Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Welcome to Skylands." I've actually dreamed of hearing those words spoken to me by Martha as she greets me at the front door of her beautiful home in Maine. In this dream I either shake her hand and chat for a bit in the doorway or I just brush by her and scurry around the home squealing in delight at all of the fantastic details, snapping photographs at every turn, leaving Martha way, way behind.

To say I'd love to visit Skylands would be an understatement. It would be a dream come true. It is my absolute favourite of Martha's collection of houses - even more than Turkey Hill or Lily Pond.

There is something magical about Skylands, something cinematic and poetic about its proportions and its location high above Seal Harbor on an Island named Mount Desert. Not even F. Scott Fitzgerald could have dreamed of a more enchanting home. It is robust and rustic but also graceful and romantic, nestled on 63 acres of wooded, hilly land blanketed by moss and pine-needle trails. I can hear the sea birds in my imagination and the faint whispers of the ocean mingling with the wind in the fir trees.

Since I haven't been invited, I'll have to settle for photographs. I've collected a series of Skylands photos from the pages of Martha Stewart Living for all to enjoy. Let's go snooping!
Martha readies one of the guest bedrooms for one of her visitors - me, for example.Martha recently redesigned the bedding at Skylands to give the four-poster beds in the bedrooms a fully-dressed and finished look. This bed in one of the 10 guest bedrooms now features a step-back, rectilinear design on the valance and bed skirt, which are made from a printed cotton damask.

A series of twenty-six reproduction seventeenth-century astrological globe engravings line the upstairs hallway, which is illuminated by day by an enormous skylightChinese carved wooden floor lamps stand guard in the upstairs hallway. Each hipped shade has two layers of silk, an interlining and a silver gauze lining. Martha created her own ‘Great Wall of China’ in the Skylands kitchen by taking every white dish she could find and displaying them on wall-mounted pine shelves. A porcelain fishmonger’s table blends perfectly to create an intriguing composition and a useful surface for storage. Stools of various height are gathered around the central table in the kitchen, which often doubles as a work surface.
An assortment of big glass jars sits on a window ledge in the butler’s pantry, their metal tops echoing the galvanized metal of the sink. The jars hold sea stones collected by guests who autographed and dated the stones before placing them into the jars.The Skylands pantry was built for grand-scale entertaining. Martha designed the central island’s protective galvanized top.
Inside tambour cupboards in the pantry, tablecloths are rolled onto dowels for wrinkle-free storage. Light-weight velvet-lined drawer trays in the pantry keep flatware organized and at hand. Under cabinets at Skylands, a deep plate rail holds platters and other large dishes that might be harder to reach – and likelier to chip – if stacked. The narrow shelf above suits smaller serving pieces and chargers. Stackable, divided drawer inserts in the pantry organize doilies and other table linens. Removable wooden dowels keep vintage lace tablecloths and runners wrinkle-free.A bank of four porcelain laundry sinks, which offer views of the forest and the ocean beyond while working at them, makes handwashing a pleasure in what Martha calls "the ultimate laundry room." The room also features a row of ironing boards of varying heights, fixed to the floor, where laundresses who once worked for the Fords stood for hours at their sides. There are four washing machines and four dryers at Skylands as well as a commercial mangle, which can iron large tablecloths and sheets in a matter of minutes.The linen room, adjacent to the laundry room, keeps all of the linens at Skylands organized and accessible. A drop-down folding table makes folding even easier.

Martha uses scale to dramatic effect in the front hall. A six-foot long Federal-era mirror hangs above a ten-foot-long table she designed with a polished pink granite top. (The exterior of Skylands is walled almost entirely with pink granite, most of it milled on site. The driveway is also covered by crushed, pink granite, which is collected and stored every winter.) On top of the table are two large faux-bois concrete vessels that hold bouquets of brilliant sunflowers. The Great Hall at Skylands, which is twenty-eight by forty-two feet in dimension, is the heart of the home. It’s stately fireplace, which burns only white birch, is left mostly unadorned, leaving the nine-foot-diameter table to play centerpiece to the room. An assortment of stools were collected from various rooms in the house and reupholstered in wool damask, which matches the pattern on the sofas. Books about Maine and Mt. Desert Island mingle with sea stones and a large metal urn. An ancient Chinese incense bowl sits on another book-covered table in the Great Hall, which boasts painterly views of Seal Harbor. The antique telescope belonged to the original owner of the house, Edsel Ford.

