Fresh Style at Martha Stewart
via Joe Fresh
Visiting the Manhattan headquarters of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, located in the massive Starrett-Lehigh building overlooking the Hudson River, is an experience for the senses. Unlike most offices, there is the constant aroma of fresh baked pastries wafting out of test kitchens. There is a warehouse-size prop room packed to the rafters with china place settings, cake stands and gilded mirrors. Wander further down the cavernous hallways and you come across industrial refrigerators stocked with fresh flowers, expansive craft rooms brimming with art supplies, and studios buzzing with photographers and stylists.
Among the small army of creative pros cooking up Martha Stewart’s idealized vision of domestic life is Kate Berry. As Creative Director of Martha Stewart Weddings and Editor-at-Large at Martha Stewart Living, two of the company’s marquee titles, Berry produces content for print and online, including stories that span style, design, entertaining, food, flowers and crafts.
“Every day is different and I’m rarely at my desk. I may start the morning at the flower market to see what’s in season for a photo shoot, or the garment district to look at fabrics or exploring prop houses,” explains Berry of her peripatetic position. “Then I’ll go into the office for meetings or to our photo studios for shoots or our craft rooms to see projects coming to life. I’m responsible for content from ideation to execution to publication.”
Berry started her career as a floral designer in San Francisco. As fate would have it, she first crossed paths with Martha Stewart when her own wedding was featured in the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings. The imaginative details of the ceremony caught the eye of Stewart herself, who recruited Berry to join the title’s editorial staff. “For me, Martha Stewart always symbolized the pinnacle of ideas and creativity, so it was a dream offer,” remembers Berry.
As the mother of a two-and-a-half year-old daughter, named Quinn, Berry gets plenty of opportunities to put the Martha Stewart formula for elevated homemaking into practice. She’s busy with preschool and play dates, in addition to the hectic life of a New York City editor.
On a day when Berry brought Quinn into work—much to the delight of coworkers—Joe Fresh tagged along for peek into the world of Martha Stewart. And we even got to meet chief cookie maker Martha herself, while Quinn clambered atop her immaculate desk.
Joe Fresh: How would you describe the editorial mission of Martha Stewart?
Kate Berry: To make everything more beautiful, life more creative and experiences more enjoyable. We want to pique our readers’ curiosity about how things are made and inspire readers to make things themselves. From the very simple to the refined, we show you how to live more tastefully.
Kate and Quinn in the office of Senior Vice President Kevin Sharkey, wearing Joe Fresh. Quinn wears Kid Girls’ Cable Knit Pom Pom Hat, Toddler Girls’ Varsity Patch Jacket, Toddler Girls’ Brushed Cord Jean and Toddler Girls’ Tassel Boots.
JF: What’s it like working here?
KB: It’s never boring. Turn the corner and someone will be painting something or sewing little pillows or testing prototypes. Our test kitchens are always cooking and shooting. Everyone gets to share and taste and participate. There could be a flower arranging shoot and everyone will make a test bouquet. It’s quite fun. We are a factory of creation.
JF: What’s it like working with Martha?
KB: We were once helping one of the Martha Stewart Living craft editors design her outdoor wedding in Brooklyn. We created an elaborate canopy constructed from paper flowers. As soon as the vows were about to start, it started raining. Everyone was franticly trying to move everything inside, but the canopy was stuck in the wet ground. Martha was so calm and collected and just asked, “Where’s the Dremel tool? We will fix this and make it beautiful.” I realized then that you can’t tell Martha that something isn’t possible. She inspires people to be resourceful and find creative solutions in all of our work.
JF: What have been some of the highlights of your career at Martha Stewart?
KB: We did a fashion story at the Dia:Beacon museum in upstate New York. They had never allowed a shoot inside the museum before that. We were able to shoot among all these amazing works by Sol LeWitt, Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter, who is one of my favourite artists.
JF: How have you incorporated the Martha Stewart lifestyle into your own family life?
KB: It’s all one thing, home and work. If it’s grape season, Martha will be making jam and she’ll put it on her blog. I’ll go to the farmer’s market and buy concord grapes and make homemade juice and popsicles for my daughter and her friends. It’s all about living that kind of life and it’s so delicious. I’ve learned to cook seasonally and that means my family eats healthier. I really believe I’ve learned how to make better quality food, find better quality products, understand the value of good fabrics, and even spend time together as a family in better ways. That’s why I work here. Those are the things that are of value to me.
JF: Parents are so busy these days, with work and family responsibilities. Is it always practical to follow the Martha Stewart lifestyle of making your own jams?
KB: I think it’s about living simply at times and then when you can be extravagant, go for it. For example, my daughter and I eat breakfast together every day. She is two years old but she knows how to eat out of an egg cup and she drinks from a stemmed glass. I think it’s taught her how to take care of things. She knows to put a napkin in her lap. I think it’s little things that can help create the entire experience of enjoying a meal together. But then she also appreciates the simple joy of riding the subway or bus. She loves feeling the breeze of an approaching train and she waves to everyone.
JF: What are some of your favourite parenting tips you’ve picked up?
KB: Honestly, I don’t follow tips. I’m very laid back and I don’t sweat things. When it comes to parenting, everyone has their own way. Every kid is so different and you have to learn as you go. That’s how I work and that’s how I live my life.
JF: What are some of your all-time favourite Martha Stewart recipes?
KB: My dear friend and former Martha Stewart Living editor, Elizabeth Colling, is one of the most talented pastry chefs I’ve ever met. She created this Double Chocolate Brownie recipe. It is THE perfect brownie.
Another favorite is this Cheddar Apple Crostata. I like to add a little more cheddar than it calls for but it’s a delicious sweet, tart and savory dessert. And it’s delicious for breakfast!
I make these Lacquered Shortribs several times every winter. They have a lot of ingredients but it’s so worth it! The savory beef braises for hours and you can make it a day in advance—and it’s even better then next day. Serving it with the celery root purée and celery and pear salad makes it a hearty but refreshing dish.
JF: I know Martha has worn Joe Fresh before. What do you like most about the brand?
KB: I love the woven shirts. The materials are really nice for the price. I like the simplicity of the designs, which are easy to dress up with some great bracelets. I think Joe Fresh is super versatile. I love dressing Quinn in both the girls’ and boys’ clothes. She’s been picking out her own clothes all week and putting on the girls’ camo jacket with the boys’ high top sneakers. At this age, you don’t have to limit yourself to just the boys’ or girls’ collections. I like how the boys’ designs are less pink and frilly, which Quinn prefers sometimes also.
JF: As an editor, you’re constantly having to come up with new ideas. How do you stay inspired?
KB: I think travel really opens your eyes to new ideas. I recently visited Mexico City and visited the Luis Barragán House, which used to be the design studio of an influential Mexican architect. The shapes and colours of the house helped inspire some of the things I’m working on for our spring issues. I’m actually leaving for Madrid this afternoon, and will likely find lots of inspiration there, as well. I’m traveling with Martha and we’re staying with the U.S. ambassador to Spain, James Costos, and his partner Michael Smith, the decorator who redesigned the White House Oval Office. So I’ve got to get home to pack!
Photo shoot styled by Carrie Goldberg.