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.

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