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Sunday, March 11, 2012

The new Lonny: some thoughts

The newest issue of Lonny went live yesterday and instead of my usual flippant commentary, I thought I'd attempt a thoughtful critique. Okay, maybe a little flippity dippity is called for.

In a lot of ways, Lonny has grown up. It's attracting many high-end, big-name advertisers and has held true to itself. The intern version of House Beautiful, Lonny is cute colorful young things with cute colorful young interiors. The guiding thesis is "Pretty!"

There's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on.

Case in point: cover girl Anna Burke shows off the West Village apartment she shares with her sister. Burke works for society designer Celerie Kemble and earnestly describes her "sophisticated, bohemian pad" as "part Billy Baldwin and part wild girl." A more apt description would be part low-end Palm Beach thrift store shopper and part shiny sorority pledge. Young design enthusiasts often lack the edit filter and it shows. Month after month, Lonny features the twee abodes of self-important 20-something decorators who believe some combo of Greek keys, gallery walls and grandma prints is the ne plus ultra of stylish interiors.

My automatic wish list generator.

I am a fan of the Market section. Tightly focused and smartly themed, it introduces relatively unknown small companies and indie design houses. In recent issues, Market has become more of an advertiser showcase. That's what the big boy shelter titles do, so kudos to Adams for knowing where her bread is buttered. One feature in the new issue makes me wonder if the chase for ad dollars has forced Adams to cross a bridge too far.

Starile = stale + sterile.

In "A Vanguard Venue," Lonny visits "style blogger" Victoria de la Camara's Brooklyn apartment, above. What caught my eye about the place is that nothing caught my eye about the place. It's sterile, neutral to the point of BandAid bland and completely lacks a voice. It looks like someone shipped in a couple of truckloads of catalog merchandise and called it a day. And I have a feeling that's exactly what happened.

The article neglects to mention that De la Camara was Lonny's Associate Style Editor until just three month ago. Clicking around on the items in the feature, I noticed most are from current Lonny advertisers and those (probably) being courted - West Elm, Arteriors, Restoration Hardware and Design Within Reach. I'm going to venture a guess that the home's large pieces were brought in, photographed and returned. Adams is not unfamiliar with the practice. Last year in a New York Times article about online shelter mags, she reminisced: "They would call in sometimes truckloads of furniture, accessories, lighting, and we would create the ‘Domino look’ in somebody’s home and afterwards take it all back."  (I tried to verify the look of De la Camara's apartment by researching her new blog, but it's not to be found. If anyone knows its URL, please leave it in comments.)

I once had a commenter leave a love note accusing me of having a hate hard-on for Michelle Adams. Nothing could be further from the truth. I admire her chutzpah for starting an eco fabric line at such a young age and at a time when there was little interest in the environmental impact of decorating. After reading her sassypant comments in the New York Times article, I liked her even more. If she traded the juice cleanses for cupcakes, we could probably hang out.

Sourcing amazing interiors must be a Herculean task, as I imagine the real "gets" are saving themselves for the more established print titles. By publishing half-gestated design ideas without the firm hand of a talented editorial stylist (hello Lili Diallo and Raina Kattelson!), Adams is lending sub-par interior design gravitas. A mishmash of Hicks-ian prints, fur throws and 1930s bamboo patio furniture is how your doddering great aunt spiffs up her mothball-scented guest room, not innovative decorating.

All photos by Patrick Cline for Lonny.

Lonny March/April 2012 [official site]
The Thriving (Online) Shelter Magazine Industry [The New York Times]


Anne@A Little Fur in the Paint said...

Just beautiful! Lovely blog ~ I'm a new follower! :)
Best, Anne ♥♥

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

I grinned all the way through your post. Thank you for blogging again. I missed your voice so much. said...

Hey. You do thoughtful critique very well - you certainly joined a few of the dots for me, and answered the question which so often springs to mind when I look at some of Lonny's offerings (actually I've stopped looking) - which is "why am I being shown this?"

Thanks. And it's good you're back in the saddle again.

Anne At Large said...

