Martha Reimagined and Updated Her Bedford Home During the Pandemic—Take a Look Inside
Change is good: That's Martha's motto, and last spring she put it into action at her Bedford, New York, farmhouse, cleverly evolving several rooms to better suit her new at-home routines. The result: beautiful, comfortable spaces that are filled with things she loves, that function as well as they flow, and that invite her to kick-start her day—and kick back at night.
Just like the rest of us, Martha spent much of last year at home, on her Bedford farm. But, no surprise, she rarely sat still. "I've been gardening like crazy," she says. "We redid the vegetable greenhouse and the chicken yards and coops. And the peacocks have new roosts, so they're happier." Indoors, she wrote and Zoomed from a porch she converted into an office two years ago—and that got her re-thinking her own roost. "I realized my house was designed for entertaining, not for me," she says. "I had two dining rooms I couldn't really use. I didn't have a comfortable place to sit and have breakfast. So Kevin Sharkey and I started reimagining and changing stuff." Luckily, she adds, "he likes doing this a lot more than I do."
Kevin, who is an executive vice president and the executive creative director of design for her merchandising business, and a close friend, concurs. "Martha doesn't redecorate—she doesn't decorate either, really," he says. "It's always function first." Given the green light, he dove into the quarantine project of any design lover's dreams: shopping Martha's collections for stunning antiques, and brainstorming clever ways to put them to new and good use.
Pre-pandemic, the smaller dining room off the servery to the kitchen held a table for dinner parties, but it had become a de facto hallway. So Kevin carved out two zones within it to give Martha a spot for breakfast and lunch, and a sitting area for virtual meetings (or a cocktail in the evening). The main dining room—or the Brown Room—had sofas on one side and an 18-person table with views of the citrus garden on the other. Kevin flipped the layout, placing the sofas by the windows. Then he reupholstered the cushions with thicker padding and—in a move Maria von Trapp would have appreciated—a set of vintage curtains Martha had found in West Palm Beach, Florida, made of an "extraordinary and durable" (in her words) damask by Fortuny. The finishing touch: a coffee-and-tea setup for her and her team, always at the ready on a sideboard. Now that spot is Martha's favorite place to unwind: "After I've been working hard in the kitchen on videos, I love to go lie down on those fabulous new cushions and put my feet up."
A Power Parlor
To turn a small, underutilized dining room into a comfortable spot for all Martha's new-to-her activities (breakfast at home, Zoom calls), she pulled beloved pieces from storage, like this Federal sofa originally bought for Turkey Hill, her previous home in Connecticut. It was reupholstered with Fortuny fabric she had saved, and the armchairs were re-covered in Schumacher silk velvet. "The velvet is a fabulous olive-y gold color," says Martha. "My favorite." For a place to rest a cappuccino (or cocktail), an iron stand she found while antiquing in Maine was topped with one of her brass trays. Items from the garden—a French metal table, a stool made by friend Christopher Spitzmiller—hold potted plants, including begonias and moplike green Rhipsalis. The cashmere throw is by Sferra.
Pretty and Productive
Martha and Kevin Sharkey spruced up a spare corner in the front hall with a faux-bois chair she's always loved, which also echoes the hand-painted walls.
Silver on Display
In the main dining room (otherwise known as the Brown Room), an antique sideboard from Skylands, Martha's Maine home, holds early-American silver and a Paris porcelain coffee service to keep her team caffeinated. "Silver really brightens up a tabletop; it doesn't have to be fuddy-duddy," she says. "If your grandma gives you a beautiful set, use it." To double the display space, old chafing-dish bases were topped with two leftover marble stair treads that were cut to fit. The English tray behind it is from an antiques sale; the framed photographs are by Carsten Höller.
A set of curtains Martha scored in Palm Beach to use on a future project (note: a savvy way to buy a lot of an expensive fabric for less money) offered more than enough yardage to re-cover the seat cushions of the English leather sofas in the Brown Room. They used the remainder to redo the Georgian love seat and sew accent pillows. The lamps' custom shades were made by Shades of the Midnight Sun, in Bronxville, New York.
Delights for the Eyes
Two console tables (actually halves of an out-of-service dining table) now flank the doorway leading from Martha's new sitting room into the servery and kitchen—another blank spot made beautiful to behold. This one holds a pencil cactus (center) and pairs of senecio and chain of hearts. Mirrors above each half amplify the room's natural light during the day, too. "Putting a mirror on the wall is like adding a window," says Kevin.
An Able Table
Opposite the sofa and armchairs in the same room, an American Federal dining table, topped with myrtle topiaries and a potted fuzzy-leafed kalanchoe, sits under more of her Wedgwood drabware collection. "The plates fill the small slices of wall perfectly," says Kevin. The chairs are from a set that Martha uses all over Bedford. She also had new sisal carpets laid on the main floor. "I never wear shoes in my house, and I love walking on that rug," she says.