City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

We'll Always Have Martha

Westport's Favorite Daughter is Going Strong

Article by Robin Moyer Chung

Photography by Photo: Fadil Berisha

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Martha Stewart is, perhaps, the woman for whom Westport is most famous. While living on Turkey Hill Road she began capitalizing on our country’s waning interest in domesticity, then elevated the art of housekeeping and entertaining to a multi-billion dollar business with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

With the advent of social media, she unwittingly invented the role of “influencer,” forging a new career path for millions of followers. Her friendship with Snoop Dogg has become as famous as her roast poultry.

More recently, she started the popular mail-meal service Martha and Marley Spoon and an elegant line of CBD pastiches and dog treats. Further, Harper’s Bazaar profiled her in April, including numerous images of the former model in drop-dead ensembles, proving that style and substance endure like the cast-iron steel of a beloved sauté pan.

As a (very) junior graphic designer, Westporter Michele Consentino recalls working in 1998 at Doyle Partners in New York City.

“Stephen Doyle, the principal, was married to Gael Towey, the creative director of Martha Stewart. At that time Martha was expanding her publishing business to include household products like paint, garden seeds and supplies, cookware, and baby accessories.

Martha selected Doyle Partners to design her new product packaging. She came to our office on the day we presented the baby line packaging. I was delighted to see she matched my larger than life perception of her.

Silently, she began looking at each design with consideration. Masterfully, Stephen elaborated on his designs, explaining finishes and paper selections. 

Martha chose three designs she liked best. They were mine. I couldn’t help but smile to myself while they left the room. I began cleaning up when Martha re-entered. I froze. She said, ‘Those three are yours, aren't they?’ I nodded. She looked me in the eyes and with the slightest smile said, ‘You are good." She nodded and left the room again. 

She was direct, appreciative and spent one extra moment to encourage a young woman. Thank you, Martha.”

You were a stockbroker in NYC then moved to Westport and became a homemaker. Did Westport contribute to this career decision or had you made it before you moved?

The inspiration that came from living on a little farm on Turkey Hill Road was really the impetus to starting my catering business. With this, my domestic side came out in full force. After some time living on six aces of gardens I decided I would much rather go the lifestyle route than working as a stockbroker.

How did our town inform your first initiatives and early aesthetic?

The restoration of the house and the 6 acres of grounds at 48 Turkey Hill Road South completely ensnared me in domesticity, as well as gardening and farming.  

While living at Turkey Hill I also dove into entertaining, and created an amazing catering business, which spawned my entire future. Good entertaining always involves the input and the encouragement and the enthusiasm of others – relatives, friends and associates. You must take into account many disparate, yet related, elements and bring them all together into an understandable and cohesive whole.

I learned a lot about that in my time in Westport. Over the years, the basic tenets of good entertaining have remained the same, but the interest in global cuisine and its preparation, in so-called exotic ingredients, and in distinctive table settings and lush flower arrangements has flourished and grown, keeping things fresh and exciting. 

My first book, Entertaining, was published in 1982 and that too was an important event in my life in Westport, which led to my magazine, Martha Stewart Living, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary, and my company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

I just released my 99th book, Fruit Desserts, we’ve done thousands of hours of informative television programs and designed thousands of beautiful products, which are all created for good living. Earlier this year, we brought all of that together with the launch of Martha.com, an online platform that for the first time offers consumers the ability to not only shop my beautifully designed products, but also a variety of products personally curated by me, all in one place.

The site brings products to life with the guidance and solution orientation of me and my team. I’m excited that we will be adding more products and experiences every week. The business of Martha Stewart is still vibrant and useful and many of its roots are in Westport. 

You’re a successful paradox in that you’ve built a business on domesticity. How has domestic life and style changed over the years, including how you’ve affected change in it.

My style has not really changed that much over the years, rather it has only broadened to incorporate modernism, more luxury, as well as country and farm life. 

Looking over the years and your success, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment (other than family)?

I am so proud of the business I have built from scratch – a true omnimedia business at that, that was really before its time, as it included media, merchandising and made use of the internet. Our original business plan is still a viable model today for any entrepreneur to follow.

As Harper’s Bazaar pointed out, you are the original influencer. You’re also a bottom-up innovator in every facet of your business, beginning with your Westport “Laboratory” home. Now the country is littered with influencers, most of which don’t have the substance and knowledge base that you do. This isn’t a question, it’s just an observation.

I’ve been lucky in the fact that as an influencer I am 100% authentic. I never profess to know anything about anything unless I have done it myself. That pertains to gardening, cooking, entertaining, decorating and investing.

Throughout your career, who has influenced you most and why?

Experts always influence me the most. Whether it’s a top notch chef like Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, or Nobu Matsuhisa, or a great interior designer like Stephen Sills or a great landscape designer like Jens Jensen, I always look to the experts in a certain field for inspiration and information. 

Now that I listen to podcasts, I’ve heard commercials for roughly a trillion meal kits. They’re all pre-measured, pre-portioned, etc. So, coming straight from its maker, how is Martha & Marley Spoon different from other meal kits?

We think that our recipes far outshine all of our competitors. We may not be as big as some of our competitors, but we are at least as delicious, if not more. We think we offer the homemaker a really good solution for no-waste, sensible meal planning and to providing delicious food for the family.

Which is your favorite meal? 

My favorite meal has always been breakfast, even though I don’t always get to indulge in it now with my busy schedule. On the weekends I love to entertain at breakfast, sitting outside if the weather permits, or around the kitchen table.

Just this week I hosted a business breakfast where the group enjoyed homemade English muffins, poached salmon, poached eggs fresh from my farm with a delicious Hollandaise sauce, fresh squeezed orange juice, freshly made green juice, and wonderful cappuccinos. Breakfast really hasn’t changed much since my days at Turkey Hill. I’m still making my own bread!

Why do you include the peel when you juice an orange? Doesn’t it make it taste bitter?

I was taught by a friend, Lily Pei, to incorporate the most nutritious portion of the orange when juicing, which is the skin. A little bit of bitterness can be counteracted by a slice of pineapple.

  • Snoop Dogg and Martha, 2017 (Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency)
  • Martha Stewart and Macklemore at the culinary stage during the BottleRock Napa Valley Festival, 2017. (Photo: Sterling Munksgard)
  •  With Diane Von Furstenberg at The High Line 2019 Spring Benefit. (Photo: Lev Radin)
  • Signing her books at MACY's Annual Flower Show Ribbon Cutting Grand Opening, 2008. (Photo: Everett Collection)
  • At Time 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ISSUE Launch Dinner Party, Jazz at Lincoln Center at the Time Warner Center, 2006 (Photo: Everett Collection)