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Style Icon: Martha Stewart

by Amy Azzarito

As you might expect, Martha Stewart is pretty much an icon around this office. I don’t even know if we’d be doing what we’re doing here at Design*Sponge without Martha Stewart to pave the way. So when we were considering the best style icon for January, our month of cleaning and organizing, Martha Stewart was the first person who came to mind.

This past summer, I visited the Huntington Library in Los Angeles and came across artist Terence Eagan restoring the garden’s faux bois arches, benches and railings. I was so fascinated that I stopped to talk, and our conversation quickly turned to Martha Stewart, who really shined a spotlight on the art of faux bois. For those of us who love vintage shopping, we can probably identify countless objects that Martha highlighted — jadeite, yellowware, baskets, you name it. If it’s vintage, there’s a good chance that Martha is already collecting it. — Amy Azzarito

Image above: “Reprinted from Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations by Martha Stewart. Copyright © 2011 by Martha Stewart. Photograph copyright © 2011 by Frédéric Lagrange. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

Image above: 1. Voyage of Light Necklace, $220 | 2. Jadeite 40-oz. Mixing Bowl, $22.46 | 3. Gray Taper Candles, $12.99 | 4. Jadeite Glass Candlestick, $29.96 (ea.) | 5. Roll Weave Low Basket, $54.95 | 6. Linen Document Box Fog, $49–$55 | 7. Highball Glasses, $7.50 | 8. Araucana Eggs (You can order your araucana eggs, and many other varieties, here. | 9. Find out about adopting a French Bulldog from SNORT Rescue (here in the Northeast) or French Bulldog Rescue Network.

Martha Stewart was born Martha Helen Kostyra on August 3, 1941 in Jersey City, New Jersey. She was three years old when her family moved to Nutley, New Jersey. Her mother taught her to cook and sew, she learned to garden from her father and she learned homesteading skills — canning and preserving — from her grandparents. She modeled in high school and throughout college at Barnard, where she graduated with a double major in history and architectural history. After marrying Andrew Stewart, and a stint in Manhattan as a trader, the pair moved to Westport, Connecticut, where they began restoring an 1805 farmhouse on Turkey Hill Road, which would later become the model for her show.

So much Martha after the jump (plus shots from her modeling days!) . . .

Image above: Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Image above: 1. Faux Bois Bracket, $34.99 | Lemons (one of Martha’s favorite things) | 3. Le Creuset Silicone Spatula, $14.95 | 4. Mint Julep Cup, $19.95 | 5. Flutes and Pearls Goblet, $27.99 | 6. Jadeite Cake Stand, $42.71 | 7. Breville Elite Juicer, $299.95 (This juicer is Martha’s favorite and mine too! I have it and use it every single morning. It’s pricey, but it’s so quick to clean up that you actually end up using it.) | 8. Vega Hand Fork, $58 | 9. Castor Trowel, $58

Martha’s first book, Entertaining, was published in 1982 and is often credited with launching her empire. I can still remember flipping through my mom’s copy when I was little. Now that I’m older, I find it incredibly inspiring that she was 41 when the book was published — proof that you don’t have to get all your living in before the age of 25. Her magazine Martha Stewart Living started in 1991, as well as my personal favorite, her TV show. It was Mr. Rogers for design nerds. I loved all the field trips and interviews she did. And I love that at 71, she is still going strong. Thank you, Martha Stewart. We love you!

Image above: Reprinted from Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations by Martha Stewart. Copyright © 2011 by Martha Stewart. Photograph copyright © 2011 by Frédéric Lagrange. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

Image above: 1. Pewter Tray, $72 | 2. Krups Espresso Machine, $299.95 | 3. Mauviel Copper Saute Pan, $350 | 4. Ball 125th Anniversary Collector’s Jar, 1 gallon, $28.75 | 5. Olive Wood Honey Dipper, $8 | 6. Mario Badescu Azulene Calming Mask, $18 (Martha loves Mario Badescu products, and this calming mask is a Design*Sponge favorite. It got a lot of use on the book tour!) | 7. Post-it Original Notes, $9.57 (Martha loves Post-its and has been known to color coordinate her Post-its to her decor.) | 8. Le Pen 12-Color Set, $11.23

Image above: Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Image above: Courtesy of Martha Stewart

Image above: Reprinted from Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations by Martha Stewart. Copyright © 2011 by Martha Stewart. Photograph copyright © 2011 by Frédéric Lagrange. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

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  • What an entertaining (no pun intended) post! I often envy Martha Stewart, becuase her craftiness and way with the scissors is something I haven’t been able to master. I love her creativity, but her execution is what mesmerizes me. She paved the way for a lot of people and the fact that she was 41 when she published her book, inspiring!

  • Ok, So I too am in love with Martha and a lot of this info was kinda like brushing up on an old favorite… but DAMN, GIRL. She looks killer in that modeling photo. Haven’t seen that one before.

  • Isn’t she fascinating? Such a chic tomboy too. Despite her shortcomings, I’ve always found myself cheering for her.

    In high school I was obsessed with her show, and attempted many cooking or crafting ideas of hers that were beyond my ability, but taught me so much.

