Martha's Brown Room

When Martha purchased Cantitoe Corners in 2000, designing spaces for large-scale entertaining was top of mind. According to architect Allan Greenberg, who worked with Martha on the restoration of the property's houses and the design of the stables, the original plan was to build a 4,500 square-foot house in the center of the property where Martha would entertain. The design was to incorporate three large rooms for entertaining on the main floor - each room 30 by 50 feet - with guest rooms on the second level. The plans were drawn and the applications for building permits submitted but they were never brought to fruition. It was back to the drawing board.
The final plan for the property used the existing foundations of the buildings on the property: a 1770 Colonial house, a 1925 farm house and various adjacent outbuildings to create a complex of houses that would serve different functions. The original tractor garages, which were adjacent to the 1925 Winter House were converted into a large space for entertaining, connected to the main house by a kitchen that Martha designed with an apartment above.

The new entertaining room was eventually called "The Brown Room" due to Martha's chosen colour palette for the space: brown sycamore veneer paneling, brown putty walls, dark hardwood floors covered by sisal rugs in a soothing neutral and a mix of wooden dining furniture and luxuriously upholstered seating.

Connected directly to the kitchen by double doors, the long, rectilinear room lent itself perfectly to large-scale entertaining. It is just as large as the original entertaining rooms Martha had envisioned: 30 by 50 feet. Martha installed two enormous tables in the room: one was a table she designed that could be separated into two halves or pushed together to create one long table. With marble tops and wide, sturdy legs the look was sleek but traditional. The other table was a 15 foot-long wood table Martha purchased in Maine that once belonged to a convent. Between the two tables (three, if Martha's original table was separated into two) dozens of guests could be seated at once. 

At the north end of the room, which connects to the kitchen through double doors (shown above) Martha installed a wall of shelving and cabinetry to house her vast collection of glassware.
At the opposite end of the room, there is a marble fireplace with seating arrangements for gathering and conversation.
Tall, triple-hung windows on two sides of the room let in light from both east and west directions 
This photograph shows the south end of the room with the fireplace and reveals how Martha's table can be separated into two dining arrangements. 
This photograph shows the long convent table set beautifully for an Easter lunch.
Martha's tables are always spectacular. 
Several issues of the magazine have featured the Brown Room in various articles. It is also shown regularly on The Martha Blog and in some of Martha's more recent books, most notably "Martha's Entertaining." 


Anonymous said...

Considering the large room size it looks very "warm and intimate" .
What I have always found interesting is that Ms. Stewart's long time house keeper is always credited with setting/designing the table and Holiday decorations. Besides being comfortable with Laura's judgement , I guess Ms Stewart has set one too many tables herself!

John said...

Although Martha's homes are always very nice, i just do not feel the same love for the Bedford house as I do for Lily Pond, Skylands or Turkey Hill. I find the Bedford house too monochromatic and frankly rather drab in many ways. I do love enjoy the Bedford kitchen but the brown and green rooms just don't really excite me as much as her other homes do. Anyone feel the same way? I am very much looking forward to the Flowers book, but I would love for Martha to issue a book dedicated to each of her houses with extensive photos of all the rooms and gardens---one book for Turkey Hill, on for Lily Pond, one for Skylands and one for Cantito Corners. Wouldn't that be amazing? I want to see every bedroom, every bathroom, inside every closet---i want to see how Martha organizes her entire house. I would even love to get glimpses inside all the drawers! Just fascinated by what Martha collects and I have started many collections of things (yellowware, jadeite, flint glass compotes, copper cookware, aqua colored McCoy) as inspired by Martha.


John, I used to share your feelings about Bedford. Now, however, I'm intrigued by the idea that it is the "ultimate farmette" as Martha calls it. I love the manifesto behind its creation and the ideas that guided its design. I still do not have that warm and nostalgic feeling about Bedford as I do about her other homes, true, but I'm able to appreciate Bedford much more now than I used to. Regarding the books on each of her houses, I have proposed that to her - and to her staff - MANY times! I'm hoping it's something that we'll see eventually!

Lori W. said...

Oh my heavens, yes to John's suggestion!! I would love to see books dedicated to each of her homes and how she actually lives life in them. I enjoy seeing her collections and how she lives with/displays them. I collect antique linens, books, and dishes, so finding ways to use and display them in a modest home is paramount for me. Thankfully, I have no problem using them, and my children (now 18 and 20) have grown up with an appreciation for them. I am looking forward to the release of her new books and plan to spend a lot of time pouring over it. Her concept of her Bedford farm is fascinating to me as it provides a different view of a "farm" from the one I have based on my experiences. For me, farms involve acres of cattle, grasses, crops, and constant fence repair. It is incredible how farming takes on different ideas based on the history of the property involved as well as one's location and needs. Hope you have a good week and weekend, and please pass along my best to Martha.

Anonymous said...