I am just checking out this issue now and so far I definitely agree with you on the "Market" section, it is probably my favorite part. As most of the current shelter magazines are a bit too serious for me I like the variety they show but am getting a bit worn out by the forced whimsy and heavy-handed hyperbole in the features.

And is it me or is it awkward to have a full-page ad for the Robert Leleux novel right before an article also written by Leleux?

Raina Cox said...

Anne - Leleux is Lonny's Features Director and I believe he writes the copy for all of the mag's stories. His apartment was featured last year's Nov/Dec issue:

I'm not as bothered by a magazine giving one of its writers free advertising (I'm guessing Christopher Hitchens got a pretty sweet deal on book ads in Vanity Fair) as I am by undisclosed arrangements. Stephen Drucker's putting Ina Garten on the cover of Town & Country without disclosing his life partner had a financial stake in Garten's business comes to mind.

margot said...

Raina, excellent evaluation. I share many of your thoughts. Burke's place - proof of the crimes committed in the name of eclecticism. In other words, the utter inability to say "no" to any momentary style flirtation. And yet somehow the bottom shelf of the bar cart is completely empty. And the combination of that sofa and those cushions in that supposed blogger's place - def not worth the effort of focussing a camera. yawn. But loved the Amanda Nisbet piece.

David said...

I've not looked at Lonny regularly, but I'm off to now. Even though that wallpaper in Anna Burke's room makes me want to scream.

Also, if I ever do something to my house and describe it to you as sophisticated I want you to slap me.

Cathy Wall said...

Always so dead on Raina! I always look at Lonny and am not always inspired. I guess I just figured I was too old to get it. Thanks for helping me see that I am not the only one! Definitely a lot to admire about the magazine, it just needs to mature a bit.

sowhatelse said...

Yes, poor Billy Baldwin. His good name is invoked for so many bad projects.

Gabrielle Savoie said...

Raina, you write so beautifully. And your critiques are always spot on. While I did very much enjoy the new Lonny (I drooled all over the market place section and a few other articles), the feature section was somewhat lacking.

I liked some aspects of Anna Burke's place, but as you said the lack of editing is flagrant! She should have left that bamboo living room set to moulder in her grandparent's basement... Oh and don't even get me started on the "starile" Brooklyn apartment. One word: catalogue.

The biggest disappointment was seeing Laura and Diego Garcia's apartment already featured in Vogue AND The Glow... Looked exactly the same. Yawwwwn!

Alcira Molina-Ali said...

It wasn't the most uplifting issue, that's for sure, though here again, some of the quieter spaces had a vaguely Zen-like quality. And I'll take absence over a proliferation of lacquered faux bamboo and too much Etsy art.
More than anything, what stood out to me was the Paulistano chair in the "Starile" room above.
Early on in the decking out of our crib, I purchased one of these with a yummy blackened metal frame.
It was larger than I'd expected and I idiotically sold it on Ebay for far too little.
I regret that now. That is all.
Cheers, Alcira

Appletree said...

It seems your thoughtful critique has inspired your commenters to use their vocabularies as well. Let me be the first to say: i liked it. It had a good beat and you can dance to it.

None said...

You're known for hating attractive young women of normal weight.

Raina Cox said...

None - Hey, Mom. Slow TV night?

Naomi@DesignManifest said...

I love reading your posts, Raina. They really do make me think. While I enjoyed Anna Burke's home and like seeing a mix of high and low I also think you made a lot of good points. Yes, us youngsters do need to work on our editing, but I also appreciate that Lonny gives them a chance.

I'd love for you to expand more on editing done right and editing done wrong. (Just please don't use my loft as an example- I might cry! ;)

I didn't even remember seeing the starile apartment. My eyes must have glazed right over it.

Meaghan [for a song] said...

well done. I agree with another poster- you really help me connect the dots for how I'm feeling about Lonny. It's good to have a critical eye instead of swallowing every new shiny online shelter mag whole (which I suspect happens a lot, considering the over-enthusiastic hoopla that follows each publication)

John said...

Right on and too funny!

Raina Cox said...

John - Such a pleasure to see you here! I'm a big fan of your aesthetic and talents.