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. I find myself doing the same thing. The internet is taking the place of all those dearly beloved magazines. Anything can be stored on Pinterest and that saves storage space at home. It’s a brave new world Erin! :)

  2. I agree – a lot of the shelter mags I used to love are way too high end now. Canadian House & Home can sometimes veer in that direction but overall, isn’t bad! My all-time favourite, though, is Canada’s Style at Home. Range of price points and still really fun and fresh! I know you sometimes read H&H, but if you haven’t picked up Style at Home, you should!

  3. I completely agree. I often find a lot of shelter magazines are showing the same ideas. It would be nice to see some new ideas that aren’t extremely high end. As with the previous comment, Canada’s Style At Home is my favorite shelter magazine, I look forward to my issue arriving every month!

  4. Who needs shelter/fashion mags when we have Elements of Style blog for ideas/inspiration/motivation/and direction!!

  5. I buy two magazines every month without fail. Martha Stewart Living and Red (a UK magazine – not sure if it comes out in the US). These I read from cover to cover, but it takes a lot for me to buy any other magazine except Vogue (the US version) in September. I seem to be going off most things at the moment, I prefer finding recipes and inspiration on Pinterest rather than in magazines. I won’t even begin my rant on the new version of Lonny magazine!

  6. I used to work in the magazine business (Conde Nast) and loved all the free magazines. As blogs have become more popular I find myself wanting to become more of a follower of their lives and therefore, style than an editor who just selects the priciest versions, which make me admire the product and then turn the page. The blogs (specifically, yours) give me fashion advice, ideas, inspiration that I can afford. The magazines just don’t have that anymore and frankly with the resources of the Internet, the blogs make everything so much easier to find affordable options rather than an overpriced version.

  7. I find that a lot of the magazines out there show many homes that are so over done, spent way too much money or just do not relate to my life in anyway. It is like they are trying way too hard. I would have to agree with Vanessa that one of my fav’s is Style at Home. At least some of those homes have some basis in reality. I too know how much fabric,pillows,or decor in general cost, and when I see a pillow that costs $350.00 in a photo shoot I just cringe. I have way more respect for someone who is able to pull a room together for next to nothing as it is way too easy to spend a fortune on items and yes they better look good for that price. I find a lot of blogs are more relatable since one can access so many types and many different people. I do miss certain mags though…one that I miss most was a Canadian publication- Canadian Home and Country…such a lovely mag, was so sad when that one went away……

  8. I’ve been feeling so disappointed in House Beautiful recently. My favorite part has always been reading the designer interviews that accompany the spreads and I still enjoy that, but recently, in particular, I have been seeing designs that I don’t think make sense from any standpoint. One, on a recent cover in fact, impressed me as downright ugly and stupid. I’m no designer, and I realize pushing boundaries can be exciting and inspiring, but I do think design should be pleasing and tasteful no matter what the style. Some of the stuff I see just isn’t. I thought it was just my layman’s eye but maybe not.
    As for price points, I am drawn to expensive things and can usually pick out the higher end item in a quiz, but the costs of some of this stuff makes it out of reach and therefore of less interest.
    What you do, Erin, is show us good design – but you’re not afraid to mix price points which not only speaks to more of us, I think it makes your work more interesting and appealing. This may sound silly, but with this post you validated what I, a total non-designer type, have been thinking. That’s kind of cool. Even cooler though, would be for one of my mags to really excite me again.

  9. Totally agree! The only shelter mag I can stomach these days is HGTV mag. Other than that, I rely on blogs and Pinterest for fresh, original ideas. I used to love Lonny and Domino. They are such a total turn off now.

