An Interview With Martha Stewart…Sort Of

An Interview With Martha Stewart…Sort Of

Mark Chamberlain
Apr 27, 2010

Martha Stewart Living has a new paint line out now and rather than review the product itself — I'll leave that to the peanut gallery — I thought I'd dig to the source and ask a few questions about how a paint line is put together, especially its color palette.

I had a brief interview with Kevin Sharkey, Executive Editorial Director of Decorating for Martha Stewart Living, who helped in the product's development. At 280 colors, the palette is abbreviated—not as much as Farrow & Ball, but they've definitely done the thinking for you. At a glance, I'd say it clearly tows the party line, with many colors inspired by pantry and garden. You'll find your chalk whites and chamomile yellows here, but the palette is also unafraid of the claret, chianti, blacks and browns that I use constantly.

Although I personally might have cut down on the pinks, I think there's something here for everyone. There are plenty of lipstick/flower colors of the red and rose family, marine blues and mustard yellows. Nomenclature runs along the lines of east coast cozy zen, with names like Miso and Aurora Borealis, that come back down to earth with Pup Tent. There are several colors here that punch my buttons, especially in the aubergine and dark green-grey families; Avocado Peel would make a fabulous library, and there's a great three-in-a-row of Pencil, Yam and Sequoia that would make a great children's room.

Color Therapy : Seems like there are a lot of new paint lines out now (Ben, Aura, Mythic, Audubon from Valspar) how do you differentiate the new Martha Stewart color line?

Kevin Sharkey: Our colors are easy to navigate and fool proof. We kept it simple and that's why there are only 280 colors to choose from. We differentiate our collection by our editing process.

How on earth do you start putting a paint palette together — mood boards? Pantones? Gut instinct?

We explore the natural world around us: animals, flowers, mineral stones, fruits and vegetables. We don't use mood boards, we actually mix the colors. We see colors that we love, and then we create them. Martha will take a beautiful shell, and from that one shell we will isolate 15 different colors.

How many of these are tested, by which I mean: do you have an off-the-rack set of favorites?

They are all favorites. That's the point of not having 4,000 colors. These are the colors that Martha has been editing down over the course of a lifetime. We test them all and we live with them. Martha's entire farm is painted Bedford Gray. These are the colors that, for us, are the best for decorating situations. People can live with it, and it will work with what they already have.

This palette seems heavy on the pinks, which I find notoriously difficult to use. Farrow&Ball only has three pinks in it's whole set. Is this the wave of the future, or a Martha signature?

We find that pinks are not hard to use, and we want people to feel confident in their selections. We aren't the kind of company that says purple is the new lime green. We provide colors for all situations that are useful and timeless. In our minds, beautiful doesn't have an expiration date.

And the question everyone wonders, who comes up with the names?

Most of the colors name themselves. We provide credible color information. We are inspired by the color of a Maine Lobster and then we create that specific shade of red—why name that color anything else? Maybe you didn't know the color of a Wampum, but once you see our color, you will. It's not romance language, it's real learning.

photos: Martha Stewart Living May Issue photographer Max Kim-Bee

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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