Martha's right-hand man looks back on his most memorable magazine projects.

By Sarah Schreiber
November 05, 2020
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Credit: Christopher Baker

Kevin Sharkey—today, the EVP and executive director of design for the Martha Stewart brands—began working for Martha in 1995. Since then, he has collaborated on countless projects for Martha Stewart Living, many of which have turned into some of the most memorable pieces in the magazine's 30-year-long history. Even so, Sharkey has his darlings. Here, he shares a handful of his favorite stories and shoots to date.

Credit: José Manuel Picayo Rivera

"Red," November 2001

"'Red' was full-throttle," Sharkey tells us. "Love it or hate it, it definitely was not boring." Sharkey and his team photographed the story at Martha's home in Bedford, New York, right after she bought the property in 2000. "It was an over-the-top, hard-core decorating story. I think I cornered the market on snapdragons—I bought like 400!—for one arrangement," Sharkey reflects, noting that the stakes were high. "I used to think if there was not one photo I was going to get fired for on a shoot, it wasn't a good one," he says. "Unless you had adrenaline running through your veins when you came back from a shoot, what was the point? You didn't want to let down your team. And it was an amazing team—there was nothing better."

Credit: Christopher Baker

"Color It Black," September 2001

To this day, Sharkey loves the idea of organizing a collection of seemingly random pieces of furniture and painting them a single color—something he explored in "Color It Black," a true-to-its-name design spread that ran in the September 2001 issue. "For this story, we took a bunch of Martha's white furniture and decided to paint it black. And that's where Martha's genius came in. She said, 'Don't just paint one shade of black—paint many different shades,'" he shares. "And that collaboration is what made it so fun. I loved working with Martha's furniture—it wasn't just props—and applying a smart decorating lesson to it, and ultimately creating a beautiful and useful story."

Credit: Bill Batten

"The Elegant World of Chinoiserie," October 2006

In this piece—part of the October 2006 issue—Sharkey enjoyed playing with "all angles of décor." His favorite image of the bunch? The bathroom shot. "It has this amazing clawfoot bathtub and a wall full of blue-and-white porcelain. It's crazy and over the top," he tells us, adding that it all began the giant central blue-and-white bowl. "The entire picture of what I wanted to do just came into my head. I composed the arrangement on the wall, and then had monogrammed towels made by Jane Scott Hodges of Leontine Linens, in New Orleans, to fill a large bowl next to the bathtub. It all looked so beautiful together."

Credit: Stephan Abry

"A Tisket, a Tasket," April 2013

"Easter is one of my favorite holidays," Sharkey shares. "Every year I make a special Easter basket to give to Martha. Just give me some double-faced satin ribbon and let me at it. Tying a bow is just in my DNA." Naturally, he loved everything about "A Tisket, a Tasket" ("The content, the way the story was laid out in the magazine—the whole process, from start to finish," he says), a piece dedicated entirely to crafting, styling, and gifting Easter baskets, which hit stands in April 2013. "I also love that I got to work with former style director Ayesha Patel on this story. She taught me everything I know about styling when I was starting out. I always say that working at Martha Stewart is like attending university," he adds.

The March 2007 Cover

The image that graced the cover of the March 2007 gardening issue was photographed at Martha's first home, Turkey Hill. "We were so lucky to use all these beautiful alliums that Martha grew in her garden. It was one of those days where everything just fell into place: The weather was perfect; the alliums were at their absolute peak; we found amazing galvanized buckets and French pottery; and Martha's garden shed couldn't have looked prettier," he says. "It was a magical day."

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