Design guru Madden expands offerings

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As Martha Stewart's fortunes take a hit, Chris Madden, considered the more approachable Martha, may stand to benefit.

Design guru Ms. Madden and her husband, former House & Garden Publisher Kevin Madden, CEO of their company, Chris Madden Inc., said they are in the final stages of negotiating a deal they claim will double her business, currently generating between $1 million and $2 million in annual revenue. The couple declined to discuss details, but Ms. Madden said it would be related to a system she has developed that enables an individual to find his or her personal design style.

Ms. Madden has about 200 licensed products, including a 70-piece furniture line sold through Bassett Furniture Industries; a line of pillows and rugs at department stores and other outlets; and a candle collection. She stars in the HGTV program "Interiors by Design," produces a weekly column for Scripps Howard Newspaper service and has written 15 books.

Ms. Madden positions her brand as one that helps homeowners to decompress rather than impress. Unlike some of the exacting projects Ms. Stewart espouses, Ms. Madden focuses on fabrics and products affordable, durable and "easy to live with."

She isn't the only one looking to step into Ms. Stewart's kitchen. Others include restaurateur B. Smith, E!Style Network's Katie Brown and Discovery Channel's Christopher Lowell. Discovery's "Trading Spaces" show is also licensing decorating products (see story at right).

`living' not so easy

Ms. Madden's move comes at a time Martha Stewart Living magazine has seen its ad pages fall 28%, according to Publishers Information Bureau, to 378.6 pages in January-April.

"Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia remains an industry leader with a strong brand and customer following," said a spokeswoman for Martha Stewart Omnimedia.

Christopher Byron, author of the book "Martha, Inc.," said it's not possible to clearly link the decline of Ms. Stewart's empire with a cultural shift away from fussy entertaining or her legal woes. "It may have nothing to do with salmon on toast points for 50 Sunday afternoon."

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