Summer at Sklyands

Skylands was built for summertime. With its enormous terraces, decks and balconies, twelve bedrooms and grand dining room, this Seal Harbor residence was designed to entertain summer guests. The commissioners of the home (Edsel and Eleanor Ford) had it built in 1925 specifically as a summer hideaway where they could entertain family and friends during their holidays. Located high atop Ox Hill on Mount Desert Island in Seal Harbor, Maine, the 63-acre property is secluded but accessible, surrounded by conifer forests and Acadia National Park. (Click here to see all posts about Skylands).

Since acquiring the home in 1997, Martha has spent several weeks each summer at Skylands to continue many of the traditions and activities once enjoyed by the Fords: playing tennis and squash, hiking, boating and entertaining large groups. She almost always celebrates her birthday at Skylands and did so again this year on August 3rd, surrounded by special guests and loved ones.
Under Martha's care, Skylands comes alive in summer. The planters and pots on the terrace are filled with greenery every Memorial Day weekend. About the same time, the crushed granite gravel for the driveway is brought out of storage and redistributed on the lanes. From that date onward, things never really slow down. In June and July, the home's full-time caretakers go into overdrive preparing for Martha's visit: polishing silver, washing every dish, dusting, cleaning and organizing the guest rooms for their occupants. The grounds crew gets to work planting vegetables and flowers in the garden. The forest trails are once again topped with that silky carpet of collected pine needles and all the leaded-glass windows are expertly washed. Tropical plants are selected by Martha from her large greenhouse in Bedford, New York, and are driven up to Maine where they are placed throughout the home and on the terraces.

Just before her arrival, flowers (usually lilies but sometimes hydrangeas) are cut from her New York cutting garden, too, and are driven to Skylands where they are arranged by her friend and colleague, Keven Sharkey in massive, awe-inspiring displays to herald Martha's arrival and her guests.

Below is a collection of photographs gathered from various sources, including Martha's magazines, books and blog, to illustrate the beauty of this home during the height of summer. I hope you enjoy them!
Martha is shown posing with a guest beside her vintage Ford Edsel station wagon, named after the original owner of the home, Edsel Ford. It was a gift from her daughter, Alexis. In the background, a Skylands van is shown. It is used to pick up guests from the airport and take them around the island on excursions and day trips.
Martha looks excited to be in Maine! The crushed pink granite gravel on the drive is collected every fall, washed and stored until the following spring, a tradition that has been in practice since the home's inception. (This procedure keeps the stones from being plowed away during the winter months when the lane is cleared of snow.)
This urn looks beautiful potted with a tropical palm and begonias. It is one of two that flank the front entrance.
At the back of the house, the terrace looks lush with all the summer plantings. The pair of glazed terracotta sphinxes by Emile Muller (left) look as regal as ever.
The house is almost obscured by the lush greenery on the terrace. A variety of lilies blooms every summer, surrounded by hostas and a massive kiwi vine that is almost 100 years old.
More lilies and lush foliage in this pretty corner of the terrace. The gnarled trunk of the kiwi vine hints at its age.
This antique stone trough is used as a planter, proffering a variety of succulents. Moss is encouraged to grow between the spaces of the stones on the terrace. Martha refers to the look as "cracked ice."
Tall hemlocks and pines surround the house and terrace. Beyond is a view to Seal Harbor.
Party time! This view of the terrace taken from a second-floor balcony demonstrates its scale.
Around the corner from the main terrace is a smaller one used for more intimate dining occasions. It is located under a pergola that is canopied by the prolific kiwi vine.
Outside the living room is the western terrace and pergola where Martha frequently entertains small groups outdoors.
What was once the service entrance at the east end of the house (used by staff to access the kitchens) is now one of the most frequently-used entryways to the home. Martha hangs Boston ferns around its small porch.
Faux-bois planters figure heavily as a motif at Skylands - both indoors and outdoors. Here, by the service entrance, they are planted with staghorn and maidenhair ferns.
The driveway outside the service entrance is frequently used as an entertaining space.
The summer menus at Skylands always include fresh Maine lobsters!
Young and curious onlookers marvel at the live crustaceans that are soon to become their dinner!
Martha had dozens of these special lobster bibs made for her guests.
Not far from the service entrance is the counsel circle - a landscape design element that was not built by the Fords when Jens Jensen presented his plans for the grounds. Martha went forward with the plan and built it as Jensen had intended.
The myriad pathways that wind through the 63 acre property look magical when lined with the soft pine needles that guide visitors through the woods. Just as with the crushed granite on the driveway, these pine needles are gathered up every fall, put through a special contraption to remove any forest debris, and are stored for the winter until the following year.

Quite a distance from the main house is the service area of the property. Shown here are the large vegetable and cutting gardens as well as the carriage house, stables, greenhouse and garages. There are several guest rooms above the carriage house, which is also frequently used for entertaining.
The vegetable garden is planted every spring to yield a good bounty by the time Martha arrives for her summer sojourn.
Guests enjoy a special meal prepared by Chef Pierre Schaedelin of PS Tailored Events outside the carriage house.
In the main entrance of the main house, one of Kevin Sharkey's lily arrangements sits in a massive concrete urn on a console designed by Martha.
In the main living hall, a gorgeous arrangement of white hydrangeas and lilies dominates the central table, which is always laden with books from Martha's collection.
Martha's massive guest book sits on top of the faux bois table, which was made by Studio Cortes.
Another gorgeous arrangement of lilies in the living room.
A multitude of colourful roses look beautiful in this faux-bois basket planter.
The flower room at Skylands is where all the magic happens!
 Not all of the arrangements boast flowers. This grouping of moss was taken from the surrounding property and propagated indoors in a large pewter dish.
Microcosms of the forest floor beyond the walls and windows are planted in Martha's various faux-bois planters indoors. They are the perfect foil to the robust look of the interiors.
The guest house at Skylands, located a short walk from the main house, is painted sunset pink.
The bedroom in the guest house is all set up for a good night's sleep.
This bedroom, too, looks just as inviting!
Above the trees: the view of Seal Harbor from the upper deck at Skylands. I hope you've enjoyed this little summer stay! For a look at Skylands in the winter, click here.

Special thanks to Alan in Scotland for suggesting this post!

1 comment:

John said...

Fantastic post! What a life Martha leads! Don't mean to be critical but I noticed you referred to day lilies in a couple of the captions---all of those are true lilies (Lilium). I didn't see any daylilies (Hemerocallis) in any of the pictures.