Chic 'shelter' magazines fight for turf

August 12, 1996|By Geraldine Baum | Geraldine Baum,LOS ANGELES TIMES

NEW YORK -- Tom Scheerer, a successful New York decorator, hadn't even peeled the old paper off the walls before the editor in chief of Elle Decor was traipsing through his home in historic Charleston, S.C. Later, Marian McEvoy wrote a gushy note to Scheerer about how much she loved the house and how much she'd love to showcase it in her magazine.

The same week he heard the same pitch from an editor of Conde Nast's House & Garden, which has just returned after a three-year hiatus. She too had to have it.

Finally, he went with House & Garden.

If the competition for the best houses and advertisers and readers and chic new ways to redo patios has been fierce among glossy magazines up until now, it just became a lot fiercer with a revived House & Garden.

The combination of baby boomers burrowing even deeper into their nests and a rebounding economy has given publishers new confidence to start "shelter books" -- the peculiar name given by the industry to 90 or so interior design magazines.

Certainly, healthy revenues and increased ad pages in the upscale decorator-driven version of these magazines have set the stage for the re-entry of House & Garden, with its more cerebral approach to the home, say Conde Nast execs.

House & Garden's new editor, Dominique Browning, is positioning herself as a sort of intellectual Martha Stewart. With her background with Texas Monthly, Esquire and Newsweek, Browning has vowed to inject more "journalism" and "intensive knowledge" into this photo-dominated genre.

"I think an intellectual take is limited," huffs McEvoy, 47, who comes out of fashion magazines. "That's not why people pick up these magazines."

Pub Date: 8/12/96

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