  10. I have to agree completely. I actually thought about this the other day when I was going through my new House Beautiful. There was a feature about a young single girl’s apartment in NYC; the place had been done in beautiful jewel tones and it was really stunning. I recognized some of the furniture (Bungalow 5) and some of the fabrics (Quadrille) and I had to laugh out loud when the designer said something along the lines of it wasn’t in the girl’s budget to buy art so they supplemented with wall coverings (Phillip Jeffries) and paint and fabric. The Quadrille fabric is not cheap and neither is anything from Bungalow and I was just amazed that these products were considered “entry-level, first apartment” sort of thing. If you tallied up all that fabric and furniture I am sure it would be a pretty penny!

  11. I couldn’t agree more, Erin! I actually used to work for Cottage Living (before it folded) and it was my all time favorite. A great mixture of comfort, high end and accessible. Southern Living, owned by the same company, still has wonderful spreads as well. We are the same age, and I find myself reading more of the gardening and cooking sections than I used to. Definitely a sign of age I think! I’ll have to check out the Canadian Magazines. I saw the Arc Digest article with the upholstered bedroom and just rolled my eyes. It’s hard for me to even find inspiration there. I’ll just come here instead!

  12. I still love them though…with everything going on it’s harder to find the time to sit uninterrupted which is why I love catching up with magazines on flights. That’s the time when I really feel like I have my own space to think…I still love Elle Decor US version and have been interested in the new Domino but mostly it’s international editions…Corriere della Sera’s Living from Italy, Spain’s Architectural Digest or Nuevo Estilo, France’s Milk Interiors…those are ones that always give me good ideas about having a mix – one item might be high end, but then it evens out with more reasonable finds… However, seriously, how many more serge mouille ceiling fixtures do we have to see (and the thing is I love those but it is in every magazine – i’d love to see more types of things).

  13. Totally agree, and the comment above from Vanessa is bang on. You definitely need to read Style at Home, Erin.

  14. I have had the same feeling. Plus, Pinterest is much more useful than the crazy stack of ripped-out magazine pages I used to have.

    That being said, Country Living can have some really amazing issues/articles (not everything they feature, but at least half). There are quite a few home tours that are gorgeous and feature really interesting inexpensive finds from flea markets, antiques, DIY ideas and IKEA picks. For example, this article calls out the prices:

    Anyway, can’t wait for the book; I’m sure I’ll read that cover to cover! : )

  15. I’m also missing Cottage Living. A magazine that’s accessible and shows decorating for REAL homes. Something that you can truly see a family with dogs living in or a college grad’s first apt.
    High end magazines are fun for the “Wow” factor. But my mainstay was devouring magazines that I could use as true inspiration.

  16. Sigh. Original Domino. Cookie. Gourmet. Those were my drop-everything mags, back in the day. What’s replaced them? My daily dose of fabulous blogs — yours, Emily Henderson’s, Little Green Notebook, YoungHouseLove, etc. (I will say, Bon Appetit is feeling more relevant & considerably younger than it used to, and I’d love it if they’d bring in more discussion re: kitchen design and entertaining.)

  17. I still miss Blueprint, which has been gone for years. The only must-read on my list is Sunset. Sunset can do no wrong!

  18. Yep, this exact thing has happened to me recently. Even the hubs asked why I hadn’t yet read the ones I get. I feel like it’s just going to be more of the same out-of-reach, roll-my-eyes type of spaces. Although House Beautiful at least includes some affordable finds in their new products section.

    And my beloved Domino has gone the way of “hey! buy this ridiculously priced blanket!” instead of creating original content. So sad.

    I agree that Country Living has more original spaces featured that include AFFORDABLE vintage and antique items. And it’s hard to pass up Southern Living. Better Homes & Gardens, while appealing to the masses, still does a good job with the attainable factor and mixing high/low decor.

    Does anyone remember Blueprint? I LOVED that magazine though it only lasted a couple years. Came out around the same time as Domino. I still have all the sheets I tore out from it. Wish I kept them intact now!

    Other than those, blogs are my go-to.

