October 13, 2005 in Business

Stewart to offer home designs

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This undated rendering shows one home model that will be part of a line of new houses to be built by KB Home and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK — Fans of Martha Stewart who snapped up her towels and sheets will soon be able to live in a house designed by the domestic maven.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. and KB Home, one of the nation’s largest home builders, announced Wednesday that they are teaming up to build a line of new houses that are inspired by the domestic queen’s three homes in New York and Maine.

The first jointly designed community — to be named KB Home Twin Lakes: Homes Created with Martha Stewart — will feature about 650 homes in Cary, N.C., an up-and-coming suburb of Raleigh, the companies said in a news release. Model homes, which will come in eight different variations, are scheduled to be completed in early 2006.

Bruce Karatz, KB Home’s chairman and CEO, said his company and Stewart plan to also build similar developments in Houston and Atlanta.

The deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed, allows both Stewart and KB to expand into new areas.

“This will not only extend our brand but broaden our scope,” said Stewart, in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

She added, “My homes are wonderfully constructed, beautifully designed and useful for the modern day home owner.”

Stewart is also aiming to use the partnership to further market her collection of home furnishings and other products. The model homes will be furnished with her furniture collection and other products, and customers will be able to buy flooring, faucets, light fixtures, cabinetry and countertops.

For KB, the deal allows the home builder to expand into the higher-end market. The average size for a typical KB home is about 2,000 square feet, according to Karatz. In comparison, the Stewart-inspired dwellings will range from 1,500 square feet to 4,100 square feet and will be priced from the low-$200,000 to mid-$400,000 range. KB builds homes that carry an average selling price of $280,000, Karatz said.

While resembling Stewart’s homes in Seal Harbor, Maine, Katonah, N.Y., and East Hampton, N.Y., these dwellings will also carry such design features that the she deems important — large columns that define the rooms, large laundry rooms, and breakfast nooks.

The pact with KB is the latest in an avalanche of new projects that the New York-based multimedia company is pursuing to put the spotlight back on Stewart, who was released from prison in March for lying about a stock sale. But whether Stewart — who stars in two TV shows and is reaching out to new customers with a new radio show — is spreading herself too thin remains to be seen.

Seth Siegel, co-founder of The Beanstalk Group, a trademark licensing agency, believes the deal with KB Home is a “brilliant” move.

“Martha means home the way Donald Trump means luxury condo,” Siegel said. “Her name will be a great lure to consumers interested in getting a beautifully designed home. This is a wonderful brand extension.”

But investors didn’t seem so pleased, pushing down shares 82 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $20.68 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, continuing a downward trend. Since Stewart’s two TV shows — a live syndicated talk show called “Martha” and “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” made their debut last month, the stock has fallen close to 40 percent amid lukewarm ratings.

Meanwhile, Stewart will have a 24-hour radio channel with Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. that will feature cooking, gardening and entertaining programming for women. It will make its debut later this month.

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