Author Archives: Michelle Jones


Mission: Organization

realsimple_june.jpg“Organize your life,” Real Simple magazine proclaims on its June 2010
cover. “How to Organize Anything (and everything!)” Good Housekeeping offers in response.

If the onset of spring suggests the start of an annual clean up, the beginning of June must imply–at least to magazine editors–that it’s time for readers to get organized. June 2010 issues of Real Simple and Good Housekeeping magazines include features on organizing everything from mudrooms to photographs to those little odds and ends that seem to have no home of their own.

Real Simple magazine‘s cover story includes a personality quiz to determine whether right- or left-brain approaches to organization will work better.

Generally, I hate quizzes in magazines because I hate having to commit to a simple “yes” or “no,” “A” or “B.” I just don’t think that way; I always need more options. No worries, the editors acknowledge that there are those of us who lean left and right, at least when it comes to brain orientation, and offer a medium way.

Anyway, the gist of the Real Simple magazine guide to organization is that left-brainers, natural sorters and organizers, need specific places for their things. Right-brainers, on the other hand, live for spontaneity and stimuli and need the kind of storage that allows them to see their things. This means lots of boxes and bins for left-brainers as opposed to bulletin boards and exposed storage for right-brainers. (The feature’s title with its implied emphasis on various aspects of one’s life, by the way, is a bit ambitious.)

goodhouseekeeping_june.jpgSpeaking of organization, Good Housekeeping magazine‘s package is the better organized of the two stories. Unfortunately the cover of that issue could have benefited from a touch of that organization; there’s a lack of hierarchy that leaves elements competing for attention.

Despite that inauspicious start, this story wins the organization contest hands down–even if Real Simple magazine will likely always win a photography contest between the two publications, and it’s printed on a much nicer paper stock–for variety of ideas and ease of reading. There are suggestions for every room of the house, storage of various items and a number of quick fixes. Task-specific ideas deal with cleaning, hosting parties, packing and travel, and even getting rid of what you don’t want.


Got a Day? House Beautiful Has Ideas for You

housebeautiful_june.jpgHouse Beautiful magazine continues its run of theme issues (and delightful covers) with a concept that seems lifted from Real Simple magazine: “What You Can Do in a Day.” Hmm, one wonders, what can I do in a day?

According to the designers featured in the June 2010 House Beautiful, the answer is a number of quick decorating tips to make one’s abode feel more relaxed, colorful, modern, soulful, simple. The tips, tacked onto the monthly allotment of beautifully photographed interiors (and the occasional exterior), range from simple to more involved.

Change out pillows, add fresh flowers, reorganize books, splurge on ridiculous luxurious linens, the designers suggest. Or wash your windows, rearrange your furniture, paint a wall, etc. All good ideas that may seem obvious, but may somehow elude the overwhelmed homeowner trapped in a rut.

One observation: In the interview accompanying the space chosen to represent the modern option, designer Eric Cohler dismisses the apartment’s previous interior as being overblown ’80s glamour, a style epitomized by “Dynasty.”  Cohler’s solution, apparently, was to evoke the 1970s instead. He outfitted the clients’ living room in plush white carpet, a sectional covered in brown mohair, a chrome-and-glass coffee table and an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair (designed in 1958; hugely popular in the 1970s).

I vaguely remember this room in a 1950s-built ranch house back in the mid-1970s. To make the memory complete, Cohler even suggests using contact paper–a staple of ’70s decorating–in his take on “Five Things You Can Do in a Day.” Oh, must we go back to that?

Memory Lane aside, the “What You Can Do in a Day” package is clever and executed well. The June 2010 issue, by the way, is the last under the helm of editor-in-chief Stephen Drucker, who’s moving to Town & Country magazine. House Beautiful style director Newell Turner takes over the publication’s reins beginning with the July 2010 issue.


Hot Topic for Personal Finance Magazines: Debit or Credit?

money.jpgIt was only a matter of time before personal finance magazines started covering the new credit card act regulations. One hot topic: When to use a debit card rather than a credit card.

Money magazine pondered the question in April, pointing out that most credit card purchases come with some protection built in, which could eliminate the necessity for extended warranties on major purchases (similar to how your car insurance might be all you need when renting a car). Using a debit card, on the other hand, ensures that you spend only what you have–now that regulations prevent banks from allowing purchases that would leave you with a negative balance–as opposed to using loans from your credit card.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine covers the credit vs. debit matter in May. On the plus side for credit? Rewards programs and consumer protections. Credit cards are also a better way to deal with the practice of businesses placing holds on accounts when cards are used to reserve hotel rooms, rental cars and the like. (Remember the first time you discovered a hold for a large amount of money–sometimes double the reservation fee–placed on your bank account?) On the other hand, the article states, there are some times when it makes sense (and dollars and cents) to use a debit card.

