Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I’m working on a series of mini-essays about Martha’s houses, primarily focusing on how the design and function of the house in question reflects Martha’s personal development as a tastemaker and homemaker: where she was in her life when she purchased and renovated a certain house, what her interests were at the time and how a given house embodies those tastes and ambitions.

I’ve given titles to the essays already, which hint at the themes the essays will cover:

Turkey Hill: Wicker, Gilt and the Birth of D.I.Y.

Lily Pond Lane: Teal, Taxidermy and the Editor’s Eye

Skylands: Inherited Elegance in Rockefeller Country

Cantitoe Corners: Gray Efficiency on the Corporate Farmstead

To get myself inspired to complete these essays I’ve designed booklet covers for them, which you can see below. I’m trying to keep the essays concise and relevant, making notes about the particular facets of the houses’ functions in Martha’s life, keeping track of the collections at each residence, the furniture, the palettes, the architecture, the restoration processes that were involved and, of course, some of the history associated with the properties. I intend to link these findings with the evolution of Martha’s personal taste and her corporate ambitions, drawing parallels between Martha’s exterior branding processes in the world of media and the quiet interiors of her homes: subtle and not-so-subtle reflections in the paradigm of her dual life.

It’s not easy and it’s not going to be a fast project, especially since I don’t have personal access to the houses or any of the documents associated with them. I am relying entirely on what has been previously published about them and then drawing my own conclusions based on my own observations of the numerous photographs I’ve seen over the years. (If anyone has any suggestions about where to find more raw material, please let me know.) All of this will be done in my spare time, which is minimal, so please be patient. I'll work on them one at a time in those rare moments when I can sit down alone and put pen to paper.
I really don’t know when these four essays will be completed. I probably shouldn't have said "coming soon" at all! My goal is to have them done by next fall. I did want to let you know that I’m working on them, however, and to hopefully get you excited about the prospect of reading them.

I may publish the finished essays here when they’re complete, or I may simply reveal excerpts. Either way, I’ll let you know when they’re finished and anyone interested in receiving the finished PDF can request it through email and I’ll send along the completed attachment.

I think they’ll be unique in the sense that they will be based primarily on the observations of an examiner and student of Martha Stewart’s residential holdings – all of which will be filtered through the previously-published material available on her homes. They will be the essays of a layman, a non-architect, an unaccredited interior designer who has never actually seen these places. They will be the essays of a curious reader, an astute observer and a great admirer. Hopefully they can be taken and appreciated on those levels and with that understanding in mind. I certainly hope that Martha will embark on creating her own book (or books) about her homes, as she said she was going to a while back, with a firsthand, inside look at the abodes with the owner herself as the guide. In the meantime, I will enjoy the process of doing my own little studies of their grandeur.

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