After a rather sleepy 2011, 2012 proved mighty active on the shelter-industry front, one filled with launches, re-launches, acquisitions, joint ventures, mergers, and expansions. Sure, there were plenty of cute occurrences—an 8-year-old girl gave Dwell her two cents about the gender implications of Architect Barbie, and for that matter Dwell got a fun little shout-out on The Simpsons—but as far as actual news goes here's a look at the heavyweight stories, in no particular order:
Condé Nast Revives Domino, Sort of:
In January, rumors started swirling about the rebirth of the beloved decorating magazine, which folded in 2009; in February, Condé Nast officially announced its intention to revive the brand in a newsstand-only iteration that would publish seasonally and sell for $11 a pop. About a week before its debut date in April, early shipments of Domino Quick Fixes started cropping up on newsstands around the country (Manhattan, Charlottesville, Va., Houston), creating a flurry of Twitter activity from crazed fans and sending many, including Curbed, on a near-impossible quest to score an advance copy. Sadly, though, the service-y new publication was filled with much recycled from the magazine's first, much more robust life, and although some readers were still delirious, many felt as though Quick Fixes fell short. As one Curbed commenter put it, "Lame... Domino in name only, a cynical shadow of it's [sic] former self." The Washington Post's Terry Sapienza agreed, writing that the product "lacks the personality, innovation and insider design info the magazine was known for. Instead, Quick Fixes reads like a Decorating 101 primer, one we've already read." And former Domino 1.0 editor Deborah Needleman Tweeted, "Interesting to see how far they can go w recycled content. No domino people involved!"
Lonny Gets Bought and Sort of Saved
Earlier this year, WWD dropped some hints that the fate of Lonny hung in the balance: what in the devil was happening? About a month later, all fears about the original and grande dame of digital shelter magazines were quelled when Lonny, sticking it to naysayers and skeptics, announced its plans to increase its circulation from a bimonthly to a monthly format. In July, though, Lonny was finally acquired by Zimbio Inc., a digital publisher whose portfolio consists of Zimbio.com, covering entertainment and pop culture, and Stylebistro.com, a fashion and beauty vertical helmed by former Racked National editor Danica Lo. A press release from the Zimbio reps stated that the deal includes "the founding editorial team, the Lonny website, its library of past issues, and an archive of thousands of original photographs." Shortly after Hurricane Sandy, Zimbio took Lonny off Issuu, the PDF-powered site that had hosted the magazine since its 2009 debut, republishing its pages on its own, more efficient platform and soft-launching a site that will be updated daily once the brand staffs up its editorial operations (which it's been looking to do since September). At the moment Lonny.com looks rather uninspired, full of placeholder content and dull roundups, so let's hope the infusion of cash and resources will allow the team to reconfigure its vast photo archives into an innovative, fresh, and compelling supplement (and literal traffic-driver) to the magazine itself.
Hearst Consolidates its Shelter Pubs Into One Group
Many moons have passed since Hearst acquired Hachette Filipacchi media, thereby adding Elle Decor to its magazine portfolio, but just this year the publisher consolidated its shelter titles into one herculean group under one editorial directorship. Newell Turner—fomerly the editor in chief of House Beautiful—has become editor in chief of the whole shebang, with Michael Boodro and Dara Caponigro remaining in their roles as editor in chiefs of Elle Decor and Veranda, respectively. (HGTV Magazine, also published by Hearst and officially greenlit for more issues in March, is not considered a shelter magazine and is therefore not part of the crew here.) Anyway, each Hearst Design Group brand now has its own design director, interiors editor, and senior writer, but they share market and features editors, a photo department, and publishers. Fewer editors doing more means that some were let go, of course, and an insider tells Curbed that many casualties were given help finding their next gigs from high-ranking editors who were saved. The merger, which didn't affect the Web editors of any of these brands, presents an interesting post-recession print-publishing model.
New York Launches Standalone Design Title
New York magazine has always produced spectacular biannual Design Issues, shedding light on unusual urban environments, extreme and superlative spaces, and all sorts of families with all sorts of trappings, from all-Lego staircases to walls covered in 2,398 pieces of colored paper. In short: design editor Wendy Goodman approaches everything with a city-dweller's sensibility, favoring the curious and eccentric over anything too precious. So after the magazine announced a once-yearly standalone design title once a year, indeed, the 220-page debut issue covered a conversion of a 375-square-foot dentist's office into a studio; chocolatier Jacques Torres' houseboat on the Hudson River; and one show-stopper with a multi-colored striped staircase. Goodman's philosophical bent—while some 8.3M people take the unified stance that New York City is home, there's no such thing as a unified type of home there—paid off: New York Design Hunting will publish twice next year, fulfilling publisher Larry Burstein's belief that it "fills a void in the marketplace."
Cottages & Gardens Expands With a New York Title
Look what's happened with Cottages & Gardens, a publisher of regional high-end design magazines (and alma mater to many a Curbed employee): the group got hit hard by the recession, laid off a bunch of people, shuttered its Palm Beach edition, and eventually got sold to a Connecticut-based publisher a couple of years ago. This year, though, C&G launched New York Cottages & Gardens, covering NYC, Westchester County, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island's Gold Coast, indicating that shelter media, and in particular these regional, self-published brands, has pulled itself out of the dark ditch of 2009/2010. Since debuting in February, NYC&G has featured the country home of Marian McEvoy, former editor of House Beautiful and Elle Decor, a colorful Park Avenue project by Amanda Nisbet, and many other impressive projects, and published five full issues in its fledgling year.