Recent Posts

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Why I dropped my 'House Beautiful' subscription after 20 years

"Amazing"? Maybe for a Pulte Homes neighborhood model.

Have you ever had to have a "friend-tervention" with that gal pal of yours who still thinks it's okay to wear boot-cut Seven jeans and square-toed Steve Maddens? Every once in a while she'll surprise you with some Isabel Marant (from H&M), but basically she's the decorating equivalent of chevrons and trellis patterns.

That's what House Beautiful has become - stuck in dated trends and uninspired interiors.

When Newell Turner took the reins four years ago, I was hopeful we'd see the venerable magazine move away from faux-painted McMansions and cracked-out Diamond Baratta projects. And for a while we were treated to creative, colorful rooms filled with covetable pieces.

Then came the questionable monthly series and oddball features, like the unabashed grab for advertising dollars with the paint color swatch articles (Hello, Benny Moore and Sherwin Williams!) and "What's on Your Vanity?" (Come on over, Estee Lauder and Lancome!). I can't be the only one squicked out by the monthly "I Love My Bed." I have zero desire to see the spot - no matter how incredibly decorated - where various and sundry designers snore, drool and fornicate.

Gorgeous, but don't black light it.

For every brilliant turn, like the Quadrille founders' Maine summer getaway, there has been the beyond bizarre Southampton house of the McMillen ladies and the deadly dull home of the design development director for Pottery Barn (Oh, hello again, potential advertiser!). If you told me the latter was from this month's Better Homes and Gardens, I wouldn't bat an eye.

HB's website is a pop-up ad nightmare of deep-thinker pieces like "12 Designers' Dogs on Christmas Morning." I understand that High Number of Clicks = Increased Ad Rates and who doesn't love a dog in a Santa hat, but Soleil Moon Frye's Favorite Holiday Gifts"? Really? Really?! Other recent "Wait-what?!" posts include the declaration of Moroccan rugs a "Wild Design Trend of 2013," "The Actress Who Takes Paint Cues From Her Toddler," and "Jessica Alba's Tip For Bringing Color Into Your Home Office." HB is no longer aspirational, it is slipping into a down-market mash-up of Good Housekeeping and US Weekly.

In late 2012, Turner was named Editor in Chief of Hearst Design Group, a position overseeing the creative direction of HB, Elle Decor and Veranda. He remained HB's editor and began to lighten his tremendous work load by assigning guest editors. Except that editorship goes hand in hand with authorship, and having a magazine with so many differing points of view makes for a messy read. Though the world traveler vibe of Chesie Breen's issue was inspiring, the Charlotte Moss-helmed November issue gave us one of the worst HB covers in recent memory:

Those flowers - DIDon't.

Next up is guest editor Sara Ruffin Costello, the Russell Brand of the shelter mag world, who will no doubt be giving us the February, uh, love issue. Coincidentally, that's the month my subscription runs out.

25 comments:

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

And yet I can't pull the trigger but I do take the mick out of the mag every two months or so bc it has become very funny instead which is even more tragic...the thing I hated and couldn't make fun of was the scent matching with decor feature...too much! That's why the mags are losing people to blogs more and more...I lobe Aussie Belle the best lately and UK house and Garden.

a bit of earth said...

Actually, the cover illustration at the top of the article said it all, honestly didn't need to read further - but I did, for the lulz. :)

wellfedfred said...

A excellent way to start the New Year - decluttering the mailbox.

An Urban Cottage said...

A genius piece of writing. This is why I love you.

Sharon Brown said...

Thank you for saying what we've all been thinking.

JeanMarie said...

Yes, thank you for putting words to all the noise in my head. Unfortunately, I think this is the year I shall discontinue most of my shelter subscriptions. I fear loosing touch with the pulse of design but must accept that pulse has relocated to the blog realm. I dearly miss the little flush of excitement upon seeing a new issue of one of the favorites in my mailbox. How times have changed.

Squeak said...

Well said, Raina!

I gave up on House Beautiful about a year ago. I was so tired of seeing a mishmash of furniture and textiles in garishly painted rooms. I'm 59, not 29, and I want to see rooms that are elegant and cohesive, but with a little edginess to them. House Beautiful was starting to remind me of a catalog.

home before dark said...

