Domestic Guru, Mar Jennings Evolutionizes “No No’s" into “Know Know’s

As featured in Westport Patch
By RJ Grand

As we know, MARtha Stewart’s show has been dropped by the networks. However, if you’re searching for exceptional ideas to astonish, Mar Jennings is passionate when it comes to home, gardening, his career and is comfortable being on television. Tapping into his skill sets, he has propelled himself into a lifestyle related national brand while creating a multimedia company along the way. As an author, lifestyle expert and national television personality, he delivers beyond the ordinary when it comes to creativity. Mar Jennings, of Westport, Connecticut is the new domestic guru.

Knowing Mar when he was a former competitive figure skater in the 80’s, I wasn’t surprised when I rediscovered him as an author and television host for FOX. He’s the person I watched astound those surrounding him by creating something fabulous from the unimaginable even back then.

Today, Mar has taken millions around the world on a journey to make their own hearts tick by providing affordable lifestyle tips for the home, garden and life. He has always had discipline, dedication and hard work ethics. As a former regional and sectional figure skating championship in 1994, Mar entered the corporate financial world as manager for Citibank in Westport. His career lead him to many other financial institutions and in 2005 Mar became a Senior Vice-President for Hudson United Bank located in the former town hall building on the Post Road in Westport. He was responsible for 44 branches and over 220 employees throughout the State of Connecticut. Mar used that same discipline to build his own multimedia career.

RJ: How did you acquire your multimedia career?

Mar: In 2002, I was working for Chase Bank on Main Street and had already allocated our charity/marketing funds when I was approached by Dress For Success Mid Fairfield County (DSMFC) to support a new house tour that year. Not wanting them to walk away empty handed, I offered for them to use my downtown Westport home, “Rosebrook Gardens." It was the first time I ever considered opening my home to total strangers so I had no idea what to expect. They came to visit and the moment they walked through the door they said, “Yes, oh yes! We must have this house on the tour." While they toured, I found they were totally absorbed by my gardens, decorating, design details and passion for my home. Words of perfectly decorated, incredibly comfortable and cozy where music to my ears. Today, I build my career by teaching others how they too, can achieve the same look and feel–I refer to this as a causal luxury approach.

RJ: Is there someone who was your inspiration?

Mar: Oh, yes. In 2005, I lost my mentor, devoted friend and confidant Edward R. Smith, at the age of 47. His words of encouragement, patience and guidance helped me secure a solid foundation for my life and the courage to live my dreams. His short, but meaningful life will forever remain in my heart. He told me right after that house tour that this was what I was meant to be doing and that I needed to focus on my god given gifts rather than suppressing them. With his continued support, I created marjennings.com as a creative outlet. Today, marjennings.com is visited throughout the world as a distinctive resource for all things home and garden related. I have loved, lost and grown both spiritually and professionally along the way on marjennings.com and my multimedia company is a refection of who I am and all things that I love.

RJ: Thank you for sharing that, Mar. What charities did you first open to for home tours?

Mar: After opening my home for DSMFC, I was hooked. In 2004, I participated in the Westport Historical Society Garden Tour. The next year coming off of the huge success and comments from attendees, I did a private tour and lecture for them called the Passionate Gardener. In 2008, Near & Far Aid came knocking to participate in their House Tour. Reviews of my home were over the top and in 2010, I was honored when the prestigious National Garden Conservatory Tour invited me to be part of their national garden tour. Now, that rocked!

RJ: Would you reflect on traveling for work?

Mar: I enjoy traveling and discovering the world whether personal or professional, but I always long for returning back to Rosebrook Gardens after two weeks. Its mostly in part to finding my inner-strength when I’m home surrounded by the beauty and the comforts of it. The wonderful memories, the design sense and the special touches make my home not just a house, but rather a real home. I’m house-proud, no doubt, and I cherish every moment.

RJ: Word has it that you authored another book about the interiors of your home?

Mar: Yes, that’s correct. My next book follows the series of Life on Mar’s, but this time it’s all about “Creating Casual Luxury Room to Room." I take you on a private tour from the moment you enter the front door. I showcase all the details, color choices and furniture placement concepts along with all my design secrets. Its a hard covered book with approximately 220-250 pages. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The launch date is scheduled for sometime late fall this year. Stay tuned – You will love it! If you don’t have it already, I suggest you make sure to get my current book; Life On Mar’s, A Four Season Garden as this is the foundation of a series of six. Its available on Amazon.com and through your local bookstore. Ask for it by name as it is a best seller.

RJ: What advice would you encourage for success?

Mar: The most important advice is to always stay grounded and focused on what you love. Set mini goals, thus more attainable, rather than large goals that often take several years to achieve. Every year should be a step in the right direction. And remember, everything happens for a reason. You may ask yourself, why didn’t I get that job? I tried so hard. If you didn’t get it, don’t lose sight, or get frustrated. It was all part of the greater plan and not meant to be. Stay confident, and persevere. You’re worth it!

RJ: You’re looked at as a talent. People are curious about your insight when it comes to being an authority. How do you feel about this?

Mar: I’m honored that people look to me as a resource. I love it as it comes with a responsibility. RJ, my perspective on lifestyle is as much about form and function as it is about individual distinction. As President and CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of a multimedia and design company, my brand of lifestyle combines an infectious energy with a passion for conveying information in ways that are fun and inspirational to all. My career combines television, radio, print media and theinternet as mediums for an obtainable casual luxury lifestyle. It’s a dream come true.

