Gimme Shelter.


There used to be a time when a fresh, new shelter magazine dropped through my mail slot I would attack it with rabid fervor.  There was no talking to me, no tv, no interwebs- just a fresh, new pages full of inspiration ready to be devoured.  And then a few months ago I realized that I had a stack of unread shelter mags sitting next to my spot on the sofa for over a week. What? How did that happen? Now, to be fair I have been really busy as of late,  but that had never stopped me before. So I started thinking, why was I not consuming this material like I used to? Why am I just flipping through the pages quickly without really getting into it?  With some of my favorite publications of times past I feel like the spreads are all so, so incredibly high end it’s hard to take away any ideas that are actually possible in most people’s homes.  A paint color, an overall feel,sure- but upholstering an entire room in $200 a yard fabric? Not so much. As a designer it’s a little easier for me to tally up what costs what in rooms and it can be…well, overwhelming.  I feel like there isn’t a lot of variety offered up and sometimes I find a lot of what’s shown is SO overdone I find it not very attractive or interesting.  I love a good aspirational room, but I love it more when it’s paired with other spaces that offer up a mix of sources and price points. Perhaps it’s because that’s how I work and live- with a high/low mix.  A good splurge here and a bargain there make for a creative palette –just as I enjoy equally working with high end clients and those more budget conscious. Keeps me on my toes!

Have you felt this way at all or is it just me?
Some fashion magazines have gone this way too, but I still rarely leave a fresh InStyle on the table unread for more than 24 hours, let’s be honest!  And when it comes to tomes like Vogue, I find myself READING the articles more and bypassing the spreads. Is this what they call “getting older”???

I’d love to know your take on this- what magazines do you LOVE and which do you skip? Have you noticed any changes int he shelter magazine industry?


  1. Well the 49 comments above have said it better than I could have. But I just wanted to add that House Beautiful has gotten lazy and lost it’s way. It needs intensive care and for my two cents and two words…Stephen Drucker. Get him back.

  2. I too have a stack of magazines waiting to be read. I have found that I’m not renewing some of the subscriptions as they all either seem to be carrying the same ideas, are too high-end like you said, or I’m just bored with them.

  3. “Canadian House and Home” is my favorite and I literally “skip” home waiting to first…look at all the photos and then read it. I truly love my “shelter” magazines…a LOT of work involved. I pass mine on to my hair salon, doctor’s office, etc. franki

  4. I am from the world of hospitality design, and started an online design magazine (Ellie Sojourn) that features resorts, restaurants, and some residential just for this reason! As designers, my business partner and I were lacking inspiration and decided to bring that inspiration to other designers ourselves!

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  6. I’ve read and scanned a lot of these comments and haven’t seen a mention of Living, Etc. I LOVE this magazine! It’s my monthly magazine splurge at Barnes & Noble. I say splurge since it’s $10/issue due to being published in the UK. Yes, it can be high-end, but the ideas and design are right up my alley. And I still love Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue….give me couture! I guess what magazines are for me is an outlet to see the world I will (most likely) never experience; glamour, decadence, and over-the-top. I’m not going to spend money on a magazine that has a lot of DIY projects, that is a google, read the blog entry, complete project for me.

  7. I still miss the old Domino. I used to get so excited when it showed up in the mail. I like what I’ve seen in the new Domino but it hasn’t had enough issues yet to really see how good it is.

    I feel the same as you. Things seem really high end. And dull.

  8. I also find magazines less riveting and I no longer wait anxiously. I am considering cancelling a few subscriptions in fact. I don’t know what the reasons are…blogs? Online free mags! Instagram? But the fact is that the magazines need to up their game…

  9. Your font is too small and light – I skip over the bulk of what you write because it is too hard on the eyes

  10. I blame Pinterest. Who needs to weed through a magazine that may or may not produce something worth looking at, when we are one click away from what we love on Pinterest. ;)

  11. Couldn’t agree more, Erin…It’s one thing to have something be aspirational, and a total other to be completely unattainable. It’s why I love blogs like EOS, and while I suppose it’s not specifically a shelter publication, I find myself devouring BH&G every month. The front of the book always feature such lovely spaces that I feel one can actually bring to life in their own home…

  12. I couldn’t agree more. I used to be the same way, now I have to remember to read them. It’s just that they are so out of reach. They are fantastic as inspirational images, but I find that I get a l am more interested in reading blogs these days and pinterest because they are more attainable. That’s just one of the reasons I love reading your blog. You always mix high and low and while loving luxury stuff still have an eye out for one’s budget. Thanks for reaffirming what I have been feeling for awhile, glad it is not just me!


