Kevin Sharkey of Martha Stewart on flowers - Home Front

Kevin Sharkey
Apr 26, 2018

Kevin Sharkey is the executive vice president and executive director of design for the Martha Stewart Brand. He leads the design teams in all aspects of product development and is responsible for overseeing all Martha Stewart creative content. Sharkey, who has always been extremely passionate about arranging florals, is the co-author of "Martha’s Flowers," which was just published by Clarkson Potter.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Kevin Sharkey is the Executive Vice President and Executive Director of Design for the Martha Stewart Brand. His responsibilities include product development and he is responsible for overseeing all Martha Stewart creative content. Kevin, who has always been extremely passionate about arranging florals, is the co-author of the new book Martha’s Flowers.

Hi it's Kevin,  I am so happy to be here and cannot wait to answer all your questions!

How can I get my cut lilacs to last longer? They seem to wilt in one day and I so love their look and scent.

As soon as you cut your lilacs, hammer the ends and then put them into a bucket of water as hot as you can get out of the tap. 

Hi Kevin- given all the amazing gardens Martha has planned and nurtured all these years- which is your favorite and why?

I love the Bedford gardens because I love the variety and extended blooming period of Martha's floral choices. 

I know you live in NYC but if you had your own cutting garden what flowers would you grow? I always have greenery or cut branches in vases at home- but would love to know what I could plant this summer to enjoy as a cut flower in vases.

You can plant Sweet William, it was the first flower I grew by seed as a child and makes a great cut flower. You can also plant Zinnias, Dahlias and Gladiolus for a great variety. 

What should we ask/tell a florist when we order flowers or an arrangements?

Keep it simple, all of one color, and all of one type of flower is always the best way to go. I am a big fan of the frosted cylinder vase. 

Ok - Martha has almost done it all - crafts, home goods, linens, clothing, food, pet supplies, garden hoses, furniture. What is left for her to put her stamp on? Please share!

Outer space! 

I often use your website to search for recipes or watch videos ( love Sarah Carey and Thomas Joseph!). Do you have a favorite recipe you cook at home - or do you cook at home?

My favorite recipe is to use Lipton's Onion soup mix to make dip. It always garners rave reviews from EVERYONE! 

I know you travel to Martha's various homes and are often creating flowers for her dinner parties. Does she weigh in on what you are doing or does she leave it all to you?

Martha and I always discuss what flower arrangements will be going into her home. I have the most fun when we are making them together. 

I see a lot of photos in Instagram of flowers in single bud vases massed on a table. What do you think of this look?

I think it is an easy and very effective way for someone to create a beautiful table scape. 

What do you do to keep your arrangements fresh?

I always add fresh water to my flower arrangements every morning and I keep them out of direct sunlight. 

The Martha Stewart line has had so many categories ( Michaels, Macy's , QVC , Home Depot and even her own website that sold amazing products early on) . What product planning meeting do you most look forward to attending?

I do not have a favorite, I love them all! 

I see you went to RISD. What did you study and how did that influence what you are doing today?

I studied Architecture and the RISD education prepares you to take on any design opportunity. Which I attribute to my happy and fulfilling career. 

Hi, Jura- This question’s for you. I recently selected and had painted a majority of my house in a BM color called Jute. It looked great on a small area, but is drab and has gray-green undertones, and I am regretting the choice. The trim is very white. Short of a compete repainting, is there any ragging or glazing that you could recommend to brighten the space? Thanks.

No. I'd just get another color and repaint. Otherwise you will always be annoyed at the Jute tone and whatever you did on top of it.

How can you cut them in a home garden and keep them fresh in water- they often don't last?

Cut them either early in the morning or late in the evening, and put them in a bucket of cold water and let them condition for a day. 

How is the Martha Stewart brand reacting to the trend in Millennials to have less stuff?

As a brand we have always stood for quality over quantity. So obviously we are like-minded. 

What shape of vase do you recommend for holding tulips? Cylinder? Round? square?

I prefer a tall frosted glass cylinder. 

Do you think formal floral arrangements will fall out of fashion in favor of a more casual style - especially with Millennials?

No, I do not. I think there is a time and a place for all different styles of floral arrangements. 


I always buy flowers for myself. Even grocery store flowers (a bunch of tulips for $4) can brighten up your day. Why do you think so many people (women specifically) don't treat themselves to this?

I do not know, but I share your sentiments. #FlowerPower

What does that mean? Leave the hydrangeas in a bucket of cold water outside?

It means to leave it in a cool dark space, in a tall bucket of cold fresh water. 

Am I the only one who cannot stand the smell? Do you ever use these?

I do LOVE Paper Whites, and they are a welcome addition to my holiday decor. However, there are some people who cannot bare the scent. Some people feel the same way about Hyacinth. 

Do you use that packet of white powder that comes with fresh cut flowers??

No, I do not. I rely on clean fresh water in abundant supply. 

The only way I've gotten cut hydrangeas to last is to cut them, then plunge the stem into water just off the boil for 30 seconds. I think this breaks up some resins that block the stem from taking in water if it hardens. Are there other flowers that should get this treatment?

There are multiple approaches for treating hydrangeas, I personally do not use that method. But I am happy to hear that it works for you. I am going to give it another try at your suggestion. Lilacs also benefit from hot water after cutting. 

What is the best way to grow Aloe Vera? I currently have small plant in pot and it is not doing well. I do not water that often. It is really wilted.

Aloe does best in full sun exposure and when not watered too often. I suggest repotting into fresh succulent potting mix. If its wilted I'd recommend adding some water. 

Thank you all for participating with me today and for all of your great floral questions. Please do check out my new book with Martha, Martha's Flowers. Don't forget to follow me @seenbysharkey on Instagram! Kevin 

Thanks Kevin. My favorite answer was the one about ordering flowers - get them all in one color and ask for a frosted vase. Really good advice. Thanks for doing the chat. Next week: We will be talking kitchens with Elle H-Millard from the National Kitchen and Bath Association. See you then.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

Home Q&A archiveFind Jura on Pinterest
Kevin Sharkey
Recent Chats
  • Next: