Thursday, June 2, 2011

Take It Online

Just as I was thinking of writing something about the profusion of online shelter magazines, along comes a New York Times article on the subject. Perfect timing!

The print magazine world went into a tailspin a few years ago and a number of great magazines folded. The victims included Met Home, which I had been reading for years; the short-lived but inspiring Blueprint from Martha Stewart; and everyone's favorite, Domino.

Lucky for us readers, a number of entrepreneurial-minded bloggers started their own, based entirely online. While the magazines look like the print pubs, they have advantages that paper can't offer, including video extras and the ability to click on a link and go directly to the website of a featured retailer.

There are some drawbacks. Editing tends to be inconsistent (and since I'm an editor, I can't help but notice!). Because they don't have the financial constraints of traditional books (you know, the high cost of paper and printing), they tend to go on and on. And some of the fonts are difficult to read.

So, without further ado, here's a roundup of some of the best and most innovative online shelter mags:

Lonny has the advantage of being the first to market, and it boasts good genes: Founders Michelle Adams and Patrick Cline worked for Domino. Lonny (London-New York) also has offline support in the form of a collaboration with Traditional Home magazine.

Lonny offers high editorial standards, gorgeous photography, and access to top designers and style setters (Vicente Wolf, Lulu Powers, John Derian, Domino's Deborah Needleman). It also has a global reach, taking readers to Italy and England, among other places. And bonus: For a (rather steep) price, you can order up a print copy!

I've skimmed through the latest issue and can't wait to sit down and spend some time with it.

Rue is rooted in the West Coast, with headquarters in San Francisco, giving it a more easy-going, casual attitude. Its founders started out as bloggers, and they have a great eye for design. (And editor-in-chief Crystal Gentilello couldn't have been sweeter when I wrote to her awhile back about using pictures from Rue in my blog!)

Matchbook, via Pinterest
My hands-down favorite is Matchbook. More than a shelter magazine, Matchbook celebrates fashion, food, culture and graphic design. It's literate and worldly, with features on everyone from Vogue's Diana Vreeland to Oscar Wilde and Ella Fitzgerald. 

But Matchbook isn't stuck in the past. It has cooked with the likes of Sophie Dahl and introduced readers to the ladies behind stationers Sugar Paper and jewelry designers Candice Pool and Soraya Silchenstedt. The Matchbook girl looks ahead but respects the past. 

Unfortunately, its software doesn't seem to play with the latest Firefox update, so I have to browse it in Chrome—a small price to pay!

There are plenty more: High Gloss (I haven't read it much, but it's beautiful); Nesting Newbies (which covers design, food and entertaining); Covet Garden (aimed at "folks who are curious about real spaces" and offering a new iPad edition), Standard (which features green design, or as the editors there call it, "post-green design" in which "eco-speak is strictly forbidden"); Collected (very new and based in LA, it aims to "highlight the art of refined living ... while remaining accessible to design enthusiasts"); and Australian entries Est, Ivy & Piper and Adore Home. While the Aussie mags are gorgeous and introduced me to the fabulous Windsor Smith, as a North American, I find the opposite seasons a bit confusing!

There you have it—a long but probably not exhaustive list of online shelter magazines. What are your favorites? Which ones did I miss?

Update: I just went through several issues of Toronto-based Covet Garden, and it is awesome. The compact monthly tours one home and uses that as the theme for the entire issue. Very inspiring! Plus the writing is top notch as well.

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