Martha's Porch at Bedford

Each one of Martha's houses has something iconic about it: a feature, or group of features, that makes each house unique in style and design. At Cantitoe Corners, Martha's farm in Katonah, New York, it is the prolific use of a subdued and warm shade of gray (Bedford Gray) and that long, inviting porch that flanks one side of her farmhouse, overlooking the fields, the paddocks and the stables beyond. This porch has certainly occupied my daydreams on occasion. I have imagined sitting with Martha here sipping a glass of cold lemonade, taking in the beauty of the property. Below are some photographs of Martha's porch, with information about its uses, benefits and design details.
When Martha purchased the home in 2000, the porch was on the other side of the house, facing the street. Martha reconfigured the plan of the house and re-oriented the porch, the living room, the dining room and the kitchen to face north, allowing for ample views of the property as well as the sunrise and the sunset. In the photo above, the full expanse of the porch is shown. It is accessible only by the central entrance with stone steps that spill out onto the formal gardens of the terrace. The porch is fully covered with surrounding balusters. There is a door into the main hallway of the home and floor-to-ceiling windows that look into the dining room and living room.
In Martha's vast greenhouse, she grows an assortment of tropical plants. During the summer months, many of these plants are migrated to various spots around the property, including the porch. In this photo we see large and luxuriant ferns hanging from the ceiling: an alternating pattern of staghorn ferns and Boston ferns. The ferns create a very nice diaphanous screen to further shade the porch from hot sun.
Martha prefers to fill the porch with foliage plants during the summer: an assortment of ferns (including Boston, staghorn and Maidenhair) philodendrons, palms, fancy-leafed geraniums, ficus trees, rhipsalis and potted mosses. Because she likes to entertain so frequently, there is always ample seating. Martha often enjoys hosting intimate gatherings on the porch: breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas, even the occasional dinner party.
Martha's pets love the porch in the summer. It gives her cats and dogs refuge from the sun and some of the wildlife that can pose a danger to them, such as hawks, porcupines and skunks. The cool stone floors are perfect for an afternoon snooze.
Many of the staghorn ferns Martha keeps on the porch are mounted, adding visual interest and sculptural and textural detail to the neutral space. Because the floor is stone, the plants are very easy to water. Keeping the floors clean is often as simple as hosing them down, although Martha does keep a broom handy by the door.
The morning sun filters through the ferns and the weeping katsura tree planted near the east end of the porch. The table and chairs are from the Martha Stewart Signature furniture collection with Bernhardt. The teak furniture is twice stained and the chairs are powder coated to ensure resiliency.
This is a beautiful example of one of Martha's mounted staghorn ferns. They act as natural artwork on the exterior walls.
Two stone pillars act as plant stands for faux-bois planters. Martha also uses ceramic pots on the porch by one of her favourite potters, Guy Wolff. Many of Guy's designs are custom made for Martha. During the summer, Martha often keeps the front door open to allow the breezes to flow through the screen door.

Photos by Martha Stewart Living and The Martha Blog


Michael Fus said...

Andrew, I doubt the planters in the last image are by Guy Wolff. He typically creates symettrical pots on a potting wheel, and doesn't feature any faux bois on his website. It is more likely that the faux bois pots are antiques. They are beautiful, whatever the provenance!

Chris said...

Great pictures! Having a porch on a house is so inviting. We don't have a large one like Martha, but we do use it to advantage. I love putting colorful geraniums out on a small table and chair set we have and then near the steps is a very beautiful majesty palm. Here in the Chicago area, these have to winter indoors but generally, my geraniums end up blooming all winter while they live in the basement under a fluorescent light on a timer. Martha's staghorn ferns are over-the-top gorgeous!
The aloes she has on her porch in Maine are also something else...I'm thrilled that my indoor aloe has just bloomed for the second time. Does anybody know what to do with the long shoot the flowers are on after blooming? Do I just cut it off? Anyway, this was a really pleasant blog entry - thanks.

Alicia Klatte said...

Andrew, do you have any information on the broom hanging on the wall on the porch? It looks quite similar to brooms made by a local company here in BC - their website is here: http://www.northwovenbroom.com/. I have visited this little shop many a time and have a few of their brooms myself (I absolutely love them!). I haven't really seen any of these brooms outside of BC but they have gained international recognition as they were used in the marketing of the Harry Potter movie series. It would be so neat to think that Martha owns one of them!


Hi Alicia - I'm not sure about the broom, but now I'm very curious to learn more about it. Thanks for providing the link in your comment to North Woven Broom. I'm going to check it out! It's possible Martha acquired it there - or was given one as a gift.


Hi Chris! Yes, you can simply cut off the spent flowers of the aloe plant once they've bloomed. Actually, the plant will thank you for it since it no longer has to expend energy feeding those tendrils. You should "dead-head" all flowering plants after they've bloomed.

Frederic Kahler said...

I'm all about shade plants this year at our coastal home in Apalachicola, Florida. I am *amazed* at all of the ferns and other shade lovers that people throw out just because of a little wilting; they return better than ever! What a lovely look at Martha's Bedford porch - thank you, L'Andrew!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the blog and coincidentally I just requested via Ms Stewart's blog for an up date on this years porch set up. I will say that while I always find her styling/decor beautiful I do find the porch slightly austere . I don't believe it is the plantings , but possibally that every item is "hard edged".

Anonymous said...

Re the comment about the broom........on Ms Stewart's original show MSL, she toured a broom factory which makes the type of brooms hanging on the pourch. Unfortunately I can't find the tour on the Internet but I believe it was the Henderson Broom Company.

Alicia Klatte said...

Hi APM - Thank you for the further information on the broom...I have to admit that my wonderful dream of Martha owning one of those local BC brooms has been squashed haha but at least my question about its origin has been answered. While searching for the Henderson Broom Company (which incidentally I couldn't find any information on), I came across this link:
and I am quite certain this is where she got her broom from. While the brooms from the BC company are similar, the weaving/braiding (whatever you want to call it) near the handle is slightly different. Regardless of its origin, it is a beautiful broom nonetheless.