Martha Looks Back on 30 Years of Living and Shares Her Favorite Magazine Covers
Thirty years ago, Martha produced the first issue of her magazine and opened our eyes to a world of opportunity at home. She revisits those exciting early days and shares her secrets to success and the covers that bring back a flood of happy memories.
From day one, the mission of this magazine has been to teach and inspire. I named it Living to express that living is limitless—an ever-expanding subject with the home, and the art of home-making, at its center. Within that realm, we focused on eight key content areas: cooking, entertaining, gardening, decorating, celebrating holidays, housekeeping, crafting, and collecting.
Together with a group of extraordinarily talented and creative people, I concentrated as much on the visuals—producing arresting images of everything from desserts to handmade ornaments—as I did on the words. Each story was finely crafted, and all of the recipes and instructions were carefully researched and tested. Within a few years, our reach broadened into television shows and book publishing, and then, later, digital storytelling. We rapidly expanded our coverage to include family, pets, healthy living, and weddings, which filled an additional magazine that became successful in its own right.
I will be forever proud of the abundance of ideas in our pages, of the many thousands of recipes and projects our readers have used and enjoyed. We created this magazine for everyone, because good living can be learned, honed, and enjoyed by all. I want to thank you for taking pleasure in what we've accomplished, and for staying with us, whether you have been a reader from the beginning or discovered the magazine more recently. And to my cherished employees and colleagues, who shared my long-ago vision that beautiful how-to information could transform your life for the better, another thank-you. This anniversary is a collective dream come true.
Celebrate Something Different
Martha, founding creative director Gael Towey, and founding editor Isolde Motley hold the first issue, hot off the press.
A Creative Environment, the Right Tools
A creative environment and the right tools are essential. The prop library—a dream collection of new and vintage housewares—helped stylists shape Living's aesthetic. Test kitchens, photo studios, and a craft room let staffers experiment.
Let It Grow
Eric Pike started as an art director, and rose to creative director and editor in chief during his 23‑year tenure. Just as Martha did, Eric mentored many art directors, editors, and stylists over the years.
Always Surround Yourself with Talent
In the offices at Time Inc., where the magazine launched, Martha stands with staffers in front of a wall displaying the pages of the debut issue.
A Passionate Life
"One fall morning, I photographed Martha planting vast beds of daffodil bulbs," says photographer John Dolan. "When the shoot was over, the gardening was not—soon we were all helping. I realized that this was not a random idea to fill the magazine. It was a record of her passionate life."
"Light, bright, and airy, this image shows me arranging garden roses," says Martha. "We shot it in my East Hampton bedroom."
"As we increased our annual issues, we added more DIY decorating stories, like painting ideas for the home," Martha says.
Martha says, "Here I am in front of my chicken coop at Turkey Hill. I'm proud that we encouraged backyard husbandry early on."
"This amazing cranberry wreath inspired a book of wreaths for every state in the country," our founder explains.
"I remember snipping these lilacs from a towering shrub in Clyde, New York," says Martha. "Their fragrance was intoxicating!"
Martha says, "This sugared egg decorated with violets is a charming, old-fashioned Easter idea we brought to life on our cover."
"We captured my sweet nephew Charlie fast asleep on Christmas Eve. (He really was sleeping!)," Martha explains.
"This adorable ice cream-coconut snowman was the best-selling cover in our first 10 years of publishing," our founder says.
"We put together two pans to create this beautiful and delicious berry-flag tart, to commemorate July 4," Martha shares.
"These little pumpkin creatures are whimsical examples of the many different ways we've celebrated Halloween," says our founder.
Martha says, "For a Thanksgiving feast, we decorated a table in my Bedford stable with Staffordshire turkey dishes and fall fruit."
"One of my favorites!" says Martha. "My granddaughter, Jude, standing with me in her playroom at my daughter's home."
"We filled this iron-tree stand at my home with a vibrant array of spring tulips that we grew on the farm," Martha explains.
Says our founder, "Baked, dipped, and decorated, these fun cookies are always part of my annual Easter egg hunt."
"Collecting is an important part of the magazine, and this cover shows my passion for McCoy pottery," Martha shares.