  13. So true!

    Who has jumped the shark?
    House Beautiful has become too over the top.
    Real Simple is NOT simple.

    Still has a fighting chance?
    Canadian House & Home was my secret savior, but it too has become too sleek, too high end, too monochrome, and has lost its “charm”

    Surprisingly good
    Country Living is often a winner, when its not too (and I realize the irony) too country. But I only want to houses, not all of the recipes, etc.
    Better Home & Garden often has a lovely shelter section. But just like Country Living, I don’t want baked bean recipes, and tips on which cardigan is best for my body type.
    Coastal Living is lovely, but its getting thin. Is anyone else worried?


    Meanwhile, thank you ALL for the new suggestions!

  14. I totally feel the same way. Would devour a magazine from end to end reading every detail and article. Now I just flip through and they can sit UNREAD for days… Love Canadian House & Home and House Beautiful used to be a favorite, but has fallen in the ranks for me. Country Living is refreshing and I recently subscribed to HGTV, but not 100% sold on it; may be a little too DIY. Domino, Cottage Living and Southern Accents were huge favorites of mine, but no longer in regular publication. Perhaps they were more attainable and a great mix of styles?

  15. The major magazines are all the same lately; however, if you look for niches, you find great stuff. There’s a magazine from Australia called “Houses” that will blow your mind. Likewise, “Phoenix Home & Garden” has beautiful southwest style. I realize these two options don’t have universal appeal, but IMO that’s what makes them great — you can pull elements that you like, put them in your own setting, and they become unique focal points, or add character that you don’t see in “House Beautiful.” The hunt for good design is part of the fun, and if your go-to’s aren’t stimulating anymore, you get to hunt for something else!

  16. Erin….SAME!!! I have a huge stack of them sitting here. I am probably older than everyone in the comments section, and I agree with you all. Although some of those mags always felt too upscale and glam for me (Arc Digest, Veranda), and some feel too hip and cool for me(Domino). So I still like House B and Trad home, S Living, etc. I live in Richmond Va and it doesn’t get any more conservative, so maybe that’s part of it…But even my In Styles are sitting here. I find there is just not enough time in the day to read all my emails, my blogs, a book or two and my mags…..You are just always on point with your comments and much more interesting to read than those mags. I would rather watch designers on tv and read their books that their quotes in a mag.

  17. I love Canadian Home & House. I so agree as your
    other faithful reader’s. Too much…!
    As I always stated to my client’s… Less is best.
    Great topic.

  18. I TOTALLY agree. Actually, I totally agree about a lot of magazines.The rooms are so staged you think- well that’s a room no one ever actually uses…plus- EVERYTHING is so expensive and basically a reflection of the ever-increasing wealth disparity in the US. Funny, the people buying these magazines in the brocery aisle do not have the money to actually buy any of the pieces placed in their pictures (probably by marketing or PR people). It’s cheating on the part of the creative people at the magazines. I get better ideas from looking at blogs (like yours) especially ones that show real people’s homes.
    I live in a very cute one bedroom apartment with GORGEOUS hardwood floors and molding in San Francisco that I am getting ready to completely change by making cosmetic changes. I’m getting my ideas from your blog and others because I identify with that aesthetic so much more-real people with real jobs that crave a really beautiful space where I enjoy spending time with my family. I would love to share pics during the process.

  19. I talk about this all the time!! Why are magazines so different now? I am thinking it is just the internet that is the biggest difference. You don’t have to wait (and get so excited) for the fabulous rooms to arrive in your mail box, you can go online anytime and find beauty. This leaves less time and makes the magazine less exciting.

  20. I subscribe to House Beautiful and Elle Decor. I love both but lately they’ve mostly just been collecting dust. SO many ads and so many -eh- rooms. I’m surprised lately if there’s one spread an issue that takes my breath away.

    Domino is more hands-on but isn’t it about $478 an issue these days?!

  21. This happened to me with Cosmopolitan. I was a real fan from high school. It was like my headboard book, but today Im too old for it and I don´t buy it anymore. Insted, I buy Shape, every now and then and thats it. Today I prefer blogs, even magazines blogs, like House beautiful, REal simple, and like Elements of style, of course, and love pinning!

  22. I also find that by the time i get the mag, I’ve seen the feature spread/pics on their website or facebook page that the mag promotes, so there is no fun in that. And that so much of the content is online in other ways (like Pinterest), it’s just not “fresh”. Like you, I do look forward to reading InStyle every issue pretty much right away.

  23. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I spend an hour a month with a Starbucks in the Barnes and Noble magazine aisle free reading all the shelter mags. How in the world can I ever save for Quadrille fabric if I spent $50/month on magazines!

