12 October 2007


I indulged heavily while we were away at the coast a few weeks back - on extraordinarily delicious bread, sleep, wine and magazines. Lots of magazines!

Instead of buying coffee and lunch every day, I purchased a magazine. And read it. Yes, it was indulgent, and frivolous to boot. But I was on holiday, and it was an excellent opportunity for research on the current state of interior design, women's and food magazines.

I loved some of them. Delicious is great this month (the Japanese salmon salad is a real winner). Oprah was fun in a splashy American way; I even considered visiting the Kohls site to check out the new range Vera Wang has designed for the mass market. And my biggest treat was finding the new issue of Livingetc (could I please live in this holiday house in New England?), and an old, very pretty issue of Real Living.

But I was disappointed with other of my magazine purchases. Real Simple and Notebook seem pretty interchangeable, and I'm afraid, very worthy and rather uptight. I didn't feel at all relaxed when I read them. And while Australian Home Beautiful underwent a rather dramatic makeover a few years ago, it's lost the flair it acquired back then. Now it seems more of a catalogue of houses with loads of bling, all plasma televisions and plunge pools.

I'm sorry to report, however, that my most disappointing mag purchase was Belle. Long regarded as a bible of cutting edge Australian interior design, I found this issue left me cold. The interiors featured are stunning, but I can't imagine living in them. Everything is just so, styled within an inch of its life. And yes, I know that this is the case with all interior magazines, but it just seems so blatent here. I'd be worried about the children scuffing the parquetry floors, or leaving oily handprints on glossy black joinery.

It's all about money too. Nothing about how someone has managed to make an attractive, comfortable home out of some hand-me-down chairs, some canny eBay finds and a can of white paint. Even the children's feature notes that this is a generation "destined to be the first uber-designer generation. Forget pastels and tank engines, for this lot it's all about Vitra red and Scandinavian purism, with iconic furniture designs now in children's sizes". Um, not in this house it's not.

All this says more about me than the publications themselves. While I'm not into shabby chic - or Shabby Shit as one second hand furniture shop I frequent calls it - I am happier with a more lived-in look. Which is a good thing, because my own home, which underwent a major renovation three years ago, has a very lived-in look. It's look that not just due to my beloved tapestry cushions the rabbit has chewed on or my grandmother's china: it's been created through the ugly stuff too, like the overflowing boxes of plastic toys I have to sort through and donate to the school fete. (Spring cleaning might be tiresome, but it is necessary.)

Which is why I was happy to return to Melbourne and find three new issues of some of my favourite mags - Real Living, Inside Out, and my new American magazine crush, Domino. (I've subscribed, as it's loads cheaper than buying it at an Australian newsagency.)

These three, together with Livingetc, certainly do feature houses which have had squillions of dollars thrown at them (like the New England holiday house above). But they also have plenty of more down to earth homes, and lots of pretty inspirational pictures, like those below. And isn't that what house magazines should be about?

[Images from Livingetc, Domino, InsideOut, Real Living and Belle websites.]

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