Monday, March 24, 2008

Dear AD



Hey, AD. It's me. Decorno.

Yeah, I know you're never going to read this. You're too busy driving your aging wife to her Botox appointment. I can't believe you guys are still married. You're always in New York and she's always at the Palm Beach house. Sad.

Anyhoo....

Hey, I wanted to let you know that I was thinking about you. There are a few things that bug the living shit out of me about you.

First - halogen lights. Halo-fucking-gen lights. In *every* issue. Uplights. Downlights. Spotlights. Recessed lights. Light-lickity-lights. It makes me DIZZY just to think about it. Who can eat under those? That's not a dining room, it's an interrogation chamber at Guantanamo. With lights like that, you could get me to confess to pretty much anything.


Second - Your covers. Who are these people? I mean, I like John Travolta as an actor, but he's not a compelling personality outside of his roles. And I don't think he's a style icon, exactly. So why is he here?


And this one. David Copperfield? I don't even think this one is real, to tell you the truth. You can't always trust those crazy Google image search results. But then again, you have Travolta on the cover, so why not DAVID COOPERFIELD. Crazier things have happened.


Third - Jennifer Post. I am not even going to explain myself here. You know why AD. You know why.


Fourth - There isn't much architecture in your digest. I know you remind us by telling us that you're a magazine about interiors, but come on now. Try to be good at something. Interiors or architecture. Pick one and apply yourself.

When it's doctor's office time and I am scanning the dingy magazines before me and my options are a Newsweek circa 2006, Highlights, that hard-cover Jesus book for kids*, or AD, the choice is clear (and it's not you). You're soulless and you make those big, expensive, decorated homes look incredibly lonely.

And any publication about homes - where we eat and laugh and make babies and raise them and feed them and care for the ones we love and live out our good days and bad... any magazine that makes a home - of all places - feel lonely, well, that's a digest of interiors I just don't need to see.

53 comments:

erika said...

Amen sister! And the saddest thing is everyone who knows just enough about design to be dangerous (let's call them "laymen") thinks it is the "end all" of publications. I have clients say "Architectural Digest is gonna want to publish this when we get done"... and all I can think is "please no!"... and quickly forgive them for their lack of magazine intelligence.

Anonymous said...

If it changed its name to:

"Beach Houses of Aging Television Actors 15 Years After They'd Had a Hit Series"

there would be no problem.

Decorno said...

Good call, Anon. You're right.

Mrs. Blandings said...

The last two issues have had the words "Private Homes" on the cover. Like that is something unique. It's supposed to be private homes, you dingbat. Not cars, tech, real estate listings and endless hotel coverage. Don't you think Travel and Leisure are rolling their eyes? It's the worst of the worst.

And, I know I just said I don't dish, but this is my one hot topic. And, at least I sign my name. Well, my pretend name, but, my name, none the less.

Abbey said...

You are right Decorno, it is a lonely magazine.

simply seleta said...

I quit subscribing to A.D. years ago. Honestly it bores me. Give me interesting, realistic interiors and unexpected ideas. Far more appealing, I think.Funny, this is the second time I've seen Kelly Preston and John Travolta on the cover.

Sidenote: my friend and make-up artist recently worked on Travolta when he did a press stint in Atlanta. Interesting information on that one...

Sucker For Marketing said...

Decorno - You took the words right out of my mouth, and quite eloquently, I must add.

Every time I am at the store, I pick up A D and look thru it, hoping something interesting will pop out and get me to buy it...but that has NEVER happened!

If their intended audience is only those who make zillions and want to spend it on sterile decors that are obviously not lived in, then they have achieved their goal.

Anonymous said...

I think AD is smart to be filling its pages with, in Mrs. Blandings' words, "cars, tech, real estate listings and endless hotel coverage." It gets them advertising (or IS advertising). On its own, AD's interiors coverage is too awful to bring in the subscribers and advertising needed to keep the magazine going.

Simply Seleta: I bet your friend can explain those weird side-locks around Mr. Travolta's forehead that keep abruptly appearing and disappearing.

melissa said...

