Want to indulge your visitors just like Martha Stewart does? Here, she shares her tried-and-true tips for ensuring grateful guests.
A guest room at Martha’s Maine estate, Skylands, is furnished with an English four-poster bed with a scrolled valence and bed skirt. Her French bulldog, Francesca, sits nearby.
Photo by Earl Carter
In our 24-7 world, the thought of getting away for the weekend for some pampering at the home of a friend sounds like fun. Make that friend a Martha Stewart wannabe, and it sounds like a lot of fun. Should that friend actually be Martha Stewart, we’re talking 48 hours of heaven.
If you are ever so fortunate as to come by an invite from Ms. Stewart, you may not have far to go. Her Bedford farmhouse has its own guest house, stocked with all the comforts. But then again, she may bid you to Skylands, her 12-bedroom Maine estate (where she was hosting an editors’ retreat for 25 the weekend following this interview) or her home on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton, which dates back to 1873 and can accommodate more than a dozen guests. Become chummy, and you might find yourself the recipient of Martha’s legendary hospitality at all three.
Here, we catch up with the hostess with the mostest and ask her how she makes her guests comfortable and keeps them coming back for more.
Westchester Home: How do you prepare for a guest’s arrival?
Martha Stewart: Well, it’s always a good idea to ask about food requirements or allergies, which can go a long way toward making guests feel at ease while staying with you. I ask if there’s something special they would like stocked in the refrigerator or in their room.
Unique embroidery techniques used on each piece of Trousseau bedding from the Martha Stewart Collection results in an elegant, layered look.
WH: Give us the scoop: how much do you really advise your guests to “make yourself at home”? Do you tell them to feel free to use the phone? Raid the fridge?
MS: First and foremost, visitors need to feel welcome and comfortable in your home. There’s nothing worse than being on edge as a guest. I let visitors know from the start that they have free access—to the refrigerator, the tub, the TV, the pantry—without needing advance permission. Some people may feel a little awkward as first but, eventually, they’ll appreciate not having to ask for every little thing.
WH: How important is a bed, really?
MS: I love to hear from guests that the bed at my house is the most comfortable one they’ve ever slept in. I work hard at that. I select a roomy bed, which means either a double bed or a Queen-size one—either with a headboard and footboard or four posters—and a very good boxspring and mattress. Most of the mattresses I have are Tempur-Pedic or horsehair mattresses made-to-order from Berkeley.
WH: And linens?
MS: At Skylands, my Maine home, I use all white, Italian linens. Not only are they beautiful, but the more you launder them, the better they feel. I provide at least four down pillows, as well as two buckwheat neck pillows—people love those because they’re great when reading. To make the bed, I use, a mattress cover, a bottom and top sheet, and a down comforter—lightweight in the summer and heavier during the winter—covered with a duvet. Not only is this quite comfortable, but duvet covers easily can be washed.
WH: That’s a lot of linens. What if your guest is staying the week?
MS: It’s important that the bed is always fresh, so I make sure the sheets are changed at least every two days, even if the guest is staying longer. Sometimes we iron the sheets for extra crispness. They feel so good!
WH: What’s the just-right setup for a guest bedroom?
MS: Well, there’s always a chair or two near a small desk or table. On one of the bedside tables, I leave a good book or two, a telephone, and a pen and pad. And it’s imperative to have a good reading light on both sides of the bed, as well as a water bottle or a pitcher and a glass. In Maine, every guest bedroom has a fireplace, a walk-in closet, and sweeping views of Seal Harbor.
WH: No TV?
MS: Well, in Maine, we all watch television in a single room. In East Hampton, there’s no TV at all. When I go away, it’s a great opportunity not to be beleaguered by it. I read more when I’m at one of my country houses.
WH: And the ultimate touch? C’mon, give us something to really be jealous of!
MS: For my birthday, my daughter gave me 30 lovely bathrobes that have the word “Skylands”embroidered on them. Now there are two robes in every closet for guests to use when they’re here. It’s a great luxury.
Martha's 10 Great Guest Bedroom Must-Haves
Photo by Scott Duncan
1 The best bed your budget allows
2 Appropriate linens, including a top and bottom sheet, a down comforter, at least four down pillows, and two buckwheat neck pillows
3 Closet space or an armoire (if the closet in the room isn’t large enough to stow a suitcase, a small luggage rack can do the trick)
4 A basket of toiletries, including a travel-size toothbrush and toothpaste, talcum powder, shampoo, soap, body lotion, cotton swabs, hairspray, aspirin, and a shower cap
5 Reading material, some tourist information, and a local publication (like Westchester Magazine!)
6 A bath towel, a hand towel, and a washcloth in the guest bathroom (neatly stacked on the bed if you don’t have a separate guest bathroom)
7 Adequate lighting for reading in bed
8 A filled water pitcher and a glass or bottles of water
9 A pen, pencil, and pad
10 Gracious hospitality
for company comforts
way to throw