Our beloved diva of domesticity, the OG of DIY, the design maven and tastemaker par excellence, Martha Stewart, is America’s first female self-made billionaire. Unsurprisingly, the rich-as-Midas design queen has bought and sold a number of palaces in her time. “Some people collect paintings,” Stewart said in 2003. “I collect houses because they are really laboratories for all of us.”
Martha Kostyra started out fairly humbly, in a 1930 colonial in Nutley, New Jersey. She grew up there with five siblings. That’s right: six kids and two parents in four bedrooms and a meager 1.5 baths. Martha famously said the house in Nutley was “decorated by Sears;” but that should not necessarily be taken as shade, because Sears sold good quality furniture back then.
Set on a small 0.186 of an acre, Stewart’s childhood home (top image, below) last sold in 2011 for $420,000. In case that sounds low, note that taxes in suburban New Jersey are no joke, with the old Kostyra home clocking in at a whopping $14,000 a year. On a visit back to Nutley in 2014, Martha wrote on her blog, “What lovely memories! I noticed that my father’s prized wisteria tree no longer graces the front lawn. I wonder what became of it?”
Teenage Martha became a model to help pay for her tuition at Barnard College; after graduation, she became a stockbroker on Wall Street. A trailblazer from the get-go, she was the only woman on the trading floor in the 60s and early 70s. She enjoyed martini lunches and, almost unbelievably, she wore velvet hot pants to work, albeit with a tucked-in sweater, and either boots or high heels, and an alligator belt.
By then Martha was a married lady. She met Yale Law student Andy Stewart in 1960 and they married in 1961. Their first home as newlyweds was a 21st-floor penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Often, though, the newlyweds would drive out to the Hamptons and spend time at local inns, dreaming of a time they’d be able to afford a house out east.