Love the post. Agreed, the content is forever lackluster and shows increasingly poor styling.

Anonymous said...

Next cover story:

The Homes of the "90210" Cast!

visualvamp.blogspot.com/ said...

Hey, hey, hey! One day you'll all be aging decor addicts! 15 years goes fast! AD is old school for sure. It has loyal advertisers who consider AD classy & prestigious. As long as they sell the ads, the mag will exist. Readers, readers, they don't need no stinking readers! Pass me that Jesus mag pronto... And for some odd reason many designers like having a spread in AD.. I never knew one to turn it down. I love your open letter. As usual you are hilarious AND smart!

Anonymous said...

"Readers, readers, they don't need no stinking readers!"

Magazine Publishing 101: If you can't prove to advertisers that you have readers, you can't sell advertising space. It's that simple.

Matthew said...

OH, how I miss my House and Garden. It's subscription was replaced with none other than Architectural Digest, which goes straight to the recycling bin. I loathe it. Even the photography is bad - everything is Mary Nichols with spotlights. It's tragic, and I think its intended audience is people over the age of 60. When designers don't even look to the magazine for inspiration, it's trouble. And you're right Decorno, for saying AD would never read this, since no one that works there probably uses the internet.

ExpatInNZ said...

Did you ever notice that the houses featured in AD are often for sale or soon put on the market? I think it's a real estate brochure for the mega-rich.

studiolo2 said...

Was it good at some point, long, long ago? I remember it being more like Veranda: way high-end but with inspiring bits. I don't know if my interests changed or if it was the magazine.

visualvamp.blogspot.com/ said...

Dear anon - re: readers... AD is a real estate brochure. The advertisers are happy enough with that to keep this going since the 1970's. Gosh, are you really a professor of a class on Magazine Publishing 101? I'm impressed! We all agree AD is not our cup of tea. We all can have a laugh at how outdated it is. We are not its readers, and they certainly don't seem to need us :-)

Anonymous said...

Advertising space in national magazines costs thousands and thousands of dollars. Advertisers are only "happy enough" to spend that kind of money if the magazine can prove, with actual, audited data, that it can deliver readers who will actually see the ads. Readers, that is, in certain desireable zip codes, with certain desireable educational, career, and income levels, etc. etc.

So yeah, they do need "stinkin' readers."

Anonymous said...

Please, leave "AD" alone, some of us laymen, sic., or Architects want a magazine that doesn't show knock offs or how the crochet'd caftan wearing, ebay antiquiarn turned a lovely street find into the be all end all chair of the moment.

Anonymous said...

Translation: "I hate poor people."

Anonymous said...

No, ethnocentric smugness

Anonymous said...

and of course there's NO ethnocentric smugness in AD (a.k.a. Old White People Monthly).

visualvamp.blogspot.com/ said...

Would you turn down the cover of AD (or an editorial), if they asked you to be in the magazine? Read more if you care to at my place. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

For me it's a moot question:
AD would never want to cover any of the designers I like. None of them are sterile enough.

visualvamp.blogspot.com/ said...

But what about you the design maven? Pretend you're a designer, a stylist, a photographer, a writer. If AD asked YOU to be in their magazine, what would you say? The designers you like might surprise you with their answer :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the payment is high, and the exposure is a boost for one's career, but AD seems very narrow in what it wants. I don't think they would be happy with the photography of Paul Costello, for example, with his wonderful use of blurriness, his deliberate over-exposures, his unexpected close-ups and startling angles, etc. So for AD to assign him a shoot would only result in frustration and disappointment on both sides.
It would be like Reader's Digest commissioning an article by Hunter Thompson: At the end of the day, neither party is gonna be happy.

visualvamp.blogspot.com/ said...

Actually there is no payment to the stylist or the designer from AD. Maybe the photographer gets paid :-)
Exposure is crucial when one is in business, even in the pages of Readers Digest.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the photographer and writer are most definitely paid.

none said...

There's no one answer.