The First-Day Book at Skylands, which Martha had custom made, is so enormous (thirty-by-thirty-six inches) that it requires its own corner in the living room. It sits on two adjustable tables. Guests are asked to write about their first-day experiences at Skylands. Many of the signatures belong to family members, famous chefs, actors and singers, (including Barbra Streisand) and local artisans.Pillows covered with a luminous nineteenth-century French silk damask from Martha’s fabric collection practically glows against the matte wool damask sofa. The damask pattern, which features pomegranates surrounded by leafy ornamentation, is reminiscent of classic fifteenth-century Italian motifs. The antique Steinway grand piano, with a built-in player mechanism, came with the house. The wood had grown so black over the years that Martha assumed it was ebonized until she had it restored. A closet in a nearby corridor houses hundreds of Edsel Ford’s piano scrolls.
On this nineteenth-century American table, delicate finishes capture daylight: a gilded mirror, mercury glass vases, eighteenth-century candlesticks, silk lampshades lined with glimmering passementerie.
Skylands houses an extensive collection of French faux-bois (artificial wood). This nine-foot-long arboreal table is cement but made to look like wood. It is early-twentieth-century and is topped by a smooth slab of cement, tinted pink and studded with beach pebbles. On it, Martha displays books, an antique lead garden urn filled with Verbena bonariensis and two cement planters growing varieties of local moss.
In the living room, the subtly contrasting tones and textures of silk-linen upholstery and a sisal carpet play up the intricately modeled surfaces of a cradlelike faux-bois planter. Separate pots of Venus’ slipper orchids are tucked out of sight beneath a blanket of pine needles collected from the grounds.
An ordinary card table was covered with a floor-length tablecloth made of pumice-coloured leather and then trimmed with antique silver-mesh ribbon at the seams. A game of Scrabble (Martha’s favourite board game) is never hard to initiate at Skylands. The former staff dining room at Skylands has become Martha’s map room. The parsonage bench is one of a pair used to put on and take off hiking boots – above it are the maps of the hiking trails in Maine that Martha enjoys exploring. The maps were framed by local craftsman Raymond Strout, owner of Ahlblad’s Frame Shop in Bar Harbor.
In the playhouse foyer at Skylands, the original owners illuminated the entrance with this bronze Elk lamp, crowned with a silk shade that is swagged and fringed. In the reception room in the woodsy playhouse, a massive stone fireplace glows warmly at Christmastime. A pine tree cut from the 63-acre property is decorated sparingly and illuminated with handmade gold candles.

The dining room is set for six with Art-Deco cranberry-glass stemware and American sterling flatware. Italian, seventeenth-century chairs with silk-velvet cushions are poised at either side of the table. The Venetian-print tablecloth has Victorian-style gold thread trim.
An 1880s nautical print hangs in one of the upstairs rooms at Skylands, which is lined entirely by wood. A mission daybed is covered by an arts-and-crafts style damask in a mossy green. The guest house on the property - a Georgian style abode with views of the ocean - was recently given fresh coats of rosy pink paint indoors to harmonize with the prolific pink granite on the property and the hues of the Maine sunsets.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This morning, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia posted revenues of $284.3 million for the full year 2008, which were down from $327.9 million in 2007. Fourth quarter losses for 2008 amounted to $8 million, or 15 cents a share, compared to net income of $33 million, or 63 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The biggest loss was in its merchandising division, which saw revenues decline by $35 million compared to 2007 because of the loss of contractual minimum royalties from Kmart. Minor losses were also felt in the company's publishing, internet and broadcasting businesses, mostly due to lower ad revenues, the company reports.

It wasn't all gloom and doom, though. The company posted some of the 2008 highlights for its various divisions:

Publishing Highlights:

-Ad rates witnessed ongoing strength in the quarter.
-Readership and subscriptions to Martha Stewart Living magazine remained consistently strong.
-The quarter benefited from successful omnimedia marketing programs, including "My M&M's," which featured advertisements and content across all of the Company's media platforms.
-Martha Stewart's Cooking School, the latest in the company's 12-book publishing deal with Clarkson Potter, arrived in bookstores and quickly became a bestseller.

Internet Highlights:

-Digital ad revenue for the quarter grew 11% year-over-year.
-Page views increased 43% over the prior year's quarter.
-The digital weddings franchise registered strong gains in traffic; page views grew by 93% while unique users increased 24% in the quarter year over year, driven in part by the introduction of tools powered by WeddingWire, which the company invested in last year.

Broadcasting Highlights:

-NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution announced that The Martha Stewart Show was renewed for a fifth season in national syndication.
-Discovery's Planet Green network has renewed Emeril Green for a second season, which will begin in April 2009.

