New magazine will offer a different kind of shelter Design: Nest, founded by Baltimore native Joe Holtzman, plans to break all the rules.

October 19, 1997|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

New York City The birth of a new magazine is usually attended by the stern midwives of accounting and demographics, who deliver the offspring neatly to its intended -- audience.

The new magazine nest, however, brainchild of Joe Holtzman, 40, Baltimore native, artist, designer and collector, was born like a star in a blaze of coalescing creativity. He's counting on its brightness to draw readers.

"I think we're different. We're breaking a lot of rules," said Holtzman, editor and founder of the magazine that is about design and interiors, but also personal, eccentric and mildly shocking.

"What I love about it is it's not so much about the do's and don'ts of decorating," said art director Alex Castro, a Baltimore architect and designer who serves as art director of the magazine. "It's about what spaces actually are."

Forget mannered rooms and stern layouts. Forget breezy captions and stories studded with the usual BigDesigner Names.

Prepare, instead, for an extensive look at the home of French designer Jacques Grange, who lives in the apartment once inhabited by the writer Colette. ("I love the French taste," says Holtzman, "and I think he has perfect taste. He's not afraid of bad taste.")

Prepare for the room in a tiny suburban house in New Jersey where Raymond Donahue, an IKEA designer, indulges his iconographic passion for actress Farrah Fawcett.

And prepare for the two-room domain of Adam, 15, of Baltimore, painted all over in interlocking circles and ovals by artist Patrick O'Brien.

Diverse readership

Instead of aiming for a particular stratum of reader with a particular income, address and lifestyle, nest hopes to appeal to a more diverse audience. nest aims to have readers "from 18 to 88," and Holtzman is eager to bring in younger readers. "Our advertising people don't know what to do because I won't tell them who our reader is."

Demographics aside, one might well ask, sitting in Holtzman's intricately decorated and visually stunning and playful apartment, what the world needs with another home-design magazine. We have, after all, the staid glories of Architectural Digest, the cheery perfection of Martha Stewart Living, the hearty self-reliance of Bob Vila's American Home -- not to mention a score of others aimed at various decorating niches and lifestyles of the anonymously rich.

"People I speak to say we need another shelter magazine," Holtzman says, in his quietly emphatic way. "They're disappointed with other shelter magazines."

Castro agreed. "People tell me, 'We always know what we're going to see' " in the other magazines. "With nest, they say, 'We don't know what we're going to see -- it's new and startling.'

"We didn't target our audience," said Castro, who as an architect collaborated on the American Visionary Art Museum and is working on the expansion of the Charles Theater. "It's pretty much, here's the message, and we think it's a pretty interesting message that people will want to see."

Part of Holtzman's vision is for nest to "expand the field" outside the hallowed halls of trendy decorating firms and into the homes of people who have the nerve to decorate for themselves.

'Everybody is a decorator'

"Everybody lives in a room -- everybody is a decorator," he said. "More people are staying home and working out of the house."

With more people spending more time in their homes, Holtzman said, "I think there's more room for other shelter magazines."

Chip Walker, trends director at the BrainWaves Group, a New York research and trend-spotting company, agreed that people are spending more time at home.

"But there's a less obvious trend, especially among younger people, that's a little bit of a return to tradition," Walker said, not meaning "traditional" at all but the "tradition" of paying attention to one's home, of feathering one's nest. "There's a hunger for permanence and things that last," he said.

That translates to a lot of people buying things for their homes, and that's reflected in a new market for major retailers of home furnishings such as Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.

"I think we're going to have a lower circulation and a higher I.Q. than other magazines," said Holtzman. Among advertisers are Diesel (edgy, urban-chic clothing and accessories) and clothing

designer Issye Miyaki. "Calvin Klein has never gone with a start-up before. We have a Who's Who of designers."

Holtzman, raised by parents whose taste was strictly modern art, attended the Park School in Brooklandville and still has friends in Baltimore. He credits his mother with helping him form his artistic taste -- "She took me to museums all the time as a kid" -- and friend and Baltimore Museum of Art deputy director Brenda Richardson with helping him "focus" his artistic vision.

His Baltimore apartment in Guilford -- he calls decorating it "a four-year laboratory" in design -- was featured in Elle Decor in the 1995 June-July issue. (His apartment in New York is featured in the current issue of New York magazine.)

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