To celebrate the connection between the personal and the professional, Martha asked renowned photographer Robert Polidori to document the spaces that spark creativity in her workplace.
Martha sits in her glass-enclosed office at the Starrett-Lehigh Building, overlooking the Hudson River. She also has offices at the TV studio and at Living's Midtown headquarters. "It may seem peculiar to an outsider that my office is devoid of decoration or flowers or pictures or tchotchkes," she says. "But in fact it's deliberate. The less chaos, the better. The impersonal and pared-down modernist look is actually quite conducive to writing and meetings."
Martha's spare, glass-enclosed office at the Starrett-Lehigh Building is exceptionally orderly, providing a blank canvas for creativity. A framed 1932 photograph of the building's exterior is a notable reminder of its origins as an industrial warehouse; the interior retains the original open loft-style floor plan and oversize windows, allowing for the airy quality and natural light that Martha sought.
After styling hundreds of photo shoots for Martha Stewart Living, deputy creative director Ayesha Patel has accumulated -- and can't bear to part with -- a small-scale prop house of her own, including assorted glass and ceramic vessels and an array of boxes both vintage and modern. Because many decorating lessons and photos are driven by palette, linens are organized by color, so that the appropriate bins can easily be pulled and carted to the photo studio.
Never one for a stark work environment, editorial director for collecting Fritz Karch intersperses stacks of books and paperwork with beautiful treasures amassed over a lifetime. On the wall, a petite gold-framed painting of fruits and vegetables hangs alongside a relic from a 2001 Living article on antique barometers. Glass bottles, used to transport wine, cologne, and honey in the 19th century, are now prized for their distinctive labels.
"Some people need absolute quiet and order to think," Karch says. "I'm not one of them. Absolute quiet terrifies me." The antique cooking molds, which echo the forms of the skyscrapers out the window, began accumulating after he proposed a story on them. "I became a victim of our own success. I kept going and going."
From her office at Starrett-Lehigh, chief creative officer Gael Towey enjoys a stunning view of the Hudson River. The neat stacks on the table represent a multitude of ongoing projects; because she is a very visually oriented person, she likes to keep everything within sight. Her laptop, meanwhile, is hidden away when not in use in a cleverly designed desk by Eero Saarinen. The other fixture in the room -- a curvaceous white lamp -- was developed as a prototype for a magazine article that was never published; its base was made from a plaster mold of a Japanese bottle gourd.
An office in the textiles department is draped with swatches of 19th-century European textiles, many of which are adapted to create motifs for Martha Stewart bedding and table linens. "Inspiration comes from constant research," says Gael Towey, chief creative officer. "Our textile designers are always going to flea markets and industry shows and scouring magazines and books."
The sea is never far from the mind or office of Hannah Milman, executive editorial director for crafts. An arresting painting of a porbeagle shark, by artist Peter C. Thompson, leans against the wall. Beside it is a photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe collecting driftwood on Fire Island, New York. (Raymond Strout, a framer and collector of ephemera in Bar Harbor, Maine, mounted both works.) There's even a wreath made with quahog shells -- the state shell of Milman's native Rhode Island. On the shelves, spools of vintage ribbon, old candy tins, and jewelry and bakery boxes spark ideas for future product packaging.
On any given day, the long, narrow test kitchen of Everyday Food at the company's Midtown Manhattan office is filled with tantalizing aromas and a complete lineup of kitchen essentials, each stowed in a designated location. The wide stainless steel tables serve as staging grounds for prep work and tasting; underneath, there is open storage space for oils and vinegars, large pots, and bins filled with potatoes and other foodstuffs. Shelves along the wall hold hundreds of cookbooks, kept on hand for reference as food editors conceptualize, develop, and perfect their recipes.
Dishes in nearly every style and hue -- blue transferware, green Leedsware, and hand-painted creamware, to name a few -- are cataloged and stocked on metal racks in the prop house at Starrett-Lehigh. Stylists draw upon this in-house collection to create just the right look and feel for various articles. On the bottom of each piece is a bar code, so that items can be scanned in and out easily, just like books in a library.
The pages of Martha Stewart Weddings are never short on color, given its well-stocked fabric closet. Swatches include rich pinks, tangerines, and greens. For photography, linen and silk taffeta are used most often. Commercial steamers are stored nearby, for eliminating creases at the last minute.
In another Weddings closet, patterned dress forms stand in single file; they are occasionally recovered in new fabric for photo shoots -- for example, to complement the palette of bridesmaids' dresses. On the shelves above, clear plastic bins hold pieces of ribbon, silk flowers, and crafts supplies, which are grouped by hue and labeled accordingly.
"I create this kind of environment around me, at home or at work," she says. "It's a reflection of what's going on around me, what inspires me. It's layered, documenting where we are in the magazine, things I'm seeing, places I'm going, and, of course, what's going on in my life. My children are very much a part of it. I spend so many hours at work. It's nice to have them incorporated."
"Any real book person would scoff at this kind of arrangement," he acknowledges. "For some, it's almost sacrilegious. But I've always remembered books by their colors. It actually makes it easier for me to pull books for shoots and propping. But it's gotten out of control. I keep buying books and books and more books."
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