Merchandising Highlights:

-The company signed two licensing agreements for Emeril in the quarter: a coffee line with Timothy's and a line of all-natural, organic, boxed mixes with Sof'ella Gourmet Natural Foods.
-The top-selling categories for the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy's this quarter included Cookware, Gadgets and Luxury Bedding.
-Martha Stewart Crafts benefited from expanded distribution into Wal-Mart, improved performance at Michaels, and integrated marketing initiatives.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BusinessWeek Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler talks with Martha Stewart about her business, dealing with the recession, and design advice for the First Family. She also disses Gawker, explains the pen debacle at the MSLO offices, reveres "Whatever Martha," discusses brand recognition in the new digital age, reveals that a new petkeeping site is in the works and reflects on her time in prison. The interview is an hour long, so brew a cup of tea, sit back and relax. Click play to watch the video interview:

Friday, February 20, 2009

In the 1960's, when they were still newlyweds, Martha and Andy Stewart used to drive up to Long Island from their Manhattan apartment to spend weekends and summer holidays at the beachside inns of the Hamptons. The couple would take long walks through the residential streets, peeking through the tall privet hedges at the quaint and often stately Victorian homes in the area, dreaming of a day when they would be able to afford a house here.

But it was only after their divorce was finalized in 1992 that Martha got her chance to purchase a home in the Hamptons. Martha, who was by now a self-made millionaire, bestselling author, Kmart spokesperson and magazine editor, was enchanted by a large home on Lily Pond Lane, which was discovered by her daughter Alexis, who had a small cottage in the area at the time. She fell in love with the proportions of the three-storey Victorian, which was built in 1873, and its location in one of the quieter neighbourhoods in East Hampton, just a ten-minute walk to the beach.

The house became a new project for the newly-divorced, financially-independent entrepreneur and extensive renovations were conducted on both the grounds and the interiors. Martha began with a palette inspired by the flowers in the area and the oceanic breeziness that defines the Hamptons: white, pink, teal, creams and yellow.

Below I've selected a number of previously-published photographs of Martha's house on Lily Pond Lane, from the pages of Martha Stewart Living, and decided to give you a little tour of the interiors, from its initial renovation to the newly repainted and reorganized space.
Taxidermy figures heavily at Lily Pond Lane, with numerous specimens of stuffed fish and birds. “It makes a peculiar, loud statement,” says Martha of this nineteenth-century stuffed tarpon that decorates her East Hampton library. It suits the house’s period, the 1870’s, when Victorian taxidermy was at its height. Warm, southern light floods the front hallway of Lily Pond Lane, where two tempered beiges – Liatris White on the walls and Lunaria White on the ceiling – emphasize the room’s formal style. The softly-coloured walls seem to recede, accentuating the woodwork and drawing attention to the furnishings, such as the Victorian Eastlake-style chair with needlepoint cushions. Contrasting various shades of white will keep an all-white room from looking sterile or monotonous. One of my favourite architectural details of the house is the multi-landing staircase, which is brightly lit by large windows.
Martha took an inside-out approach to decorating for company, using garden furniture indoors during the offseason, and bringing traditional pieces outside in the summer. A wicker chair, above, mingles comfortably with more formal furnishings; rattan garden chairs surround a marble-topped mahogany table. The look is eclectic, comfortable and inviting. Three different light sources give texture and depth to this corner of the living room. Glass and polished mahogany surfaces multiply the effects. A standing lamp illuminates an American Empire card table. An alabaster lamp glows on a Greek Revival display cabinet; strip lighting behind the pediment lights a collection of neoclassical metal urns.“It’s very ultra, ultra,” says Martha about the 1920’s Venetian-glass chandelier in the dining room, which was found at a consignment shop. The teal in this 1920’s Venetian-glass chandelier led Martha to paint the entire ceiling of the library in a similar hue, creating a monochromatic effect. The recessed panels are painted Eucalyptus Green and the beams in high-gloss Hosta Green. The teal beadboard continues on the ceiling of the eating area off the kitchen.Mahogany cabinets in the kitchen are stocked with collections of Jadeite and ironstone. Sturdy marble countertops house wide, functional sinks. The ceiling is painted to echo the teal floor tiles.The paint colours in the butler’s pantry – Thyme Flower Mauve on the ceiling and Pansy Brown on the walls – were chosen to complement the pantry’s handcrafted mahogany woodwork. The nineteenth-century pendant lamp from Ceylon and cool white marble countertops continue the British colonial feeling of the house.Handmade Mexican cement floor tiles in bright teal give depth and vitality to the kitchen. The green pigment was pressed into the wet cement as the tiles were made; they were then air-dried and hand-polished. The top of the customized table is composed of two pieces of marble; its sturdy wooden legs are reminiscent of Mission style furniture. Martha found the 14 matching grange chairs in Maine; they are stained rather than painted so the grain shows through.Martha uses an old armoire in the kitchen as a small pantry to house some cooking essentials. A small mud room off the kitchen doubles as a country-home office. A farm table with a durable galvanized aluminum top proves a stury and visually pleasing work surface. A wall-hung antique pantry cabinet provides storage for books and supplies. A 1950’s office chair and a vintage ceramic lamp complete the interesting work station. (I’m sure the technology has been replaced since this photo was taken in 1994!) Beadboard work lends a quiet pattern to the ceiling and walls of an upstairs hallway and bathroom at Lily Pond.A Gothic style iron mirror sits on a Victorian wooden plant stand in one of the guest bedrooms. A hooked rug from Nova Scotia is overlaid with a bath mat. In the same bathroom, wood-scented soaps and a toothbrush are placed in nineteenth-century horn dishes. The ebonized mirror over the sink was originally designed to hold hats in a foyer; the pegs now proffer linen hand towels. When Martha first designed her ensuite bathroom, she considered exactly how it would be used. Fixtures and accessories were then acquired to make it all work. She had a stand-up shower stall installed and an antique claw-footed porcelain tub (not shown) was kept separate for long soaks. The zinc-topped vanity was once a pastry table. On a sleek celadon porcelain bathroom table from the 1880’s, Martha has arranged a collection of ironstone soap dishes and an antique shaving mirror she found in Portland, Oregon. Three pristine beds are lined up in an attic room, awaiting visits from Martha’s nieces. The summer-weight cotton chenille coverlets are from the 1950’s and recall the innocent pleasure of nodding off in a bedroom devoted to nothing but sleep. Using vibrant colours is a risk worth taking in small spaces, such as this small guest room on the third floor of the house, painted Lackspur Pink. The strong vertical lines of a French wrought-iron bed are repeated in the rhythm of the beadboard and add graphic contrast to the sweetness of the floral hue. Coats of glossy white paint once unified the furniture in Martha’s bedroom. The Victorian oak bed was lengthened by three inches to accommodate her height and the mattress is horsehair, covered in silk batting, between vintage linen sheets embroidered with her initials. Two large bedside tables were once cafĂ© tables with cast-iron bases that Martha had topped in galvanized steel; they hold piles of books and writing material in case she is seized by inspiration in the middle of the night. The windows, below, were left curtainless since Martha is always up before dawn. A pair of McCoy vases contain wintry arrangements of white roses, pussy willows, privet berries, acacia foliage and sea holly.
DEEPER COLOURS: In 2002, Martha embarked on the redecoration of Lily Pond Lane by repainting it in deeper colours. As inspiration, Martha used the colours found in and around a natural pond: various hues of greens, browns, pinks and ocres.