RJ: And you enjoy canine companions, as well.

Mar: My fur baby, Lady Violet Annabelle Rose Von Schnorkenheimer just celebrated her third birthday in December. She is a good girl and a reflection of me. She’s an inspiration and is trained by her daddy. I also love to write about her life on Mar’s.

RJ: Speaking of training, I bet you can produce fabulous tips right off the top for our readers.

Mar laughs. Mar: I certainly can. I love giving sMARt tips.

Mar’s tips for the beginning days of spring.

1) Pruning: In early March, take down any large ornamental grasses by cutting ones that were left for winter drama. With a pruning saw or strong hand and pruners take down grasses to 10-12″. Any late summer or fall blooming shrubs can be cut back to 8-10″, if you so desire. This encourages fresh new growth and keeps their size under control. Some shrubs I commonly prune are Hydrangea” Annabelle” and “Callicarpa". Clematis Viticella species and hybrids should be cut back to two buds. Roses can be pruned as the buds begin to swell. Leave the Rugosa roses alone, but on the rest of the shrub, take the main shoots down to an outward facing bud usually around 12-18”. For the climbing roses, all the main canes are left to grow and be trained, but note, side shoots are taken down to two buds.

2) Clean up: Maintaining your garden should be a year round delight. I find myself in the garden no matter what time of year it is, but in early March, I start removing and replacing any plants, and plan my spring and summer projects in the garden. Regarding perennial garden clean up, winter can be messy on a perennial garden. Rake old leaves, clean up old foliage and remove older leaves as the fresh new growth begins from evergreen perennials. Mulch and edge the gardens yearly. If you plan on feeding the garden, do it before you put any mulch down.

3) Fertilizing: I use a 10-10-10 fertilizer before mulching and edging the gardens. At this time, the plants are beginning to be active and can use the food. I feed my shrubs, conifer and mixed borders. If you’re not sure, if you need to fertilize, this would be a great time for soil testing.

RJ: Ah, soil testing. I remember you to be a solutionist.–it’s no wonder you offer this as a sMARt tip.

Mar: I’ve always believed, no matter the career, you have to do good in your life by helping others. I’ve worked on this philosophy by either donating books, garden tours, lectures or just rolling up my sleeves. There is an obligation for all of us to find something we can do to help. Our local charities can benefit greatly from our help and support. Discover your local historical society, art center or even your church. It should be a direct line to your heart and soul.

RJ:. What has extending your talented hands to others brought you?

Mar: I’ve been so blessed with many people approaching me about trying to duplicate my work and how a taste on Life on Mar’s has changed their lives. I give as a means of personal growth, as well as a way to help others.

RJ: Please divulge feedback from your viewers. Delight me with an experience.

Mar: I transformed a room for a Fox show I hosted called Dream Room Makeover last summer. I took a living room and dining room and created three aMARzing zones. Viewers loved my tips, color choices and how I designed the room to maximize its fullest potential. Just last month the owner thanked me again for the incredible experience and the makeover that has changed his life.

RJ: Being on television, do you have an obligation to viewers?

Mar: There’s an obligation and responsibility to use your voice, likeness and brand to do something good and meaningful for everyone. I talk to them not at them– I live by that.

RJ: Was there ever a time your creativity was refrained?

Mar: Yes. I tried to blend in during my banking career. I suppressed my creativity everyday as it was not normal or encouraged to be creative in the banking world. They wanted business networking meetings– I wanted a gala. They wanted an open house–I wanted a wine tasting party. I did that for too many years rather than making a stand and being different. I hid my internal flair and abilities behind a Brooks Brothers suit. Enough was enough, and as time went on, I realized how important it is to be different. That said, I remember as a young boy no more than twelve, I pretended to be sick so I could stay home. That day, I rearranged the living room furniture and accessories. When my mother arrived back home, she said to me, “I thought you were sick?" I replied, ” I was, but after redecorating the space I magically feel much better." So you see, even back then, I had the ability to put together great designs.

Mar is the host of Northeast Living, a weekly lifestyle television show featuring “the best of the best” from along the eastern seaboard, and is FoxCT/CT1 Media’sin-house host and lifestyle expert. Mar is also a correspondent and home andgarden expert for Better TV, a nationally syndicated lifestyle TV show; the program centers around all things which aim to make your life “better.” In 2010 Mar joined the world of QVC as a garden Expert, exclusively for Cottage Farms Nursery. Over the years he has made multiple appearances on the Today Show, Food Network, ABC, CBS, CNN. Mar has been featured in Better Homes & Garden’s Decorating Magazine, Home Magazine, Quick & Simple Magazine, Small Gardens Magazine, Page Six and the New York Times, among other national and local publications for both television and print. Mar’s lifestyle is both inspiring and a wonderful place to visit.

While interviewing Mar, it was MARvelous reconnecting with him. If you need your battery recharged, whether it’s for your home, your heart or trying to figure out how to get started for the lifestyle you lead or desire, visit MarJennings.com and experience the world of Life on Mar’s for yourself! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter where, there too, you will find tons of great ideas.

Mar’s tag line is simple and I love it. “And there you have it."