  19. I was just thinking about exactly this last night while browsing magazines before a long flight. I love shelter mags, but after flipping through a range of them, none had the kind of images I would go back to again and again for inspiration, and the high-end ones didn’t even appeal on a wish-I-could-in-my-dreams. So I ended up with Vogue–and for exactly why you said! The articles are great, but the spreads are so ridiculously out of range. Even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t want to wear it. (Funny enough, for dreaming I like the short articles on favorite products that Vanity Fair sometimes puts at the front of their issues.) In fact, Vanity Fair and Bon Appetit are the only magazine I subscribe to anymore. If this is getting old, I like it!

    Pinterest is the other reason traditional shelter and fashion mags aren’t so interesting to me anymore. Why wait a month or two for new inspiration when there’s something new whenever you want it–and I can put in context of my own storyboard.

  20. I feel the same way. I think for me it must be getting older. I subscribed to many of the magazines mentioned in the comments (Blueprint, Garden and Gun, Martha Stewart, Domino, Cottage Living, Cottage Living) and kept many of them. But now, when I look through the old and new ones (except for the original Domino) I just don’t find them that inspiring anymore. I am going through a huge magazine purge at my house right now and I think old Dominoes are all that I am going to keep. For me, I like things that are original and right now, original content can be found for free on blogs. In magazines, everything kind of looks the same – e.g. “white and blue” beach house, lucite dining chairs with rough hewn farm table, flokati rugs, pottery garden stools, “Keep Calm and (whatever)”, small vase and huge tropical leaf, etc. My guess is the magazine business is so up the creek right now that they can’t afford to experiment anymore and have to rely on what they know is (or was) popular.

  21. SUCH a great post! I’ve basically given up on reading any magazines, for this exact reason. The shelter mags out there are just SO high end that I actually find it boring, even more so than unrealistic. It has nothing to do with how I live or how anyone else that I know lives. To me, a high-low mix almost forces more creativity, and allows for a more “mixed” look, which is what I like. High-low interiors are just so much more interesting, both to look at and and to be inspired by. Doing a room completely high end almost feels like a cop-out…of course it’s easy to create a beautiful room when you’re basically using fantasy materials! And then as you pointed out, it all becomes very generic and you see the same things over and over. Where’s the creativity in that? And how is it relevant to most of the mag’s readers? Very frustrating. I have to say, I miss Lonny when Michelle Adams was at the helm…I wish more magazines like that existed!

  22. I agree totally. I find myself gravitating to less high-end pubs like Country Living, Coastal Living, Southern Living and Better Homes & Gardens, mainly because they have down to earth, relatable ideas. The best rooms, and the best outfits are a clever mix of high-lo. I am THRILLED when someone compliments the occasional tables in my living room that I picked up on the side of the road for $5 each. Or the brass bar cart that I rescued from the back yard of an antique store, stripped the white paint off of and found beautiful shining brass underneath. I’m just as proud of my pillows and dining chairs that are covered in expensive trade fabrics, but they don’t have that mystique of something you had to hunt and bargain for. Great post and great thoughts!

  23. I am the same way. Part of it for me is that a lot of the photos from the magazines are online before I get the magazine. So they are floating around pinterest for a few days and then I get my magazine and it’s not all that exciting. Kind of a bummer.

  24. I find that most magazines offer either very high end, cold looking interiors OR the opposite – a little too DIY or salvaged looking for my taste. I like in between – Cottage Living was my all time favorite!

  25. You’re absolutely 100% right on this one!! The main reason people buy and read design magazines is to find inspiration for their own homes…and looks that they can create within their ‘real’ budgets. I’ve been finding HGTV Mag has lots of nice, budget-friendly options as well as some fun DIY project ideas. Better Homes & Gardens also tends to keep it real. Great post!!

  26. The versatility of the online world means that so many different things can be shown. But there will always be a certain cache to magazine publishing and so I think the homes of celebs and the interiors of some amazing places will always be reserved for print.

