Martha completely reworked the home she purchased in 2000, especially the 1925 farmhouse, which she calls The Winter House. The house originally faced Girdle Ridge Road but Martha, in her renovation with famed architect Allan Greenberg, turned the house the other way so that the front faces the sprawling acreage of the property, the stables and the gardens. Martha also built a 4,000 square-foot addition to the home, which included a large kitchen connected to the main house by a servery, and a large multi-purpose Great Room for entertaining - formerly a garage for tractors. She built a series of new garages and car ports adjacent to the kitchen and not far away converted a barn into a work building that now contains a large studio and a room for her many projects (the homekeeping room) with a gym on the second floor.
The property has five residential structures in total, including the Winter House (the main residence), a Colonial house (the Summer House) which is adjacent to the Winter House, a cottage, which is where Alexis stays when she is visiting, a modern house much deeper on the property, which has yet to be touched by Martha's designers, and a guest house on the Maple Avenue side of the property. There are also staff quarters and multiple storage barns.
I've broken down some of the various areas of Martha's Cantitoe home into sections and briefly discuss some of the chapters in the evolution of the interior design.
The workspaces in Martha's Bedford home are defined by cool palettes and streamlined functionality. They are minimally designed to be spare, light and conducive to working.
Martha's basement is a clean and organized space, which serves multiple purposes. It contains the laundry room, shown above, two large areas for storage, a wine cellar, a bathroom and a gift wrapping room. Martha pairs industrial-grade accessories, such as professional laundry baskets on castors (shown above) with softer elements like wicker baskets and wooden tables in the laundry room. The laundry's floor is covered in small mosaic tiles. Elsewhere, the floors are made of buffed concrete. Large baking racks hold Martha's extensive collections of dishware, such as her jadeite and Wedgwood.
Nonskid plastic shelf liners on the slatted aluminum storage shelves keep breakables from sliding around.
Rolling baking racks create mobile storage and hold large bins filled with supplies. Custom wooden cases house screens and storm windows for seasonal storage. A smooth concrete floor instead of the tiling employed elsewhere in the basement makes it easy to roll heavy, wheeled racks. As an added precaution against flooding extra dining chairs and other furnishings are kept on raised aluminum racks, keeping them away from any dampness.
Cleaning supplies look tidier and are more convenient to use when they are decanted into sturdy containers for easy pouring. Here they are kept on a rolling cart, which can be easily moved around the laundry room as chores are done.
In a household as busy as Martha's, oversize laundry equipment makes sense. A large ironing table was custom built to accommodate Martha's height. A standing bench is for shorter individuals, such as her housekeepers. The table is wide enough to iron tablecloths and sheets.
This is Martha's wrapping station, where she wraps gifts and packages items for shipping. Martha found this vintage shelf at an antiques shop and left it in its charming, if slightly worn, condition. A set of slim metal cafe-curtain rods, attached to wooden shelf brackets, holds a colorful assortment of ribbons and twines. The rods are removable, so spools can be easily replaced. Oversize rolls of paper, such as butcher paper, can be found at kitchen- and shipping-supply stores. This one is positioned at the end of another stainless steel work table, where it can be unfurled quickly to cover boxes. Long, shallow drawers are terrific for sorting and storing large sheets of colored tissue and other fine papers - no worries about wrinkling.
CRAFT ROOMWay up on the third-floor of the house is Martha's craft room, accessible by a narrow staircase leading up from the second floor. It is fully outfitted with all of the crafting essentials, including several sewing machines, a computer and professional printer and custom-made wooden storage units painted Martha's favourite colour to house ribbons, papers and tools.
Slice-and-fit acrylic dividers keep scissors and other small tools in order. A graduated spice rack organizes her many jars of glitter.
Fabric covered boxes contain a variety of scrapbook papers. Martha stores the boxes in a row on a bookshelf below a large work table that is lined with a tailored cutting mat.
The kitchen was a new addition to the home. Its enormous, rectilinear size means Martha can concoct any sort of culinary vision she imagines with ease and simplicity. The kitchen is fully equipped with professional-grade appliances and cookware: double ovens, a professional cappuccino maker, a grill and bank of gas elements, not to mention several deep marble sinks. The floor is reclaimed marble from a house she once owned in the Hamptons: a modern Gordon Bunshaft home that has since been demolished. Marble-topped surfaces provide durability and great looks that pair nicely with the sycamore-veneer cabinetry, stained a light grey hue. The kitchen (indeed much of the house) is painted a warm shade of grey: Bedford Gray, available at the Home Depot!
THE RED EXPERIMENT:
This area is what Martha refers to as 'command central' in her kitchen. It is a small work desk where Martha sits to catch up on email, make important phone calls and keep track of all her appointments. The area also houses a printer and fax machine inside the cupboard. Above is Martha's audio-visual equipment.
One of three large marble sinks in the kitchen. Ample counter space ensures easy preparation for dinner parties and gatherings.
Professional coffee makers rest below lots of open shelves that proffer everyday dinnerware: cups, saucers, plates, bowls, glasses and teapots.
