Magazine Talk: Margaret Russell’s Architectural Digest

I say Margaret Russell’s Architectural Digest because, really, is there any other reason to pick up the latest issue except to see what changes have been made? To see if Ms. Margaret, in her tiny precision, can get the dinosaur that is AD to sit up, roll, and finally, beg for readers? (and, by extension, advertisers?)

Well, if anyone can get the job done, it’s Ms. Margaret. Something changed for me right away when I opened the issue: I was actually compelled to read it from start to finish. The magazine still carries the same slightly musty, clubby and claustrophobic tone but at least now it’s a club you might aspire to join. And if Architectural Digest insists on featuring a celebrity on the cover, it makes far more sense to give Ralph Lauren – a man with more than a bit of design credibility – the honor as opposed to, say Gerard Butler (who?), photographed in his Tuscan-topia love nest for the cover of a recent, pre-Margaret Russell AD. Or Jennifer Aniston (who?) – although her house was kind of interesting, if I remember correctly. Really, all I completely remember about that issue is thinking: why is Jennifer Aniston on the cover of Architectural Digest? Indeed.

Onto the issue itself, which, by now, actually qualifies as last month’s issue, as the new March issue is now on newsstands. But I can’t be expected to keep up with the hurly-burly of the print magazine business these days, so I’m just going to stick with what I consider to be the current issue, as it says February on the cover, and I can only manage to fully exist in the current month. Sad but true.

p. 70 First of all, blessings on Ralph Lauren. Finally, a man with some new-ish money who knows what to spend it on, as opposed to other relatively newly-minted boss hogs such as the Kardashian sisters and their extended Reality TV kin (I realize these people are painfully easy targets. But I can’t resist. They’re just so rich for so little reason).  Ralph Lauren has the nerve to build a brand new flagship on Madison Avenue in the Beaux Arts style, with no regard for the current vogue for neo-modernism. (Is neo-modernism even a real term? No.) He spent a small fortune on craftsmen who know how to build a limestone facade and a whole bunch of other artisan types who probably haven’t seen this much work since the Guild system was abolished. It was really gratifying to read about the marriage of commerce and design that Ralph Lauren has undertaken, and in a grand style that just doesn’t seem to occur anymore. People who make a lot of money seem to make no correlation between their acquired status and using wealth to build a legacy. Ralph Lauren seems to understand this concept. And he’s built his limestone legacy on clothes no less, the most ephemeral of materials. It all makes for a very nice story, one that I wish I could read again and again, across every industry.

p. 102 Not so sure about that Martha Sturdy character. Her resin furniture kind of gives me the willies, along with all the acres of white leather she believes in so fervently. Everything in her house appears to be of one mind, both in tone and texture, and all that sleek sameness looked as though it belonged to another residence, far, far away from an island overlooking Puget Sound. The interiors should be boxed up and sent to some deserving soul in a Miami high rise, assuming there are any. I realize people don’t need to decorate thematically – I mean, she doesn’t need to sling leather-strapped fishing baskets on a nail pounded into beadboard, but an interior should have some sort of context. Maybe it works better when you see it in person. Which I’ll never know, because I’ll never see it in person. Which is okay with me and certainly more than okay with Martha Sturdy, who sounds as though she is surrounded by admirers of her work. And how strange – and a bit random – to call her the Canadian Martha Stewart in the article. I didn’t pick up on a scrap of craftiness or homemaking or historical reference – our own Dear Leader’s Martha’s bread and butter  –  in that Island house.

I really loved the line-up of interiors in this issue: two articles featuring brand new buildings with designs that were historically sensitive, surrounding a feature on a historic home in Washington, D.C. that had been completely modernized inside, not a scrap of crown molding in sight. Something for everyone. Now if only Architectural Digest could manage to lose the “AD Auctions” department (p. 128), the magazine would be nearly perfect. I realize that Architectural Digest is not attempting to speak to the concerns of the proletariat, but an itemized list of the latest impulse buys of hedge fund managers lost in the wilderness of art collecting is just a huge turn-off.  I mean: $62 million for an Andy Warhol silkscreen? That is grotesque. A Louis XIV level of grotesque. If this absurdity continues, it won’t be long before there will actually be a proletariat in this country, and tongue-in-cheek references won’t be so funny anymore.

2 thoughts on “Magazine Talk: Margaret Russell’s Architectural Digest

  1. I feel like the photographs in the March issue are so dark! No lights (special lighting, lamps, etc.) are on, and the sunlight coming in the windows still isn’t enough to brighten some of the rooms.

    Do you think March 2011’s photos are dark?

    Let me know what you think.

    • Thanks for the input; I need to check out the March issue. Suddenly the shelter magazines are coming in my mailbox fast and furious (received two just today) and I can’t keep up!

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