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Christopher Spitzmiller Charms at Texas Design Week, Opens Up on Martha Stewart and Farming

Making Jewelry For Your Living Room

BY // 05.19.21
photography Johnny Than

Master ceramist by vocation and gentleman farmer by avocation, Christopher Spitzmiller charms as much in person as he does in his recently published delight A Year at Clove Brook Farm. During his Texas Design Week Houston presentation at FOUND — a TXDW keynote sponsor — he captivated with a broad recounting of the 15-year endeavor that has transformed a derelict dairy farm into a showplace and his relationship with lifestyle diva Martha Stewart.

Spitzmiller’s book is so compelling that it is already in its second printing, only two months after the initial release.

Despite torrential rains, a sold-out entourage of interior designers, decorators and fans of Spitzmiller’s richly glazed lamps, tabletop collections, and other ceramics lined up for the book signing that preceded his engaging presentation. Among them were friends, including Sir Mark Haukohl and his stepmother, Olive Hershey Spitzmiller.

“I put my heart and soul into it and I did it as I could afford to do it,” Spitzmiller candidly shares about the reclaiming of Clove Brook. “I took on parts like new windows, painting the outside, new heating and cooling . . . all this time I was spending vast amounts of money.”

Luckily, his ceramist business is so successful that it allows for the continuing refinement of the five-acre plot. “I like to think that we make jewelry for your living room or for your bedroom, accents of some really good Verdura earrings,” Spitzmiller says.

He explains that he spent six years renovating and reconfiguring the farm house, the kitchen of which dates to 1700 and the main house to 1830. Then, it was a year and a half decorating, each room containing something from his mentorship under renowned designer Albert Hadley.

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“We used Albert’s wallpaper everywhere we could, the best came out of Albert’s house in Connecticut. Every room in my house has some piece of Albert  in it. Those magazines (on the screen that he is narrating) happen to be all of the old ADs, House Beautifuls and Verandas that he was published in.”

036_2021-05-17 TDWH-Christopher Spitzmiller_ (Photo by Johnny Than )
Phoebe Tudor, Mia Smith (Photo by Johnny Than )

Among those whom Spitzmiller also credits with special guidance throughout his career is Mario Buatta, whose spaniel paintings he purchased upon sale of the revered designer’s estate. They hang in the living room of the farm in Millbrook, New York, some 90 minutes from Manhattan.

BFF with Martha Stewart

Spitzmiller laughs that many think that he worked for Martha Stewart at one time, so similar are their interests. Not so, he clarifies. They are friends introduced by mutual friends.

“But it’s our love of chickens and peacocks and now geese and gardening that bound that friendship. So every year, we load up the car and drive up to the congressional poultry show and fight over the best chickens,” he quips.

At the beginning of the COVID shutdowns, Stewart gifted Spitzmiller with eight geese eggs. “Then the geese hatched and they were so cute and I held them every night and I held them every day and then I gave them names like Carolyne Roehm, Bill Blass, Clare Potter and Joan Rivers, who turned out to be a gander,” he says.

Gardening at Clove Brook

“Gardening is really my new invention” Spitzmiller quips. He loves the methodical work of planting in which he and his partner, Anthony Bellomo, get their hands in the dirt. Their floral plantings correspond with the seasons beginning with 3,000 tulip bulbs planted in late winter for spring blossoms, then sweet peas and finally dahlias. The garden is flush this time of year with peonies, 450 bushes, he adds. The couple also plants enormous amounts of narcissus bulbs around the pond. Last year, they planted 13,000.

The next project is transforming the dilapidated dairy barn into a showcase barn with housing for the chickens, a central event room and a storage space for farm equipment.

The program was sponsored by FOUND, New Orleans Auction Galleries, Monogram, Porcelanosa, The Shade Store, Alto, K&N Sales, and Swiggard Creative.

Texas Design Week events continue through the rest of the week. For the full schedule of events, check out Texas Design Week Houston’s full website.

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