  27. I agree Rachel- there is no way I want magazines to go away and there are certain kinds of design and certain homes that will always be best reserved for print(gladly so!). And I know that certain mags like Arch Digest and Veranda will always be super high end, it’s the House Beautiful and Elle Decor’s of the world that I wish would show a little more variety in the editorial sections.

    Sam- I totally am with you- I don’t like the super DIY ones either. A middle ground would be ideal. :)

  28. Once again Erin you’re right on point! So when are you going to start a mag? :) The only ones I read now are Sunset, Coastal Living, Country Living (I’m not country), People Style Watch and Lucky. I have a subscription to House Beautiful but feel like I need to be Beyonce to afford anything. Like EOS, the publications I do read have high/low features or show alternatives to the high. Your blog is the first one I open everyday! Has been for years! Keep it up!

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  30. I totally agree! I just caught up on House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Traditional Home and Arch Digest and House Beautiful was the only one that didn’t leave me with a sick feeling. I love looking at high end furnishings (and fashion) but that look of “all expensive, all the time” is so gross. (And quite frankly, not very creative!) It kills me that there are people starving in the world and yet some people buy $18,000 vintage lamps. I mean!

    As the former fashion editor of the now defunct Ladies’ Home Journal, I am heartbroken that magazines as an industry are in so much trouble. But they’ve got to have better content to keep me engaged.

  31. I dropped Traditional Home and am considering dropping House Beautiful, too. Other than the color schemes, it’s all SO unaffordable, there’s really no point reading them. I’m a fan of HGTV Magazine and BH&G because they give me more of a mix of everything, plus give tips for how to achieve the look at home. I find that the Trad. Home and HB are primarily brag books for the designers. Apart from blogs, there’s very little out there for regular folks.

  32. I feel exactly the same way about fashion and home magazines…I find that the only magazines that I actually read are Vanity Fair and then unfortunately the tabloids (US Weekly). I have been a subscriber to InStyle since it started but cancelled my subscription earlier this year because I felt out of touch with it as well…that might be age related. I used to devour my House Beautiful, Elle Decor and Veranda but just can’t get into them anymore. I also think I get more design inspiration from blogs (Like EOS!) because they are more realistic.

  33. I totally agree. House Beautiful used to be my favorite magazine, but I don’t think I’m even going to renew my subscription. As someone mentioned above, I thought the “twenty-something apartment” in the last issue was just over the top. I know these magazines are supposed to be aspirational, but I think they’ve gone a little too far. My favorite magazines are actually Country Living, which many commenters mentioned, and also HGTV magazine. The projects and homes are way more accessible and therefor easier to be inspired by.

  34. I have definitely felt that way looking at design magazines before…. fashion magazines can be just as bad. I like it best when magazines offer the high/low mix because thats how MOST of us live anyway. Whether you are talking about decorating or clothes sometimes you want to splurge and sometimes its better to keep things economical.

  35. A little embarrassed to admit this, but I find myself liking the design features in my mom’s back issues of Southern Living and Better Homes & Gardens better than most of what arrives in my mailbox (Traditional Home, House Beautiful, World of Interiors). Really, the great design blogs and Pinterest satisfy much of my itch for home design. Occasionally, there’s a feature in Traditional Home I really like (this month it’s Lauren DeLoach’s design for an Atlanta home–shout out to our builder’s wife!), but most of what I see I would never want to (or choose to) replicate in my own home.

  36. Agreed, I have no sense of urgency when it comes to shelter mags anymore. Most of my favorites have folded (new Domino is not really doing it for me in the same way!) and the editorial content is way overpriced and seriously lacking in creativity, at least a great deal of the time. Even the ads are less interesting to me since so many are geared towards the interiors industry, and those that aren’t are for even more overpriced furnishings. I just don’t get that sense of inspiration and mixing of high and low that I used to, no sense of freshness. I think fantastic blogs like yours have that down pretty well and are a much better resource for those of us with budget restrictions and the willingness to do a lot of research and legwork in building our homes and decorating our spaces.