  24. Boring! They are just plain boring. Same designs from one magazine to another month after month. I have cancelled all magazines and have subscribed to the ipad app Next Issue. I still am not thrilled with the shelter magazines but at least I can view them when I look at the other mags on the site.

  25. I agree with so many of these comments- it’s really the dawn of blogs/Pinterest/Instagram that are causing the magazines to be not-so-great anymore. They’re partly to blame as well, releasing images when an issue hits stands doesn’t make me want to purchase it.
    Also, @Heather you aren’t the only one drinking coffee in B&N, I’m right there with you! You’re right- how else are we going to afford those designer fabrics and furnishings?!?!

  26. Not to mention the weird dark photos that are so often published…

    You nailed it as to why so many of these magazines are failing.

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  28. I used to read so many magazines but they seemed to be piling up month after month because I did not have the time to sit down and enjoy them. When I did get around to reading them I did not find the content to be that interesting and many started to become very ad heavy. Now I stick to just two magazines a month – Martha Stewart Living and House and Home. Occasionally I’ll download an issue of a magazine I used to read regularly and usually it just ends up reaffirming my decision to cancel the bulk of my subscriptions.

  29. I couldn’t agree more Erin- you are spot on.
    It’s just too disheartening to look at over the top rooms that are SO out of touch and So ridiculously expensive.
    For those of you still looking for replacement magazines – I subscribe to Living Etc. UK (ships reliably each month) – delicious blend of high and low, still reflective of real people, spaces and families; but with crazy good forward thinking style and creativity. Elle Decor UK is less attainable, but very inspirational (also ships reliably). I also track down Inside Out from Australia at the bookstore. Inside Out is Australia’s version of Domino – a little harder to find, but when you do, it still gives you the thrill that getting a new mag used to give – and, with the hemisphere shift in the season’s it is a total lift to look at summer in the dead of winter.

  30. I remember getting an excited flip in my stomach as I picked up the fall Vogue or turned the first pages of a new home design magazine. Now, I simply log on whenever I want…constant access to content has dulled (not killed) that excitement. (same thing has happened in music and movies–we have so much access to these entertainment forms that going to the record/cd store or going to the movies no longer carries with it the sense of being so special.)
    As readers our access to information has changed, therefore our reaction to once eagerly awaited content in the form of a glossy has dulled a bit.

    As far as enjoyment of the content, I think there are still a number of magazines that are doing a great job. They know the compeitition they face online and they must really wow the reader in order to earn your annual subscription or newsstand fee. This is not an excuse for poorly thought out content but it surely is a reason for why some of these photo shoots are so over the top. Perhaps the publishers view the glossy pages as that inspiriation, and leave more of the servicy information online.

    (I work for a magazine/publishing company. It is sad to see readers lose interest in the glossy, but I believe publishers have the ability to transform the glossy into a commodity that is coveted and kept around, and complements the internet. Hey, books are still around! We just have not gotten there yet.)

  31. I was JUST thinking this as I recycled yet another Elle Decor before reading it – ever since they got the old architectural digest editor it has morphed into that same ‘unattainably’ rich style with loads of expensive built-ins and exotic vacation homes (same with their sister publication house beautiful which I believe got the old Elle Decor editor) – not very relatable. I too recommend country living & good housekeeping (for fun & affordable/inspirational decor spreads) & Martha Stewart Living (for food and american-made lifestyle pieces) .

  32. TOTALLY AGREE. I haven’t renewed my subscription to Vogue in the last couple of years. I browse my friend’s issues when I am over her place for a glass of wine. Agree with Melkorka about ELLE Decor. I haven’t picked up an issue in years. The only subscriptions I have right now are InStyle and House Beautiful. I think they do a great job mixing high and low…and basically just keeping it real!

  33. I don’t know why so much of the creativity has leeched out of these publications, that and substantive content. When I read a magazine, I want to LEARN something–nuances in color, techniques, history of a fabric house/method/antiques/designers, where to shop for lovely things or meet craftsmen or even learn a technique around the world, etc. Honestly, I rarely find anything interesting and mainly just look at how fabric/paint is being used…fall in love w/ something (Dedar “Ikat” in HB last month) and discover it is $300/yd.*sigh* Insult to injury is when 6 or 7 magazines have similar layouts and 30% of it consists of ads (the SAME ads)! I join the B&N groupies and can boast quick scanning of 10 magazines in 2 hrs…I rarely buy one to take home w/ me to keep. Content is king–it was never just images….someone actually has to “write” again, otherwise I can get the images online with everyone else. I would prefer the magazine….time to step up their game or dump the business model, b/c short-term cash gains w/ these publications will just kill their industry off faster.

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