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.

No comments:

Post a Comment