For a prop stylist, work is work, regardless of how you feel about the magazine.

For a new designer, sure, it's exposure.

For an established and in-demand designer, you might not need the exposure, or want the kind of clients who demand their houses have an AD look.

For an established writer, you might not want to churn out the ass-kissing prose AD will undoubtedly want.

For an established photographer, you might not want to churn out that sterile, anonymous, clinical, lifeless photography that AD thrives on. You might be successful enough to have the luxury of picking and choosing your assignments.

Generalizing about a hypothetical scenario in which you "Pretend you're a designer, a stylist, a photographer, a writer"--it's different for every job, and every career level.

Anonymous said...

Oh good. You've been very sweet lately.

Decorno said...

You mean me?

will said...

AD has a very specific look, it is and always has been a Digest, a summation of interiors, architecture, antiques. It has never tried to be a "Lifestyle" periodical. It's pages are a pure definition of its title.

my little apartment said...

wow, i really liked that back-and-forth that VisualVamp and Anon had going on there for a while...

Anonymous said...

"...a summation of interiors, architecture, antiques."

I don't see it. I see AD as acknowledging only a very, very narrow range of styles--a magazine that is downright strict in its intolerance of diversity.

"It has never tried to be a "Lifestyle" periodical"

If you look back at this recent thread:

www.decorno.blogspot.com/2008/02/open-letter-to-domino-magazine.html

you'll see that few of the readers of this blog want "lifestyle" coverage in their shelter magazines. For the most part, they want pure decor.

will said...

What is not diverse about a dacha in Russia, an apartment in Paris, a camp on the Serengeti, a Paul Rudolph townhouse in NYC. Architecture from Christopher Wren to Jefferson to Qunicy Jones to Norman Foster.

Then you should take a second look if your looking for pure decor, because they are the gold standard, but instead everyone wants a story, how do the kids not mess, where does the dog sleep, how can someone cook there....lifestyle

Anonymous said...

When we say we don't want "lifestyle" coverage, we mean no "hair and makeup" crap, recipes, tips on recycling--things unrelated to the permanent objects that make up a house and a household.

When you express contempt for...

"how do the kids not mess,"

"where does the dog sleep,"

"how can someone cook there"

...you are expressing contempt for the very possibility that living things might come in contact with and thus sully a home's decor.
So the sterility and lifelessness of AD suit you. OK, fair enough.

will said...

There was no contempt expressed, and I resent that accusation, I was trying to express 3 things that are ususally covered in any accompanied article and any reference other is wrongly applied.

Anonymous said...

I registered your contempt from:

"they are the gold standard, but *instead* everyone wants a story [about dogs, etc.]"

You are saying that any story that mentions living things cannot meet the "gold standard" of a story in AD. That a story with "dogs" and "eating" and "mess" and "kids" is inherently impure, tarnished.

will said...

there was no connotation of the word instead

Christine said...

That is a riot! I remember the first AD I ever bought--I was 10 and wanted to be an architect and was verrrrry disappointed that there wasn't much architectural about it!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm pushing sixty and I think it's lux Disney decor,glossy and so cold. You never want to know anyone who lives in those mausoleums !

visualvamp.blogspot.com/ said...

Wow, AD hasn't had this much action like forever! AD editorials have changed with the times. In the 70's & 80's, and even into the 90's there were some "warm" rooms - remember Mario Buatta The Prince of Chintz who lead the 80's English country house as all the rage? And some Hollywood homes, like Cher's, or some rich hippie Hollywood hot messes were fun to look at. But nothing in AD ever seemed like you could do it yourself (though I had a pretty good English country chintz thing going in the early 90's), or buy anything in those rooms. Times have changed. The rich are richer, and having money never meant you had taste too. Wealthy people change their interiors often (if they don't sell the place first), and it gets hard to keep uping the ante. Current AD interiors are colder than in the past. Perhaps times are colder for the rich :-) For the working middle class, interior design and decoration is much more for the people and by the people than it ever has been before - you know design for all :-) Even building a house is very DYI. AD is not relevant to Domino and Decorno readers (the arty working middle class). I liked the anon comment about the caftan wearing eBayer... very funny! LOL as I hang up my caftan for the night (on a chair I dragged in from the street)...Thanks all for a lively discussion.

beachbungalow8 said...

thanks for the jesus shout out. my mother is shaking her head right now, repeating, 'they have it all wrong. jesus looked more like a black man'

Anonymous said...

yep.

