Sunday!)

Martha first fell in love with the Hamptons in the early '60s when she would vacation there with her husband. One of her favourite streets in the area, even then, was Lily Pond Lane, known for its stately breadth and the rows of majestic beech trees that line the street, as well as towering London plane trees and elms:

"I was attracted to its quiet, serene appearance, and though most of the houses were tucked behind privet barriers, some of the gardens were fully exposed. The most wonderful one was on the pond itself. It was breathtaking. I stood and gazed at the profuse and colourful flowers, making mental notes of the types that were blooming so perfectly - dahlias, salvias, asters, daisies and roses."

Thirty years later, Martha had her own home on this lovely street.

Martha has completed an extensive renovation of the shingle-style summer home, which had been badly neglected. She has grown sumptuous gardens of climbing roses around her front porch and big patches of purple hydrangeas. There are over 1,800 tulip bulbs planted on this relatively small lot. The interior features large, open rooms with hardwood floors and big, bright windows. The six bedrooms play host to numerous guests in the summer who have only a few minutes to walk to the local beach. Martha's neighbors here include Billy Joel, Steven Spielberg and Calvin Klein.
The dining room overlooks the back gardens.
Martha's collection of McCoy pottery is elegantly displayed on floating shelves in the dining area of the kitchen.
Gleaming hardwood floors and classical architectural details add a sense of formality to this parlour.