Chicken Lovers Martha Stewart and Christopher Spitzmiller Designed Epic Coops in Nashville


You may have noticed—or seen the stats—that chicken rearing spiked during the pandemic and continues to grow in popularity alongside the soaring cost of store-bought eggs. But the homemaking mother hen Martha Stewart has long known the joys of raising chickens—and she backs up her hobby with research.

“I started raising chickens in the early 1970s in Westport, Connecticut, and was certainly not the first to discover the joys of animal husbandry, but I did start a trend,” Stewart says. “I started buying mail-order chickens from Murray McMurray Hatchery, and through that I learned about the quality and beauty of each breed. I also enjoyed reading the American Standard of Perfection, which is a textbook from the American Poultry Association. I now have a beautiful chicken coop on my farm, which functions well and houses my chickens in a clean and comfortable way. The eggs are coveted, and many say they are the best they’ve ever had.”

Stewart will bring all her poultry know-how to the upcoming Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville (February 3–5), where she and her friend the designer Christopher Spitzmiller created stunning chicken coops in the event’s indoor horticultural spaces. “We went for the wow factor with these coops,” says Spitzmiller, who also keeps chickens at his Hudson Valley Clove Brook Farm. “Why shouldn’t your chickens live in a chic coop? Everything was designed to adhere to the principle, Happy chickens are the most productive chickens.”

AGS2022 01 ©Peyton Hoge
photo: peyton hodge

Nashville’s 2022 Antiques & Garden Show.

Set within the Music City Center in downtown Nashville, the show features three garden areas. At the West Garden sits Stewart and Spitzmiller’s coops, built by Cook Builders, LLC, in a space designed by Duke Design Group. “The ‘Coop de Villa’ is tongue-in-cheek for luxe chicken life,” says Gavin Duke of Duke Design Group, who also collaborated with Nashville local James Dunn of Vintage Millworks on the finishing touches. “The juxtaposition of sophisticated country structure against a classically arranged structure shows a variety of styles that hopefully stimulate the imagination.”

Perennial flower beds, holly-filled planter boxes, and a stone wall surround the coops. “Cleanliness and being easy to maintain are important aspects to consider when designing a chicken coop,” Stewart says. “For this design, I chose board and batten siding with a wood shingle roof, glass windows with screens that open, and sliding doors.”

photo: Duke Design Group
photo: Duke Design Group

Duke Design Group’s renderings of Stewart’s coop.

A chicken run adjoins Stewart’s design to Spitzmiller’s. He took cues from another friend to inform his layout: “The garden writer Page Dickey, a longtime friend and inspiration, had a jewel box of a Greek Revival chicken coop at the end of one of her many gardens at her farm, Duck Hill in North Salem, New York,” he says. “This design has always haunted me, and the Antiques and Garden Show gave me the perfect opportunity to create my version of it. I would like to have a version on wheels so it could be moved around my farm and allow the chickens to explore and fertilize different parts of the farm.”

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photo: Courtesy Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville

Stewart and Spitzmiller (in front).

Although there won’t be any live chickens at the show, Spitzmiller explains, “You can bid on the coops and bring them home, or use them as inspiration to build your own coop. You can source beautiful heritage chickens from local shows like the New England Poultry Congress, or you can go to Tractor Supply or your local feed store to get the best-laying birds. Have fun with your selections: Polish Tophats with their feathery crests; Cochins with their feathered feet; Leghorns are egg-laying machines; Ameraucanas lay pretty blue eggs; Marans and Welsummers lay dark chocolate-colored eggs.”

Christopher Spitzmiller and Martha Stewart 2
photo: Courtesy Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville

Spitzmiller and Stewart selecting chickens.

Both Stewart and Spitzmiller are regulars at the antique show. “I’ve been coming to the show—which was started by my friend and mentor Albert Hadley—since 2012,” Spitzmiller says. While in town, his must-visit list includes Reed Smythe & Co., “Keith Meacham’s shop that sells beautiful hand-blown hyacinth bulb forcers along with my plates and accessories,” along with the Picnic Café and Party Catering. “They specialize in old throwback Southern favorites like pimento cheese sandwiches, Jell-O fruit salads, cheese waffles, and sweet tea with some orange juice.” 

But there’s still one item on his bucket list—just don’t tell his or Stewart’s roosts back home: “I’ve never had Nashville’s hot chicken! We’ll fix that in February.”

Find more information on the Antiques & Garden Show here.

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