Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Inside Cantitoe Corners

Let's not pretend that attending a dinner party at Martha Stewart's farm in Bedford would be a dream come true. Even just a tour of the interior spaces would certainly cinch my curiosity about the house's floorplan and its flow from public to private spaces.

Martha completely reworked the home she purchased in 2000, especially the 1925 farmhouse, which she calls The Winter House. The house originally faced Girdle Ridge Road but Martha, in her renovation with famed architect Allan Greenberg, turned the house the other way so that the front faces the sprawling acreage of the property, the stables and the gardens. Martha also built a 4,000 square-foot addition to the home, which included a large kitchen connected to the main house by a servery, and a large multi-purpose Great Room for entertaining. She builT a series of garages and a building that contains a large room for her many projects and a gym.

The property has five residential structures in total, including the Winter House, a Colonial house (the Summer House) which is adjacent to the Winter House, a tenant's cottage, which is where Alexis stays when she is visiting, a modern house much deeper on the property, which has yet to be touched by Martha's designers, and a guest cottage in the woods of the property. There are also staff quarters near the stables.

I've broken down some of the various areas of Martha's Cantitoe home into sections and briefly discuss some of the chapters in the evolution of the interior design.


The workspaces in Martha's Bedford home are defined by cool palettes and streamlined functionality. They are minimally designed to be spare, light and conducive to working.

Martha's basement is a clean and organized space, which serves multiple purposes. It contains the laundry room, shown above, two large areas for storage, a wine cellar, a bathroom and a gift wrapping room. Martha pairs industrial-grade accessories, such as professional laundry baskets on castors (shown above) with softer elements like wicker baskets and wooden tables in the laundry room. The laundry's floor is covered in small mosaic tiles. Elsewhere, the floors are made of buffed concrete. Large baking racks hold Martha's extensive collections of dishware, such as her jadeite and Wedgwood.

Way up on the third-floor of the house is Martha's craft room, accessible by a narrow staircase leading up from the second floor. It is fully outfitted with all of the crafting essentials, including several sewing machines, a computer and professional printer for printing crafts, and custom-made wooden storage units painted Martha's favourite colour to house ribbons, papers and tools.

The kitchen was a new addition to the home. It's enormous, rectilinear size means Martha can concoct any sort of culinary vision she imagines with ease and simplicity. The kitchen is fully equipped with professional-grade appliances and cookware: double ovens, a professional cappuccino maker, a grill and bank of gas elements, not to mention several deep marble sinks. The floor is reclaimed marble from a house she once owned in the Hamptons. Marble-topped surfaces provide durability and great looks that pair nicely with the sycamore-veneer cabinetry, stained a light grey hue. The kitchen (indeed much of the house) is painted a warm shade of grey: Bedford Gray, available at Lowes!


Not long after Martha purchased the home, she embarked on a colourful experiment: to use red in her decorating schemes. Always a lover of this rich colour, she was doubtful it would work in an interior space. She used the Colonial Summer House on her property as the canvas for her experiment and used her collection of Chinese furniture as the inspiration for the design. While the experiment was a given success, the Colonial house no longer looks this way and the red has since been replaced by cooler creams and neutrals.
To create a softer, more restful mood in one of the bedrooms, Martha had the walls painted a pale khaki shade and restricted the use of red to accent pieces, such as the quilt and the japanned secretary. When looking through the doorway, the eye naturally moves from one patch of red to the next - from the red-damask settee and faux-marbled baseboard in the hall to the carpet, toile-covered French chairs and the red walls in the sitting room beyond.
Orange Fitzhugh-patten Chinese-export porcelain, originally from Skylands, inspired the dining room colour scheme. The painted walls match the deepest tone on the China, shown in the shelving niche. A quince-coloured red velvet tablecloth and sunset-hued fabric on the folding screen highlight the richness and depth of gold-tinged reds.

In the living room, a Chinese-style red painted bureau has a faux-marbled top. Black tole candlestick lamps, a set of laquered stacking boxes, and a group of 18th Century English prints depicting Asian-inspired scenes continue the Chinoiserie theme.

Based on my own assessment, I would venture a guess that the interiors of the Winter House at Bedford were based largely on the principals of traditional Swedish design, which is defined by cool, neutral colour palettes (greys, browns and greens) and the sparse placement of furniture. The inherrent minimalism of Swedish design is enriched by the quality of furniture, much of it made of heavy, ornate woods, gilded accents and rich upholstery. Notice, too, that none of the windows in the main house have any window coverings, aside from simple roll-down blinds that are only slightly opaque.
In Martha's bedroom, an orchid hybrid sits in front of an American Empire gilded mirror in an orchid pot designed by Martha's potter, Guy Wolff. Stick-on pads under the saucer protect the finish of the antique tea table, which stands beside a damask-upholstered settee in the style of Duncan Phyfe.

Orchids abound in Martha's bedroom, such as these rare varieties that rest near a crackle-based lamp with a silk shade that Martha designed. Etched-mirrored sconces on either side of the 18th Century mahogany bed catch cooling light. Subtly toned Japanese linen covers the pintucked duvet on the bed and also lines the canopy. The bed's boldly scalloped gabardine pelmet and skirt, designed by Martha in a cool hue of sky blue, contrast the intricate embroidery on the antique linens and the subtle pattern on the Arabian carpet.

The Green Room in Martha's home is a formal space defined by a melding of lustrous gold and verdant tones. Flanking the marble fireplace, above, two Greek Revival columns furnish pedestals for stately jade plants. Twin Irish Georgian sofettes face each other under an Austrian giltwood chandelier, which is reflected in a 19th Century Swedish cornucopia mirror over the mantel. The coffee table holds gold candlesticks on a highly-polished brass tray.

Two large umbrella plants flank the windows of the Green Room. Palmettes, flowers and fruits fill the room with luscious foliage and life. A Swedish neoclassical clock hangs on the wall above a wood-and-marble pedestal table that houses a small collection of houseplants and antique hurricanes of etched glass.

Martha's enormous greenhouse affords her a luxuriant collection of foliage and plantlife all year round. Martha displays much of it in large groupings indoors, such as this collection of cacti and succulents in one of the parlours. An American Empire mahogany table provides the elegant base, complete with paw feet. Matching wing chairs are upholstered in a lustrous damask. The floors throughout Bedford are hardwood, covered with comfortable and practical sisal rugs.
One corner of the multi-purpose Brown Room houses a cozy sitting area. Window trims are painted the same shade of light brown as the rest of the room to give daylight the focus it deserves. A Japanese maple bonsai rests atop a large marble-topped rococo table, Norwegian in origin. The mirror above it has a 19th Century American gilded frame. Sharkey, one of Martha's French bulldogs, stands near a pair of Georgian style wing chairs upholstered in a Fortuny cotton.
At the dining end of the Brown Room, Martha gathers assorted fancy-leafed begonias to give each of her guests a different perspective on the growing centerpiece. Open shelves present some of Martha's collection of antique glassware, mainly American but interspersed with European examples. Some of the compotes, jars, tumblers, vases and other pieces date to the 18th Century. The walls were painted using a faux-bois technique and the table, custom-designed by Martha, features a thick, richly-veined marble top.

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