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Classic Martha – Where It All Began

December 29, 2010 by admin

In 1996 at the tender age of 14, I bought my first copy of Martha Stewart Living.  I was on vacation in Florida with my family and I convinced my mom to pick one up for me at the local Home Depot.

That was it.  I was hooked.  I began looking up to, and aspiring to be like all that Martha Stewart Living stood for.  I couldn’t get enough of the lush images, creative ideas, and magical atmosphere that magazine produced.

I’m still a loyal subscriber and I’ve got a bookcase stacked high with MSL issues dating all the way back to that formative issue in ’96.  And you know what?  They are still some of the best issues with the best material, bar none.  Of course I’ve branched out to many more shelter titles since I was 14, but there is just something about classic Martha.

And so, I’ve decided to mine those precious volumes for their timeless treasures and muse about them here.  Classic Martha will now be a regular conversation on Michael Penney Style and I’m starting today with the issue that started it all – Martha Stewart Living, June/July 1996.

Created by Eric A. Pike; Photo by Anita Calero; MSL June/July 1996

This is a scan of the actual cover I bought fifteen years ago.  You can see it’s been read over and over.  I never actually made these melon ‘pops’, but I drooled over the palette of sherbety oranges, pinks and cool green.  Yum!

Created by Claudia Bruno and Margaret Roach; Photo by Christopher Baker; MSL June/July 1996

A story all about the wonder and mystery of shade gardens had me spellbound.  I can just imagine my feet sinking into this carpet of moss with little tufts of ferns popping through next to a stream.

Created by Margaret Roach; Photo by Thibault Jeanson; MSL June/July 1996

Created by Margaret Roach; Photo by Thibault Jeanson; MSL June/July 1996

Created by Margaret Roach; Photo by Thibault Jeanson; MSL June/July 1996

Margaret Roach’s story on hollyhocks is still so gorgeous today.  The peachy apricot ruffles of this old-fashioned perennials’ blooms are so full and romantic and I especially love the dark black variety with it’s tall spires.  I planted hollyhocks in my own garden that summer fifteen years ago at my parents’ and again this past summer at my place.  They’re a timeless cottage garden staple.

Created by Fritz Karch; Photo by Victor Schrager; MSL June/July 1996

And finally the perfect place to finish – Jadite.  What could be more Martha Stewart than Jadite – that iconic mid-century workhorse with its cheery green hue?  Martha introduced me to Jadite that summer with this story on refrigeratorware – a practical predecessor to today’s ‘Gladware’ (which I sometimes loathe).  I’d much rather open a cupboard full of Jadite food containers than a jumble of those thin plastic ones of today.

Well there you have it – my 1996 introduction to the beautiful world of ‘Living’ and the start of a new blog conversation that will generate many ‘good things‘ I’m sure.


  1. Sara Penney says:


    I have such fond memories of our early dating days (10 years ago!) when you would teach me about the names of flowers; hollyhocks and foxgloves being some of your favourites. I see where your love of those flowers began!

    Love the blog and can’t wait to see where it takes you. (also can’t wait to see our hollyhocks grow again next summer!)


    your wife.


  2. Stacy says:

    I have a rather large magazine collection – include a couple hundred Martha’s. What do you do with your back issues?

  3. Thanks Sar, I promise not to be glued to the computer too much! And trust me, you’re practically a flower expert yourself nowadays!


    xox back at ya!

  4. Stacy! I know, I know! Those magazines can really pile up huh?! I actually re-purposed this old hutch from my first student apartment that has open shelves above and doors across the bottom. I (actually Sara) repainted it with some leftover F&B paint and just piled the magazines up in messy stacks. When I try to keep them in order it just gets messy anyway, so I just went with the disheveled ‘artistic genius’ look. It’s perfect that way!


    P.S. I’m sure a photo of my magazine hutch will make its way here soon…

  5. Such fond memories of those melon pops…sigh. One of these days we should actually get around to making them! Perhaps Summer 2011 would be a nice way to celebrate your 15-yr relationship with Martha!

  6. Jaclyn – it’s a date. I know the perfect pale blue kitchen to make them in…and you can test out the stove!


  7. Mom says:

    Did I say how PROUD I am of you? Who knew how it would all turn out when you convinced me to buy you that Martha Stewart Living magazine all those years ago?

    So now not only do I benefit from your good taste, so can and do many others. I hope people see that with a good eye and the ability to see the beauty in the sometimes unlovely you can make your home a warm, welcoming space (as you are doing with mine!).

    Congratulations on this new spot to show your stuff.

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