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.