Anyone who can wax lyrical about Babe Paley, began their career at the venerable interior design firm of Parish Hadley and considers color and candy their two biggest sources of inspiration is someone with whom I can spend hours talking and listening.
Kevin Sharkey, Senior Vice President and Executive Editorial Director, Decorating, and Executive Creative Director, Merchandising for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (how’s that for a title), is just such a person. I knew from the moment I spotted a large bowl of candy on his desk alongside boxes of yellow Easter Peeps that we would get on well.
The books in his office, organized by color and size also stopped me in my tracks—another sure sign I was destined to like this man. No question his eye for detail is impeccable. But equally importantly, Kevin is genuine and easy to speak with and a great storyteller. His recount of meeting Martha for the first time had me laughing (her head was buried in an oven).
After graduating with an architecture degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, and working for Parish Hadley, Kevin turned his attention to the world of magazines. It was Mr. Hadley who suggested he go to work for Martha Stewart. He also promised Kevin that he could return if it did not work out as he hoped.
Since his early days with Martha Stewart Kevin has done it all—from packing and unpacking boxes to sweeping the floors. Further proof that success is built on both genuine talent and hard work. If you are not doing so already, be certain to follow Kevin’s design diary online and see his own apartment here. The closet alone is to die for! Happy Weekend.
What is your favorite luxury in life?
Without question, books. Because I am a Sagittarius, I don’t like to feel fenced in. When I have books around me, I never feel tethered. I always feel I can run to anywhere each page takes me. Books are an obsession and an expression of my sense of self-preservation. Classic Sagittarius, right?
What books are you currently on your bedside table?
Right now, the pair of Vogue books, The World in Vogue: People, Parties, Places and Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, and People. Every image in those books sparks a new idea for me. They remind me that I am still creative. Also on the nightstand are Chanel by Jean Leymrie, the latest Wright Auction catalogs, and a John Singer Sargent book.
What inspires your creativity and designs?
Travel, reading, and my coworkers. Ayesha Patel, Deputy Creative Director at Martha Stewart Living gave me the skill set to build a career that I would never have imagined could exist. I am so blessed to still work with her to this day. She continues to inspire my creativity and designs. Whether or not we are working on a story together for the magazine, a book, or any special project… just knowing that she is in the building, makes me feel inspired and challenged to do my best.
What is the one thing you cannot live without?
Flowers! For me, they provide endless inspiration…the colors, textures, patterns, scales, compositions. I tried my hand at painting and sculpture as a child, but they were not my intended mediums. Arranging flowers turned out to be my way of being both a painter and sculptor.
How would you describe your personal style?
Ever evolving with a penchant for the classical and the contextually appropriate. Because I travel so much my personal style is constantly being challenged. Within a calendar year, we can easily visit more than a dozen countries. Though at times, it can make me feel a bit schizophrenic — it’s just a symptom of my extremely fortunate circumstances. In the span of two weeks, I can be at Hagia Sophia in Turkey, Villa Kerylos in the South of France, and the Royal Palace in Sweden. My personal style really takes from all of these places and things.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I can think of two things. First, coloring with my three godchildren — all of whom are under the age of 5. Secondly, I love having complete jurisdiction over Martha’s gardens at all of her different homes. I can cut anything I want. And that is an incredible privilege. Every day is an opportunity to create something new.
Who are your style icons?
Alexis Stewart, Babe Paley, Peter Marino, Fuco di Verdura, and Franz Klein.
That Richard Avedon photograph of Babe Paley creates endless motivation for me to live a life of considered, aesthetic decisions. In my fantasy, everything in her life was a conscious choice. No detail was too mundane to overlook. The opportunities to be found every day for a more beautiful life…that is my motivation. Alexis without question has the best taste of anyone I have ever met. She constantly provides me with the inspiration and aspiration I need.
Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
Hatshepsut. I would to like to have met the pharaoh version of Martha.
Le Notre. I always want to learn more about gardens.
Marella Agnelli. I love life as seen through Italian eyes.
Aerin Lauder. I know that we could do great things together.
And finally, Federico de Vera. I want a discount at his store!
Past or present, who has most influenced your direction in life?
Martha Stewart on two levels. Professionally, she makes me feel like I am always the smartest kid in class by continuing to share with me new challenges and opportunities. Martha never deprives me of the chance to learn something new each day.
It makes me think of Alice in Wonderland at times. The first time I met Martha, she was working in one of our test kitchens. I walked in and she had her head in an oven. Now I had never seen the inside of an oven. And I can tell you I never wanted to see the inside of an oven. But I did know that I wanted to be part of something that was memorable. In a way, that oven became the proverbial rabbit hole. And I gladly — along with everyone else here — have fallen down the hole.
It’s a privilege to be a part of something that is really important and beautiful. I am not the decorator who wants to have his name on the door. I know that I can’t win alone. And I don’t want to. Martha has created a place where we all win a little more each day by striving to live a beautiful, interesting, and always examined life.
Personally — she has proven to me that true friendship, esteem, respect, loyalty, and caring can come from any kind of personal relationship. I am the person that I am today because of her.
Profile by Ronda Carman
Images from Martha Stewart Living
Babe Paley Photo: Richard Avedon, Vanity Fair, Conde Nast