Anonymous said...

while I think AD has some merits and use,s (at school we use a lot of AD photos in beginning rendering classes because they are so devoid of clutter) I have to agree. AD is the only magazine I have seen make a beautiful space look worse. I came across the same apartment in AD and another magazine from around the same time period (within the same year) and the differences were huge.

Anonymous said...

From Anon 3:14. I did mean you, but I wasn't the Anon you'd been arguing with earlier. Didn't mean to be confusing. Just enjoying the dust.

Anonymous said...

Decorno,,,,you want so badly to have a voice and the attention yet you do half your comments on your own blog as "anonymous" so you can be extra rude and not be accountable!
would leave our name but you can be soooo mean spirited .

adesignaffair said...

Oh wow Decorno-Fortunately or Unfortunately this magazine serves an audience out there....I was an intern at Conde Nast, at AD....I know some of those issues inside and out. The John Trevolta one has a great article about a family campground with a train set in the canteen house. Sickening that I know that. I hear ya, and am having flashbacks now.

Turquoise said...

OMG.
I am laughing and must show this it the BF. So funny and right on the money.

Like I say, keep em coming...love your hilarious posts.

Anonymous said...

bloody funny - you have got guts - go girl

emily@designsmack said...

Oh, wow, lots of opinions! I guess I'll be the voice of dissent and say that I love AD for most part. Could it be improved? Yes. Does it carter to a certain economic echelon? Absolutely. Did I loath the Travolta/Preston issue? Yes. But I think it gets a lot of things right - the design/furniture picks, the interviews with certain designers, the photography, and the emphasis on older, more traditional taste, which even though I'm (relatively) young and not exactly rolling in it, is what interests me. Interesting post! I enjoy reading your blog.

Decorno said...

Hi "Anon" - - based on your use of multiple commas, I can deduce that you must actually be this blogger:
http://thecraftycameleon.blogspot.com/

It's totally fine if you don't like me. You make that clear on your own blog. But you should:

(a) Speak only with facts. I don't post anonymously on my own blog. It seems like a waste of my bon mots not grabbing credit for them.

(b) If you're going to accuse me of posting "anonymously" you should perhaps take the high road and leave comments under your blogger account name, as well.

Thanks,
The Management

Alkemie said...

Decorno,

That last comment was hilarious!! You totally crack me up. I seriously doubt you would leave anonymous comments on your own blog as well - totally not your style - it's ridic. I used to subscribe to AD but I let my subscription expire. I totally agree that for a magazine that has the word "Architecture" in it - they should showcase more in this area. The problem is that they always show the same styles and I hope they'll include more interesting variety. Whether or not your photo of Copperfield's face on the front page was true or not - I think That is a Very cool idea. I think the main readers of AD are definitely different than those of us who subscribe to say Domino or House Beautiful and etc.
If I'm at a bookstore, I'll still scour their magazines to take a look - but until I see an improvement in what they cover, I'll not likely subscribe again.

Be the change..... said...

I've been getting AD since I was about 10 years old and still love it 20 years later. Here's why: It's not a lifestyle magazine and doesn't claim to be. It's basically a spaces magazine ( not an interior designer's magazine -not a lifestyle magazine ) and basically shows the spaces/architecture BEFORE they're lived in for appreciation of the architecture. I for one have gotten a lot of great design ideas for ARCHITECTURE (as an archite t). So the name isn't far off really. I love elle decor, domino, etc. but this is just a different beast. So this is an architectural magazine as the name suggests and not an interiors magazine -even though it covers interior architecture.
Ps -i LOVE the real estate section of AD! Just my 2 cents.....