The New Pretty.

By Alison August 12, 2005 1 Comment 5 Min Read

I have been buying UK interiors magazines for eighteen years. All of them. Every month. (I could have been rich!!).  I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen magazines come and go, and quite frankly, stay when they should have long gone.

Some are trashy: the equivalent of Changing Rooms on paper. Some so utterly scrumptious I could eat them. Others are little more than an excuse to sell lucrative advertising space. And some, well,  are not what they used to be. Or perhaps I’m just a little jaded.

It strikes me that very few are doing anything to really redefine the home, beyond the dictations of the advertisers, so what we get are cheap magazines stuffed full of vases we can buy at Woolworths, or once gorgeous magazines, showing the same kind of terribly tasteful, terribly expensive professionally executed interior design, to the point where they become little more than portfolios for designers ; The same names, and London cliques, over and over again, without any focus on what makes a home, what is achievable, and more than that what is deliciously, eccentrically pushing the boundaries…

Now I know you are going to get cross with me here, but I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: when something becomes so mainstream (ie Vintage or more specifically what passes for generic vintage style)  it is featured in every type of print media from interiors magazines, to Sunday supplements and The Sun, then it is, in it’s most accessible form at least, dead. I know you will all scream that this isn’t about fashion: that it is about personal taste and creating a home you love etc, etc, and I do 100% agree with you. But say you bought a vintage dress to die for: one so utterly you, you felt like a Hollywood movie star when you wore it. Say you spent a week pampering and preening yourself for a big party, put the dress on, added a quirky little accessory or two, and went out feeling a million dollars. But when you got there, every woman in the room was wearing the same dress, because Asda was doing a fantastic copy for £20.00, and every single woman in there loved it. Looked good in it. And Ok, so their shoes weren’t the same as yours, and some of them aren’t half as pretty as you, but still, all the same, they are wearing your dress and it isn’t what it was. You see what I mean?

Very few of the mainstream magazines are pushing the boundaries: daring you to wear a sixties mini, instead of the treasured  Diane Von Furstenberg wrap, you always wear with your forties platforms. All are being terribly well behaved, and sucking up to the advertisers who have quite frankly jumped on the bandwagon and rode it to death. Even the magazines usually to be relied upon to show you homes you don’t quite understand seem to be sticking to what is safe: staying in with the in crowd, not seeking to define what interior design is for: filling page after page with glossy photos and adverts at the expense of any decent writing at all. Particuarly decent writing that defines how we live…

Very few methinks, except Elle Decoration. At the risk of sounding like her one woman fanclub. under the editorship of Michelle Ogundehin, Elle Decoration goes from strength to strength. If ever I have seen a magazine develop it’s own voice, and shout it from the rooftops with such utter glamour, it is this one.

As a society we owe it to the future to reflect both what is stylish (ie vintage) and what is breathtakingly new (ie, the vintage of the future) and this is something Elle Decoration carries off with both humour and intelligence. But more than that: over the past few months the magazine has redefined itself to the degree where it is less about where we live, to being totally committed to how we live; to recognising that a house is a home no matter what it looks like. Whether it’s owners are dedicated followers of fashion or truly couldn’t give a damn.

I am very rarely inspired by the writing in design magazines: all too often it seems generic, and forced, but Michelles editors letters are so fresh, so about you, and how you can create a home that reflects who you are, that I am certain that even if you don’t find the aesthetic of Elle Decoration particuarly appealing,  you will, as BrocanteHome readers, find her voice, and that of her writers, so utterly familiar, it is well worth the cover price;   

Alongside an absolutely fabulous commissioned piece on manners (YEY! Writing in a homes magazine, daring to wander out of the limitations of discussion about interiors and not compromised by images!), there is this piece on "The New Pretty" (Page 95, September 2005)…

"Today, women hold down demanding jobs, run families and keep house, but we still want to look pretty. It’s that multi-tasking dilemma again- can we really do it all while keeping up appearances? The same goes for our homes. They have so many roles to fulfill. But the theme of this issue, The New Pretty, is about recognising that the best looks are sometimes a touch unfinished or a little worn- in other words, real! Your space doesn’t have to be pristine and perfect all the time. True personal beauty comes from wearing the signs of experience with grace- and thats how it should be at home too."

Haven’t I said it a hundred times? Doesn’t it make sense? And isn’t it refreshing to hear it spoken out loud somewhere other than here, when it can occasionally feel like we are at odds with every other woman, all of them busy creating a home so perfect we are scared to sit down in case we stain the sofa with our utter authenticity??

Look I’m not saying that the way we live is the only way: You only have to flick through Elle Decoration itself to see that authentic living comes in all manner of delicious permutations (Love, love, love the 1970’s Amsterdam flat!), but what I am saying is that putting the way we live before how our home looks is important and not buying into the generic versions of our vintage selves, we are currently being force fed, really, really matters.

What I want for you is a home that reflects who you are: not a watered down, bought in a department store version. I want us all to let go of perfection. I want you to buy something utterly, gruesome at the next fleamarket you go to, just because you love it. Because I promise you that if you let the borders of what is good taste in our own aesthetic, stop you, there will be a little part of you that misses it forever. I want you  to get as dirty opulent as you dare and start to live your life in all its  gracious, worn out glory without buying into some money mans dream…

1 Comment

  1. Sue says:

    well done Alison, you're right thats exactly what you've been saying for a long time and is the very essence of Brocante Home. Keep up the good work!

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