That Charlotte Moss mess was appalling. Rehashing old photos with the twee scent slant was gagging. I agree that the magazines now are a desperate hot mess. I had hopes for Architectural Digest, but it is not for me. I've begun to vote with my wallet and am stopping my subscriptions to all except for World of Interiors.

ps Your writing was wonderful!

ajt said...

Well put. I let my HB go a few months ago, too. Quite sad.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

The purple "Trading Spaces" cover reminded me so much of an epIsode I once saw of a bathroom that a designer named Hilary did, that I never watched the horrible show again. When I saw the cover I was so surprised to see another version done by CM! All I could think of is the dust collecting in those flowers, just like I did all those years ago seeing that ridiculous bathroom. I love to be inspired by designers who push the envelope, but this was lost on me.

I'm not crazy about the I love my bed or one day makeover either. I haven't peeked into any new issues as I was saving them for the new year- hopefully 2014 things will be looking up!

Kerry Steele- Design du Monde said...

You are dead on with the bed series especially when accompanied but a chipper, "I do everything here". Eww.

Madam Pince said...

Okay, I'm creepy, because I enjoyed "I Love My Bed." But I let my subscription lapse two years ago for the rest of the reasons stated.

Naz said...

I knew that stupid cover reminded of something....that awful ridiculous show Trading Places where they stapled fake flowers to the bathroom walls. (thanks to Acanthus for the name of the show and that idiot Hildy).

If this is the quality that's being throw at us then I'm not renewing either. Thanks for your honesty.

Stephanie said...

I'm on board with everything said here and I, too, have let my subscription lapse. Those flowers stapled to the wall, along with the, "we love this idea!" arrow made me gag. However, it must be said that I still like and wear boot-cut seven jeans :)

David said...

Boom.

Michele from Boston said...

You certainly expressed my disappointments with Newell Turner's editorship. I'm still upset that the wonderful Dara Caponigro had to resign from Veranda. Know how I judge an issue? Once my issue rush of seeing a new magazine in the mailbox wears off in just an hour or two and then having nothing in my tear sheet pile afterwards. That scent consultant article was particularly irksome. The Libby Cameron room on the last cover was DOA. Plus no before photos. I also wonder at how the remaining magazines can be so uneven in voice. Of course, I still miss House & Garden and Southern Accents. And gawd, if just one more Calvin Klein executives' boring country house is featured...thanks, Raina for the rant!!!

Joni Webb said...

those two covers are horrible - the insides are even worse. wtf? i thought it was just me = and you are I are from different sides of the design world, yet we both see alike on this. i mean - that cover on November!!!! ????

gmjl said...

Flipboard uses 2 sources for their home section, Apartment Therapy and HB...this is why I deleted the app on my phone.

Oh, and while you're at it - can we banish the words "Tastemaker" and "Lifestyle Expert"

Jturnrich said...

Ditto, Raina. Did the same thing, for the same reasons, about two years ago. Most months, I felt like I could have been looking at an issue from 20, even 30, years ago. I'm old and tired. I don't need magazines that are, too.

My Notting Hill said...

You hit the nail on the head. Can I still wear boot cuts though? Just trying on skinny leg jeans cuts off my circulatation at the knees.

Madam Pince said...

And I just got a begging letter to renew my long-expired subscription!

Jeannine @ Small and Chic said...

The November issue baffled me. I couldn't believe that Charlotte Moss has those things stuck on the wall. I wouldn't bat an eye if I saw it on a DIY blog,but in House Beautiful? Nutty.

erika g said...

You are so right. In used to tear out or tab so many pages in hb. Now I quickly turn pages and barely ever read through twice. Moves quickly to the garbage.

kumi said...

I hope you at least enjoyed the February 2014 issue with Steven Gambrel's work on the cover. I did enjoy that article and corresponding images. However, I am still one to miss Dominique Browning's House and Garden with all the great and inspired writing.

Raina Cox said...

kumi- Gambrel is a god and can do no wrong.