  37. I agree! None of the home decor magazines speak to the average American woman and the fashion mags are going the same way. Not one item of clothing will be under $200. I still love InStyle, Glamour and Vanity Fair. For online-I enjoy Matchbook Magazine.

  38. Heck yeah – shelter mags used to be the only thing we had! I miss me some Cottage Living. Although Country Living is still awesome. And it must be said, the Domino re-boot doesn’t compare to the original. Most of the stuff is strange or super expensive. Not like the cool-girls-first-apartment vibe they used to have.

  39. I used to devour home design magazines. But like you, I can now let them sit for a bit before looking through them, mainly because I’ve been so disappointed lately with my favorites. Some of my favorites folded (Domino–though it’s back it’s not quite the same; Country Home; Blueprint, among others), but I’ve come to realize as of late what a difference the editor in chief makes! I used to love House Beautiful and Elle Decor, but with the shift in in editors in chief I’m just not feeling it. Definitely a personal taste thing, but it makes me sad. The excitement of seeing a magazine in my mail box was, well, embarrassing to say the least. And just knowing I had a stack of new ones to look at when the kids were all tucked in was just………aaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!! My favorites now, the ones who continually knock it out of the park for me, are Architectural Digest and Veranda, as well as Milieu. YES, every spread is pretty much unattainable, (and some homes are confusingly hideous!) but the photographs are beautiful and inspiring. I treat them more as a great design book by a big name designer–pure eye candy and inspiring. That being said, I recycle the majority of my magazines now as opposed to keeping them as reference–there’s just not much I want to go back and look at again!

  40. I’ve been cancelling subscriptions left and right because the same thing is happening to me. I rip out pages that catch my eye here and there without ever delving into the content.
    The only magazines that make my heart thump anymore are Garden & Gun, Southern Living, Bon Appetit and Country Living.
    I even gave up my subscription to Vogue (gasp! horror! – too much couture!)

  41. Canadian House and Home is one I always love. It translates well, but I agree, I get fewer ideas from the rest of the magazines than I used to. Vogue has become a HUGE disappointment for lots of reasons, and I am tired of Celebs always on the cover.

  42. I still think a magazine–when it works– is a gazillion times better than looking at blogs. At the end of a week I will go through my bookmarked home design blogs trying to simulate a “magazine” experience and I end up feeling flat and uninspired. Looking at images on line is way different than actual magazine images and I still think NY times T magazine, World of Interiors, and Elle Decor(sometimes) and Vogue hit the mark. They also are experienced as a longer narrative with more exacting curatorial decision making.

  43. oh wow! Erin I was thinking this the other day…I used to be addicted to magazines!

    and these days I get a little frustrated when they arrive bc they’re so disappointing. I only occasionally look at Elle Decor for the reasons stated above but do enjoy Garden & Gun and Southern Living. Mary Jane’s Farm is a totally different lifestyle (midwest farm gal- btw look for her airstream renovation post) but so fun and I must admit I love the things my mom sends me from Victorian magazine.

    I subscribe to W and it’s so obnoxious- the best issue was the mini one Sofia Coppola just guest-edited. they should put her in the driver’s seat all the time!

    and I think we’re on image overload/fatigue. It looks like everyone is doing the same old things: marble counters, bead board, brass fixtures, subway tile, kilim rugs, etc.

    I’m ready for a design world shakeup!

  44. YES. More and more – flicking through and it’s same-old. I do wonder whether it’s because we look at so. much. now – blogs, pinterest, online mags, that we’re just glutted, but so much of what I am seeing is either unattainable or completely meh.

  45. So glad someone finally said it out loud!! I’ve been feeling this way for a while. Just yesterday I told my husband to ditch my House Beautifuls if he needed more space for his work stuff. I was only holding on to them to fill the void Domino and Blueprint left in my life. We are definitely in need of a high/low fix and some inspiring designs. Blogs are great, but I really miss having that tactile feeling of reading an actual magazine, flagging pages.

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