    I appreciate her obsessiveness (thoroughness?) with her collections. It makes me feel less guilty of being a pack-rat!

  • Thank you for this great profile of a strong, intelligent and creative woman, by whose example we have seen new horizons!
    (p.s. LOVE the fashion photos of her too)

  • She is such an incredible woman. I am certain that those days of poring over my mom’s Martha Stewart Living magazines in my early adolescence has shaped a big part of who I am. I also didn’t know she was 41 when she started the empire! Inspiring indeed.

  • She is 71 now?! Woah! I never would have thought, she looks amazing! I love all of those colors together, especially the gorgeous green cake stand! I hope I’m just as creative as her when I’m older. Her brain never stops churning those creative juices and what a talent she has. :)

  • Great post! I can’t imagine things like etsy and the craft/homekeeping movement we have now without Martha’s influence.
    And thanks d*sponge for putting links on pinterest this year! I’ve found lots of great inspiration from past posts.

  • I LOVE Martha! I have loved her since I was little and she is still in an inspiration to me. My mother gets me a subscription to her magazine every Christmas. This is a wonderful post!

    PS. I second Lauren on all the pins on Pinterest!

  • I love Martha Stewart’s homesteading and gardening tips, even if some of her decorating and entertaining tastes are a bit out of my league. My mother has never forgiven her for insider trading, however (hates MS with a passion!) and so I have to hide the source of recipes when I send them on to my mom.

  • I have always been fascinated by Martha, but I had no clue she was 71. I’m going to buy that face mask now.

  • Love MSL. Have a bookcase full of her magazines and used to watch her religiously. Now sure if she is available in Canada now. I haven’t seen her show for several years.

  • That picture of the set table is just pure perfection!! The all white table with the green centerpieces and just a hint of gold there and Martha next to it with the navy dress, just design genius.

  • Thanks for featuring Martha. I’ve long been a fan of hers, through thick and thin. I happened upon her weekly show when I was younger on a Saturday morning and followed her ever since. I recently read an article about how she is becoming an icon to a whole new set of people, hipsters! Apparently she appeals to their love of handmade and organic food/gardening. It is incredible that she’s 71. She is passionate about her health and I think she’ll be around for quite awhile.

  • Wonderful post that reminded me of why I fell in love with Design*Sponge to begin with. Thank you for highlighting a beautiful, strong and intelligent woman that has served as an inspiration to us all over the years.

  • “I find it incredibly inspiring that she was 41 when the book was published — proof that you don’t have to get all your living in before the age of 25.”

    YES! Thanks for the reminder! MS is an inspiration!

  • What a great post! I found it inspiring, especially the part about her being 41 when her first book was published. For 71, she sure doesn’t act like it!

  • Thanks for this! Martha Stewart seems like someone people love to hate, and just I don’t get it. She’s awesome! She is strong, smart, creative, and has had such a strong (and I think really positive) influence on culture today.

  • Yeah Martha I have been collecting her magazine since the 90’s. She has been a huge influence on my creating career!

  • MS has done so much for the magazine publication, design, entertaining, and vintage worlds. I celebrate and look to her every day as inspiration. And, “proof that you don’t have to get all your living in before the age of 25” is so true. This is such a great post. Thank you for the reminder and further inspiration!

  • I adore Martha – she has put together a valuable resource for gracious living and entertaining. I value the lessons I’ve learned from her as much as the lessons I got from the “Foxfire” books when I was a teenager in the ’70’s. Now that my mother and grandmother have passed on, I feel like she’s my homekeeping “godmother” who “sighs” whenever I don’t fold my sheets correctly. A very good thing – I need subtle encouragement ALL the time!

    During her “troubles”, I was stunned at the witchhunt slant of comments from the media and from male colleagues. I don’t think we (her fans) did enough to defend her verbally, but she’s had the last laugh by coming back even stronger than before. Huzzah, Martha! I wanna be like you when I grow up!

  • Love Martha! I don’t care what some people think…lol. My mom gave me a subscription to Martha Stewart Living for Christmas this year. I love all the projects, foodie, decor and gardening stuff. A life I dream of living…

  • I love her. All things Martha Stewart Omnimedia are my guilty pleasure. I’ve been hoarding her publications, Living, Blueprint, Kids, Whole Living, Everyday Food, etc. since I was 15. Her publications are timeless, and I refer to them again and again. Great feature!

  • thank you for this article and for giving her the credit she so deserves for blazing the trail for creative gracious living. Re: the comment about her supposed insider trading, she was imprisoned for LYING> How full would the prisons be if all those folks in DC and other govt buildings were in prison for lying? I am so pleased with the strong way she forged beyond that ugly thing that was done to her. I really believe it was more to punish her for being a strong successful WOMAN by a lot of envious people.

  • I really admire Martha, and I’m still mad she was sent to jail when so many men get away with it so easily (big banks, anyone?) but I’m glad she paved the way for DesignSponge because I think it’s AWESOME.

  • I’m surprised to learn that Martha was 41 when her first book was published. That’s incredibly inspiring. It reminds me of my favorite quote from Julie & Julia, “Julia Child wasn’t always Julia Child.”