Martha Stewart moves into furniture

Distinctive pieces from her own houses are reproduced in a new collection

October 27, 2002|By Megan Sexton | By Megan Sexton,Knight Ridder / Tribune

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- The folks at Martha Stewart Living say it happens all the time. Someone will write, call or e-mail saying she just must have the sofa or the table or the mirror pictured in the magazine.

Many of those pieces are part of Stewart's own collection, filling her stone house on the Maine coast or her 19th-century home on the eastern shore of Long Island. They often are antiques or one-of-a-kind items, not available in typical furniture stores.

Until now.

Stewart's first venture into furniture was unveiled recently at the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point with the 175-piece Martha Stewart Signature collection by Bernhardt. Pieces are expected to be in retail stores by spring.

For 113-year-old family-owned Bernhardt Furniture, the introduction was "the biggest day in our corporate life," said Alex Bernhardt, chairman and CEO of the North Carolina company.

For Stewart, it was a chance to try to direct attention away from the probe into possible insider trading that threatened to result in civil charges against her. Stewart is being investigated to determine whether she had inside information that led her to sell stock in ImClone Systems just before an announcement that federal regulators had rejected the company's application for a new colon cancer drug.

But Stewart was in High Point strictly to talk about her furniture when the media got its first look at the collection.

If you've ever picked up Martha Stewart Living magazine, you'll have a good idea what the furniture looks like.

The two collections are named for Stewart's homes. The Lily Pond collection is modeled after her shingle-style home in East Hampton on Long Island, which she bought 11 years ago when she said it was "a wreck of a place."

The designs are casual and the colors cool, with painted woods and easy-care slipcovers. The furniture size is scaled down; there's no oversized furniture designed for huge homes.

The Skylands collection reflects Stewart's circa-1925 house on the Maine coast. Pieces are made with deep colors and dark woods.

Alex Bates, senior vice president of design for Martha Stewart Omnimedia, said there are several anchors for the collection: color, proportion and scale, attention to detail, value and construction.

Sofas start at $999 ($1,999 in leather); a maple veneer dresser with faux bamboo will retail for $1,200; a large armoire taken from an antique Canadian piece Stewart found antiquing, $4,000; a classic Federalist-style bed, $999; the collector's bookcase featuring 20 metal drawers that pull out, $4,300.

The furniture is the latest introduction in Martha Stewart Omnimedia, which includes 416 interior paint colors by Sherwin-Williams; floor coverings by Shaw; and fabrics with P / Kaufman.

Introducing her line of furniture, Stewart said: "It's not the usual stuff. It's the unusual stuff."

If you've ever picked up "Martha Stewart Living" magazine, you'll have a good idea what the furniture looks like.

Stewart's touches

A few details from the collection are definitely Martha:

* A chest from Stewart's bedroom was the inspiration for the bamboo chest. A bamboo-detailed mirror she found in a store in East Hampton was the guide for a mirror in the set.

* All of the drawers have paper liners with designs from the Martha Stewart Collection.

* A cocktail table and several other pieces have milk glass inlays.

* Glass doorknobs dot an armoire.

* A sideboard is shown in "Pulmonaria" -- a Martha color named for a blue-green leafy plant.

* A bed in the Skylands collection is based on one of the beds in Stewart's home, a turned, four-poster bed. Other pieces copied from Stewart's home: a gold mirror, chairs modeled after Irish antiques, and an entryway table.

For retailers of the Martha Stewart Signature lines, visit www.marthastewart. com or call 800-950-7130.

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