“In the decade after I bought my house on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton,” Martha says, “I was living in white, white and more white. Every wall was white, and therefore the view through each window looked like a painting framed by a wide, white mat. Against the warm, lush tones of the trees and gardens outdoors, the white seemed to create a jarring contrast. I decided to update the house but keeping the same basic fixtures and furnishings. There were many little details that needed attention – upholstery to repair, overgrown collections to edit, so I began to think of it as the “re”project: it would involve repainting, reorganizing, rearranging, removing, reacquainting and resolving, so that everything that remained worked beautifully with everything else.”
The Jacobean-style table that had once been used as a desk in Martha’s bedroom (shown above with the winter arrangements in the McCoy vases) was repainted a lustrous black and placed in the library as a functional and elegant table to display books and potted succulents. A new Venetian-glass chandelier in the same hue as the ceiling replaces the formerly teal chandelier pictured above with its backdrop of teal-painted ceiling coffers.

The library now houses a collection of books that is almost exclusively devoted to the subjects of gardening and horticulture. One of two large Art Deco mirrors hangs above the bookcase, visually extending the space.

Martha found a pair of ebonized wood chairs at an antique auction and had them covered in leather in the same buttery tone as the ceiling in the library. A collection of neoclassical urns is silhouetted in the window.
Ceilings should never be overlooked when repainting a space. In the photo above, the ceilings were painted a unifying shade of deep beige to work with the buttery tones of the walls.
Lily pads in shades of teal, beige and brown influenced the new colour scheme at Lily Pond Lane. The stuffed tarpon fish in the living room blends beautifully with the warm tan tone on the walls.
Because Martha’s collections of dishware, cake stands and domes, pottery, etc., have grown over the years, she needed to create more room for them. She utilized the vertical space in the large pantry at Lily Pond to house some of these collection.

Martha’s bedroom was painted in beigy-pink tones in the repainting project. The former library table now sits in the bay window, and a large, pinkish mercury-glass ball catches the light. The multipaned wardrobe was placed where the white wood bed used to be.The bed, now on the opposite wall, was slip-covered to suit the new colour scheme. The bed was first encased in fine bump padding then fabric was stitched together in a simple dressmaker shape. Pink linens echo the pink tones throughout the room.
The woodwork and the vanity in Martha’s ensuite bath were painted the same beige as the bedroom walls. A standing triple mirror with an ebonized wood frame tops the vanity horizontally, coordinating with the Deauville garden chair, which is now painted black.

The basement level of Lily Pond Lane is not fully subterranean and has doors that lead to the outdoors. A series of three large vintage terra-cotta utility sinks make cleaning up dirty garden tools a cinch.