Sunday, November 28, 2010

House Beautiful, part 2

Newell Turner, the editor of House Beautiful, commented on my post from the other day. I wanted to comment back (naturally!), but what I wrote was too long to fit as a "comment".  So, it now becomes a post. If you haven't yet read the editor's letter, please do. I couldn't find a copy of it on the internet to re-post here. And please, don't get me wrong. As a longtime subscriber, I really do enjoy the magazine!


Thanks for writing. First, I'd be more than happy to post your editor's letter, if you'd be so kind as to send me a copy. I would welcome readers to compare my comments about your letter to your letter itself.

Second, after careful rereading, I take exception to contorting and misinterpreting your comments. All I did was merely interpret. We are always interpreting! I think we are also always looking for clarity and context, and perhaps some would be helpful.

I randomly looked through several back issues of HB from this year and noticed several of the fads you wrote about. In the October issue alone, the magazine highlighted a zebra rug in the 'Animalia' Rugs section ["We went wild for these captivating new designs from the animal kingdom."], several features with slip-covered sofas, and a Chinese garden stool in the "Bathroom of the Month". Not to mention that your magazine has had an "Everywhere We Look" section, which I looked forward to seeing, but now, I'm not so sure...

Also in the October issue there was a book excerpt from Rebecca Moses' A Life of Style that had the tag: It's about confidence: listen to yourself and follow your instincts. In this feature, there are some "Style Constants" among which are: ‘Exotica... symbols of a well-traveled life’ (could this include zebra rugs and Chinese garden stools?), ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall...Think gilded, grand, and gorgeous!’ (might not some think their gold sunburst mirror fits this category, not to mention its association with Louis  XIV which is another style constant ‘King Louis Anything’?) All this is a long-winded way of saying: Might these be classic elements and not fads? I am reminded of the Yves St. Laurent quote, "Fashions fade, style is eternal," and these elements have been with us for centuries.

(I also know that he said, "It pains me physically to see a woman victimized, rendered pathetic, by fashion,” and this maybe the point you were trying to make (to a degree) , if you substitute "room" for "woman". But then I have to wonder about the upcoming trends for 2011... Do trends live longer?)

If these are "overused", then it should make sense to stop featuring them. If they are being used "in the wrong way", then instruct how to use them in the correct way. But don't chide us for adopting what we see in your magazine.

Lastly, I don't think that I handed out any wild accusations (heavy use of sarcasm: guilty!). I did say that it appears that HB, as a magazine, isn't a request for feedback, or seeking a relationship with its readers nor does it encourage community, all things that I still believe based on the fact there is no forum in the magazine for readers’ comments. I also said that there was subtle mocking and a bit of ridicule in your letter, again, which I believe, there is. We, as readers and consumers of your magazine, were inspired by your editorials and bought products featured in them only to find out in your letter that these elements are now "tired". Feeling a bit set-up, while unintended, seems only natural.

I feel like I'm rehashing, and for that I apologize. So here's an invitation: Even though you said it's not easy or likely to engage a conversation, let's do it anyway. Who knows, we might learn something about each other’s perspectives. And I promise I will leave out the sarcasm!

Best regards,
Bob Beukema

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