We’ll be watching for more stories weighing the pros and cons of which type of card to use in other types of magazines–and wielding our cards very carefully.

Martha’s Theme

martha_stewart_living.jpgTheme issues are always a challenge–and somewhat of a risk–but if any magazine is up to the task, it’s Martha Stewart Living magazine. As reported by Amy Wicks in WWD, editor in chief Vanessa Holden (she was named to the post last December, moving from Martha Stewart Weddings) says each issue of the magazine will have a central theme.

Wicks goes on to say that May will be all about color.

The magazine has previously devoted May to color, but it will be interesting to see how this new focus on theme will carry over.  It’s sure to be fantastic if the March issue, which was all about gardening, is anything to go by.

In that issue, the variations on the gardening theme ranged from short openers on gardening books and jars for preserving garden bounty to beauty picks about cremes to restore green thumbs (and the rest of the hand). March recipes celebrated fresh ingredients and a craft project focused on creating distinctive planters.

Though there were nods to other interests and spring-related products (umbrellas, sewing, etc.) throughout the magazine, the overall adherence to the main theme was overwhelmingly consistent, from “The Briefing” to “Good Things” to “Homekeeping.”

A table of contents spread on “The 5 Senses in the Garden” was an inspired way to approach the topic; references to smell, touch and taste were particularly evocative in bringing various aspects of gardens to mind. For me it suggested the scent of fresh herbs, the taste of mint pulled straight off the plant and the sensation of running my hand over tall wheatgrass. (Incredibly, none of this stirred up my allergies.)

The April issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine was dedicated to the “best,” revisiting reader favorites
from the past 20 years (this being the magazine’s anniversary year,
culminating with the January 2011 issue).

fascinating in April, aside from the three beautiful covers, was the
clever reworking of past “good things.” April 2006′s cherry blossoms
became flowering dogwood branches and November 1996′s mini-muffin-tin
cornbread and frittatas were reborn as orange-rosemary, jalapeƱo-cheddar
and caramelized onion-bacon bites. Yum.

Stay tuned for an overview of the May issue in a later post.


Elle Decor Magazine Showcases Photography as Interior Decor… Intentionally or Not

elledecor_may2010.jpgI cringed when I saw Ellen Pompeo on the cover of Elle Decor magazine‘s May 2010 issue. While I used to love “Grey’s Anatomy”–despite worrying about the insurance woes of patients subjected to expensive tests by competing interns–I’m tired of the cult of celebrity.

Nevertheless while poring through Pompeo’s gorgeous house (having backed into the spread), I couldn’t help noticing the lovely photographs displayed throughout the house. A number of the works are by Brazilian photographer SebastiĆ£o Salgado and include a particularly striking image of a train station in India shot in Salgado’s characteristic black-and-white.

Many of the other spaces in the issue are also accented with beautiful large-scale photographs displayed in casual, careful or dramatic ways: Wild horses photographed by Roberto Dutesco hang over two weathered club chairs in upstate New York, a shot of the interior of a subway car serves as a headboard in Dallas and a photographer’s Manhattan apartment is filled with his own works.

This emphasis on living with photographs may have been accidental–the editor’s note makes no mention of a special focus. In any case, photography lovers should enjoy Elle Decor magazine’s May 2010 issue. They may even be inspired to hang some of their own images; I certainly was.

A Place to Dwell

dwell.jpgIt almost seems too cool for the average reader, with its mid-century informed designs, sleek, stark interiors and minimalist aesthetic. But I’m convinced Dwell magazine has something to teach even those of us with a penchant for British Colonial and lots (lots) of stuff.


Because we can dream, can’t we? We can dream of one day transforming at least one tiny corner of our homes into perfectly engineered machines for living. Maybe it’ll be an organized closet or a made-to-order home office. A kitchen with a place for everything?

Dwell magazine exists somewhere between trade journal and shelter mag: a magazine for architects, designers, decorators and aficionados. The featured living spaces tend to evoke Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Mies van der Rohe. Sigh.

Though hip Modernists may seem to be the target audience, not every home in the magazine looks like the Jetsons’ sky pad. The March issue, for example, included an apartment in a Brooklyn brownstone, a houseboat in Amsterdam (where else?), a house at the base of the Austrian Alps, a traditional London row house with a modern extension, and a funky apartment in Paris. (This “grab your passport” issue highlights Dwell’s contribution to the exchange of international building ideas and trends–as does its annual conference/trade show.)

Furniture and product profiles are interspersed with stories on sustainable architecture, green building and other good-for-the-planet initiatives. Other articles include tips for working with contractors, finding perfect food storage, etc.

My conclusion: Dwell magazine is good for my soul because each time I read it, I have an urge to clean out something in pursuit of the perhaps unattainable goal of completely organized living.