7.31.2013

The Most Famous Spice Rack in the World

As spice racks go, few are more sensational than the antique example Martha had mounted on the wall of her television studio in Westport, Connecticut. Sleek and unobtrusive, it was characterized by its special step-like shelves that ascended from the longest on the bottom to the shortest on the top. Martha found it at an antique shop and it quickly became a fan favourite as viewers wrote in by the thousands to inquire about it. (Fun fact: its original purpose was to sort tobacco leaves!) To satisfy the interest, Martha commissioned two reproduction versions of the spice rack to be sold through Martha by Mail, her mail-order/online catalog. She sold the metallic spice tins to match: squat, round tins with pretty Martha by Mail labels denoting the spice found inside. These fit perfectly onto the shelves of the spice rack. There was a five-shelf version, which held 30 of these spice tins, and a larger version with seven shelves that held 70 tins. They were available in natural wood or painted "Atlantic Blue." They retailed for $169 and $359, respectively. Here is a photo of them from the catalog, below, followed by an example of the seven-shelf version with the original spice tins from the kitchen of David Pantoja, host of the Good Things by David blog and my go-to historian regarding all things Martha by Mail.
When the catalog folded, fans missed out on these beautifully special pieces. In the years since I began this blog (nearly 8 years ago, which is so hard to believe) I have made so many wonderful friends with the same interest in Martha's products, magazines, the history of her career and her company's development. Many of these friends were collectors of Martha by Mail merchandise and still others are new to the fold, but with a very passionate desire to attain some of these long-gone prizes from catalogs past.

One such person is Nick Stein, a Martha enthusiast and a reader of this blog. Nick is a young university student from San Lorenzo, California, who took it upon himself to recreate this spice rack. He was so impressed by the results that he began to make more. Nick makes them out of maple, oak, poplar, mahogany and cherry wood.

Here are a few words from Nick about the spice rack:

"Being a huge fan of jadeite gives me an interesting superpower. I can spot that milky green hue from a mile away. I don't even stop at garage sales, I do a drive-by, looking for that particular shade to catch my eye. This power was activated when I was watching an old episode of MSL. I saw some jadeite custard cups sitting on a very interesting spice rack. And from then on I knew I had to have that same rack. I scoured the internet and discovered Martha by Mail (I was late to the party) and David's blog Good Things By David. His post about the spice rack and its details made me realize that I could have one too! And I could build it! I used some computer software to draw up a plan and bought some lumber. I love the simple lines of this piece. It's so sturdy and heavy and functional. It totally cleaned out my horrid spice cabinet too! I now will make them for anyone that wants a piece of Martha by Mail in a style as true to the original as possible! I offer many wood types, painted or stained, and the spice tins as well including custom labels! Each piece is slightly unique and a lot of time is spent making it as perfectly as possible."
Melody Hofmann, another Martha Moments reader, purchased one of Nick's spice racks in natural maple. She photographed it in her crafts room (look at all those Martha Stewart punches and glitter!) but now has it in her kitchen filled with spices.
Nick's spice rack in natural and stained maple.

Nick's spice rack holds 30 tins.

14 comments:

Amy at love made my home said...

Andrew, this is so interesting. If I had a place to put a spice rack, I would order one. Sadly no space in my kitchen.

Good to know that Martha is appreciated in all sorts of ways though.

Amy

David P. said...

I love it, Andrew!! How nice that Nick is producing these for people who want a replica of it, AND that he's including labels!!!

Best,
David

Kenn said...

The talents of Martha Moments readers is never ending! Nick did a great job on the replica spice rack.

ANDREW RITCHIE said...

You said it, Kenn! So many talents lurking out there!

Melody Hofmann said...

Hi Andrew!

Thanks for using the photo of my new spice rack.. two things.. my last name is spelled Hofmann (1 "F" and 2 "N"s) and I have the spice rack in my kitchen holding spices. I only took a picture in my craft room because I was making labels for each spice can and that is where my PC and camera are.. Thanks, Melody :)

ANDREW RITCHIE said...

Whoops! Thanks for the correction, Melody! :-)

Mecky said...

I have Martha's small spice shelf in Atlantic Blue in my kitchen and I love it. I could not imagine having to open a cabinet door to search for spices again. It is so handy. I think of all of the great ideas that Martha shared, this is the best.
I remember when Macy's opened a line with Martha's name, they carried an extra small spice shelf like it. It was too small to be useful.
I am so glad to see that someone is re-creating one.

Mecky said...

Oops. my shelf is Atlantic Green. I

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Andrew,

First let me say I'm new to your blog but in a small way I feel like I've been here before:)

I'm preparing a post for Martha's birthday tomorrow and was just hopping around in search of a Martha Nigella comparison. Yours was terrific and right on point.

As for these spice racks, I for one am thrilled. I'll be checking into Nick's Etsy shop as soon as I'm finished getting the post done. Bookmarked!

Thank you so much for sharing...

ANDREW RITCHIE said...

Welcome, Louise! And I'm so glad you enjoyed my Nigella/Martha comparison. I love them both in very different ways. Glad you're enjoying the blog.

Rowaida said...

Wow love love it! I would love to have this in my kitchen

Anonymous said...

Why not ask Marths

Sherry Truxell said...

I do not see this listed on his etsy site.

ANDREW RITCHIE said...

Sherry you should contact him to see if he will make you one. I know he takes orders.