Spices are organized on marble shelves braced on nickel brackets.
Even lowly scrubbing brushes are kept corralled in a small wall-mounted ceramic container above one of the sinks: "A place for everything and everything in its place."
THE RED EXPERIMENT:
Not long after Martha purchased the home, she embarked on a colourful experiment: to use red in her decorating schemes. Always a lover of this rich colour, she was doubtful it would work in an interior space. She used the Colonial Summer House on her property as the canvas for her experiment and used her collection of Chinese furniture as the inspiration for the design. While the experiment was a given success, the Colonial house no longer looks this way and the red has since been replaced by cooler creams and neutrals.
To create a softer, more restful mood in one of the bedrooms, Martha had the walls painted a pale khaki shade and restricted the use of red to accent pieces, such as the quilt and the japanned secretary. When looking through the doorway, the eye naturally moves from one patch of red to the next - from the red-damask settee and faux-marbled baseboard in the hall to the carpet, toile-covered French chairs and the red walls in the sitting room beyond.
Orange Fitzhugh-patten Chinese-export porcelain, originally from Skylands, inspired the dining room colour scheme. The painted walls match the deepest tone on the China, shown in the shelving niche. A quince-coloured red velvet tablecloth and sunset-hued fabric on the folding screen highlight the richness and depth of gold-tinged reds.
LIVING IN THE FARMHOUSE:
In the living room, a Chinese-style red painted bureau has a faux-marbled top. Black tole candlestick lamps, a set of laquered stacking boxes, and a group of 18th Century English prints depicting Asian-inspired scenes continue the Chinoiserie theme.
LIVING IN THE FARMHOUSE:
I would venture a guess that the interiors of the Winter House at Bedford were based largely on the principals of traditional Swedish design, which is defined by cool, neutral colour palettes (greys, browns and greens) and the sparse placement of furniture. The inherrent minimalism of Swedish design is enriched by the quality of furniture in Martha's house, much of it made of heavy, ornate woods, gilded accents and rich upholstery. Notice, too, that none of the windows in the main house have any window coverings, aside from simple roll-down blinds that are only slightly opaque.
In Martha's bedroom, an orchid hybrid sits in front of an American Empire gilded mirror in an orchid pot designed by Martha's potter, Guy Wolff. Stick-on pads under the saucer protect the finish of the antique tea table, which stands beside a damask-upholstered settee in the style of Duncan Phyfe.
Orchids abound in Martha's bedroom, such as these rare varieties that rest near a crackle-based lamp with a silk shade that Martha designed. Etched-mirrored sconces on either side of the 18th Century mahogany bed catch cooling light. Subtly toned Japanese linen covers the pintucked duvet on the bed and also lines the canopy. The bed's boldly scalloped gabardine pelmet and skirt, designed by Martha in a cool hue of sky blue, contrast the intricate embroidery on the antique linens and the subtle pattern on the Arabian carpet.
The Green Room in Martha's home is a formal space defined by a melding of lustrous gold and verdant green. Flanking the marble fireplace, above, two Greek Revival columns furnish pedestals for stately jade plants. Twin Irish Georgian sofettes face each other under an Austrian giltwood chandelier, which is reflected in a 19th Century Swedish cornucopia mirror over the mantel. The coffee table holds gold candlesticks on a highly-polished brass tray.
Two large umbrella plants flank the windows of the Green Room. Palmettes, flowers and fruits fill the room with luscious foliage and life during the summer months. A Swedish neoclassical clock hangs on the wall above a wood-and-marble pedestal table that houses a small collection of houseplants and antique hurricanes of etched glass.
Martha's enormous greenhouse affords her a luxuriant collection of foliage and plantlife all year round. Martha displays much of it in large groupings indoors, such as this collection of cacti and succulents in one of the parlours. An American Empire mahogany table provides the elegant base, complete with paw feet. Matching wing chairs are upholstered in a lustrous damask. The floors throughout Bedford are hardwood, covered with comfortable and practical sisal rugs that are custom made to fit each room perfectly.
Orchids planted in concrete urns in the servery.
One corner of the multi-purpose Brown Room houses a cozy sitting area. Window trims are painted the same shade of light brown as the rest of the room to give daylight the focus it deserves. A Japanese maple bonsai rests atop a large marble-topped rococo table, Norwegian in origin. The mirror above it has a 19th Century American gilded frame. Sharkey, one of Martha's French bulldogs, stands near a pair of Georgian style wing chairs upholstered in a Fortuny cotton.
At the dining end of the Brown Room, Martha gathers assorted fancy-leafed begonias to give each of her guests a different perspective on the growing centerpiece. Open shelves present some of Martha's collection of antique glassware, mainly American but interspersed with European examples. Some of the compotes, jars, tumblers, vases and other pieces date to the 18th Century. The walls were painted using a faux-bois technique and the table, custom-designed by Martha, features a thick, richly-veined marble top.
The insignia of Cantitoe Corners is that of a sycamore tree. Martha had several stamps made featuring the design. Menus for her dinner parties are emblazoned with the logo.
Beautiful flower arrangements in the Green Room.