Off topic.....
An interesting issue with Ms Stewart's blog of today (1-31-18)
As usual looked at the blog first thing in the AM, it had Ms Stewart at this weekends Grammy awards. She looked her usual impeccably dressed, but wearing a fur jacket in multiple photos. I realize it may be only my feeling, but I find it objectionable and in particular for Ms Stewart as an animal lover. My intent was to write a polite comment about, but the blog comment section was closed. In checking the blog in late morning it was changed to a blog re her farm and NO record of The Grammys.
Completely speculation, but as wearing fur is frowned upon by many, there may have been other negative comments which led to the blogs removal.

John said...

Oops re-reading my post I realize there are some rather glaring typos and grammar errors---sorry about that!
And Andrew, I agre--I like the concept of the Bedford 'farmette'. It's not that I particularly dislike the house (Lord knows I'd kill to live at a place like that), I just don't swoon over it like I do her other homes. For instance, I am not as inspired by the more formal, monochromatic look of her Bedford gardens as I was with the exuberant, painterly composition of the amazing perennial beds at Turkey Hill. Seeing the crimson poppies, the deep royal indigo of the Siberian Iris, the soft pink peonies juxtaposed with the chartreuse Lady's Mantle and Euphorbia.....I could go on and on. I think you and I have discussed this before in the post that talked about the change at Lily Pond from the teal to the taupe trim---Martha's tastes have changed, and my taste just doesn't align as much with her current style as it did with her style previously. I wondered if Martha's shift was due to Kevin Sharkey's influence, but I think you suggested it was probably Alexis's rather austere aesthetic that has influenced Martha's stylistic shift.
I don't really know exactly how to describe Martha's style, but I love how she valued vintage items from the time when things were made by master craftsmen using quality materials as opposed to all the mass-produced junk we have today. Everything she did had such an elegant, tasteful feel. I loved her sense of color and have always been drawn to the aquas and teals she was famous for. No one will ever convince me that Lily Pond looks better with the drab trim!
Anyway I guess I'm sort of rambling but I could talk for hours about Martha, and especially the 'golden age' of the late 90s through the unfortunate legal problems. Back then the monthly issues of the magazines were so thick and chock full of information and beautiful photos. I guess no one can be on the top of their game forever, but it even seems like the magazine now is a shell of its formal self. Martha has been doing this forever and she is approaching 80. Most people would have retired long ago but she just keeps going!
I guess another interesting thing to think about---what will Alexis do with all the properties when Martha passes away? I seriously doubt she will keep them all---I can only imagine the cost to run and maintain those homes.


APM: I feel bad for Martha because she has said on so many occasions that she NEVER wears new fur, only vintage fur - fur that was "harvested" prior to 1970. I'm not sure what the details were on that particular wrap she was wearing but I'm sure it was vintage and that she holds true to her values. She actually did an anti-fur video a few years ago, urging people not to buy fur. You can find it on Youtube: "Martha Stewart Discusses Fur Farm Cruelty." She has always been an advocate for cruelty-free farming and animal rescue. It was probably ill-advised for Martha to wear fur - even vintage pieces - in public. I'm sure the comments were fierce and that's why it was removed.


John, I agree with you on so many points. Martha's previous style - at Turkey Hill and at Lily Pond - was very painterly. At Skylands it's more about maintaining a historic aesthetic that was put in place by Jens Jensen. The interiors are warm because the architecture is so fantastic.

Back in those early days she embraced the melding and mixing of colours and textures. Today, she is much more restrained in her choices. There is a taste level there, to be sure, but it's not for everyone. I do think Alexis was an influence, yes. I also think that as Martha became more and more corporate, so too did her aesthetic: gardens in very formal squares, divided by flower type; rooms in gray and brown and monochromatic green with sparse furniture arrangements. I think Martha used to think more like a painter: more layers, more textures, more vignettes and 'moments' in the home. Bunny Williams still maintains this aesthetic. I recommend her book "An Affair With a House" if you've not seen it before. It's very 'old Martha' in style.

Regarding what Alexis will do with the properties: yes, I'm sure she will let most of them go. I can see her keeping Skylands (who wouldn't!) as a summer escape for her and her children, and her children's children. She is not someone who gets attached to things - or people - and I can see her selling off most of what Martha now owns.

I'm even wondering if Martha has stated in her will that Bedford is to become a sort of learning center, or perhaps has left it to a garden conservancy to preserve for tours as a tribute to her legacy. It's possible. I would like that!

Anonymous said...

Andrew thank you for your reply/comments to my message
My guess is you are correct re it being a vintage fur due to its look. Again, only my opinion, but it is not a very logical for celebrities or anyone to wear faux or vintage fur; as the true nature of the fur would be unknown to others and sends a message of its acceptability.
PS my comments are not meant to start a long exchange re the issue of wearing fur as all sides are known, but just a thought re the "Martha"