Remembering: Martha Stewart Paint

There are literally thousands of paint colours on the market today and making a selection can be daunting, if not entirely confusing. Martha understood that when she set out to design her own line of paint colours in the 1990s. Top of mind for Martha was simplicity in the selection process, without sacrificing a wide range of colour palettes to choose from. The history of Martha's paint lines dates back to the late 1980s when she was hired as a lifestyle consultant for Kmart. From there, it blossomed into one of Martha's most successful merchandising ventures. Below is a history of Martha's paint brands put together with the help of my friend Kenn LaFramboise. Enjoy!
Above is just a small selection of the hundreds of paint colours developed by Martha Stewart Living over the years.

Her first forays into the world of paint was through Kmart when she was hired in 1987 to be the brand's lifestyle consultant. Charged with revitalizing the store's sagging home sales, Martha was brought on board to act as a spokesperson for the company's line of housewares, which included a line of paints manufactured by Dutch Boy. While Martha initially had very little say in the selection of the colour palettes, she was asked by Kmart to use the paints in their commercials. It wasn't long before Martha asked to have some say in the colour selection process but her suggestions were often overlooked in favour of the tried-and-true 'builder special' colours that sold so well.

Not one to take no for an answer, Martha endeavored to create her own line of paint colours with the help of Eve Ashcraft, a colour specialist. Using the book "The Garden Month by Month" by Mabel Cabet Sedgewick as inspiration, Martha and Eve developed a line of hues inspired by nature, from soft greens to pale pinks, faded blues to rich reds. Martha took her samples to Fine Paints of Europe, which later manufactured the paint with Schreuder Paints. The original palette "Colors of the Garden" had just 29 colours and was not widely distributed. It wasn't until Martha launched her mail-order catalog, Martha by Mail, that the paints found an audience. In 1995, Martha added the "Araucana Colors" - inspired by the egg-shell hues of Martha's Araucana hens - and later "The Colors of Skylands" (49 colours) inspired by her home in Maine.
The Araucana paint palette was designed with calming neutrals in mind, inspired by the egg-shell hues of Martha's Araucana hens.
In 1997, when Martha Stewart Living renegotiated the terms of its partnership agreement with Kmart, Martha and her team were given full creative control of her namesake brand and Martha created her first mass-market paint line called Martha Stewart Everyday Colors. The collection included hundreds of colour options and was later expanded to include enamel paints and accessories, including rollers, brushes, paint trays and other painting tools. The Martha Stewart Everyday Colors line went on to become the most successful paint line in Kmart's history.

In 2005, after the launch of her new Signature furniture line with Bernhardt, Martha also released a new palette of colours called Martha Stewart Signature Colors with Sherwin Williams. The collection featured 416 sophisticated colours, designed to coordinate with the new Signature furniture, carpet and lighting collections Martha had developed. The paints were designed to mix with eight different Sherwin Williams paint finishes and the colour cards had many helpful and unique features to make the palette selection simple. For instance, the paint cards had large round holes cut from the centers, allowing the consumer to overlap the paint cards to coordinate a palette. Each card also featured suggested paint hues (ceiling, trim) that would coordinate with your main colour choice.
When Martha's partnerships with Kmart and Sherwin Williams ended in 2006, Martha took her paint palettes to Lowe's where she rebranded many of her past paint colours under a new moniker and logo: Martha Stewart Colors. The 350 paint colours were manufactured by Valspar and were available for a period of two years.

After the discontinuation of her paint lines in all retail markets, Martha was poised to bring back a paint line to a mass-market retailer. This time it was The Home Depot. The Martha Stewart Living paint line was launched in March, 2010, with 250 original paint colours, including interior and exterior grades. The paints were formulated to be low VOC (volatile organic compounds) to minimize paint fumes. In 2011, the line was expanded to include specialty finishes, including metallic and textured finishes. Accessories, including brushes, rollers and special tools to create trompe-l'oeil effects, such as faux boix, were also developed. The paint brand was discontinued just two years later but the colour palettes remained available to be mixed with Gidden Paint bases.
Tiny symbols on these textured paint chips denote which hues pair well with others: matching the symbols will create a roster of coordinating palette options.
Special brushes, sponges and tools were designed to create unique textures and patterns, such as faux-bois, linen, gingham and plaid. 
Below is an abbreviated history of Martha Stewart's paint brands. Many thanks to my friend Kenn LaFramboise for his efforts in helping me with this bog.


* When Kmart decided to hire Martha as their ‘lifestyle consultant’ a merchandise line was built around her name. Included was a color palette with Martha's name on it that was manufactured by Dutch Boy paints
* Martha had no input into the color palette or the rest of the line that was created.
* Started 1987-1989


* First original palette development with Eve Ashcraft and Martha in 1992
* Limited retail distribution. Not considered a ‘mass market’ product
* The first palette, Colors of the Garden (29 colors) was inspired by the book “The Garden Month by Month” by Mabel Cabet Sedgewick. The color chart of flower colors inspired Martha to retain Eve to develop her own.
* The first glimpse of the palette can be found in the April/May 1992 issue of March Stewart Living in an article titled “Painting the House.”
* Other color palettes were added to the collection, including the Colors of Skylands 1999 (49 colors) and the Araucana Colors 1995 (22 colors). The entire collection contained 100 different colors
* All of the palette fan decks were sold through Martha by Mail in the 1990s .
* The paint was never distributed through mass-market retail. It was only available at high end specialty paint stores.


* The first mass market paint line debuted in May, 1997 through Kmart
* Colors were developed with Eve Ashcraft
* Expanded in 1998 to include Garden enamels (spray and brush) as well as painting tools (brushes, rollers, etc.)
* The Martha Stewart Everyday Colors line was the most successful paint line in Kmart's history
* Color cards included multiple complementary colors to make picking coordinating colors easier
*The Everyday paint line ended when Martha's partnership with Kmart ceased in 2007.


* Debut was May, 2005
* Program ended: January, 2007
* Collection of 416 sophisticated paint colors which launched in conjunction with the debut of her Signature furniture line with Bernhardt.
* Unique paint chips (color cards) with punch out center to allow for easier color coordination with other items in the room
* Palette Cards were available to help the consumer coordinate colors. Each card showed 5 different colors specifically designed to coordinate with one and other; perfect for picking wall, ceiling, trim colors.
* Formulated to mix with 8 different Sherwin Williams paint bases


* Debuted in April, 2007
* Ended November, 2009
* Collection of 350 paint colors mixed in Valspar paint bases
* More of a partnership rebranding than a new launch, the line utilized much of the same color palettes as the Signature Paints with Sherwin Williams


* Debuted in March, 2010
* 280 original paint colors
* Utilized a ‘symbol’ coordination system: matching symbols on the color cards meant that the hues coordinated with each other.
* In February, 2011 the line expanded to include faux finishes and specialty finish paints
* Paint chips included a ‘bend over stripe’ to see what the suggested ceiling color looked like with the paint color
* Available in indoor and outdoor formulas with low VOC (volatile organic compound) meaning there was minimal toxicity and fumes
* In January, 2012 the Martha Stewart Living paint line ‘brand’ was discontinued, however the palette was still available at The Home Depot. It was reformulated to mix with Glidden paint bases.
* The paint colors can still be mixed today if a customer has the formula code.


Kenn LaFramboise said...

I enjoyed working on this post with you! - Kenn


Kenn, I could not have done it without you! xo

John said...

Is there any brand that jumps around from vendor to vendor more than Martha Stewart??? The history of the paint line is crazy!