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Habitually Chic Q&A with Margaret Russell

by habituallychic

10 . 14 . 09

As you probably know, ELLE DECOR is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year with the launch of their new book Style and Substance: The Best of ELLE DECOR. Editor in Chief Margaret Russell has been there since the beginning and she was gracious enough to take time out of her busy day to talk about ELLE DECOR, the new book, and the future of magazines! Enjoy!

HC: You’ve helped found ELLE DECOR 20 years ago and have been the editor in chief since 2000. What is the biggest change you’ve seen to the design industry in that time?

MR: The manner in which magazines are produced has changed exponentially—honestly, we used to write on typewriters! And our world is still changing; it’s the most exciting time in terms of technology, digital capabilities, and increased and more varied means of delivering ideas and content. But the most important development of the past two decades is clearly the Internet—Google, websites, design blogs, Facebook—even the things we haven’t yet imagined.

HC: What are the criteria that you and the editors use to determine if a project is right for ELLE DECOR?

MR: ELLE DECOR’s design and decoration editor Anita Sarsidi and I review most projects together and I think we balance each other well; plus, it’s not really about our personal taste, it’s what we believe will work for the magazine and our readers. We are both drawn to places that offer lots of ideas, that have a sense of history and real life to them, and those that reflect the owner’s taste and personality. We have neither need nor desire to publish interiors that are brand-spanking-new or look like a tastefully organized furniture showroom; our readers expect and deserve better.

HC: How hard was it to go back through the ELLE DECOR archives and choose the best rooms of the last 20 years of ELLE DECOR for your new book Style and Substance: The Best of ELLE DECOR? Do you have a favorite?

MR: It wasn’t hard at all; it was time-consuming and I did most of it at night and on Sundays, but it was truly a pleasure. There were places I’d forgotten that I loved seeing again, a few layouts that admittedly made me wince, and many ideas that will inspire some tweaks in our lineups and format in the future.

HC: We’ve seen so many magazines close in the last few years. Do you think that traditional magazines will be able to survive in a world that has become increasingly digital?

MR: Print magazines will absolutely survive, though we all need to be even more creative, smart, focused, and discerning. There’s no margin for error. Magazines are now brands—brands which must exist on all levels—print, online, TV, books, and perhaps as ancillary signature products.

HC: I know that ELLE DECOR is doing very well at the moment so what is that you are doing that keeps readers anxiously awaiting their new issue every month?

MR: I am wildly fortunate to work with a terrific team; we’re all passionate about what we do, curious about what’s coming next, and driven to discover new talent and the best in design.

HC: I don’t think we’ve seen your home published anywhere. Would you ever be willing to open it up to your readers online or in the magazine?

MR: I’m moving to a new place this year, which will be a big project, but I always prefer to focus on others in ELLE DECOR and not me; I’m far too private!

HC: What do you see for the next 20 years of ELLE DECOR?

MR: ELLE DECOR has done well because we’ve never lost sight of our original mission: The magazine was launched 20 years ago as a sister publication to ELLE and ELLE DECORATION and is now one of 24 international ELLE DECO editions. (ELLE DECO is correct and not a typo.)Our mandate is to publish the most interesting and intriguing interior decoration, architecture, art, and product design from around the world and infuse it all with the flavor of our strong fashion focus. During such a challenging economic environment, it’s also critical to show that living well needn’t be expensive and great design can be had at an affordable price.

Moving forward will require flexibility and the skills to adapt—you can’t just throw some version of a print magazine online and expect anyone to think it’s a great idea. We’re constantly refining and redeveloping what we’re doing on the web, and I’m excited about how we can grow and all that we will be able to offer our readers both in print and online in the months and years to come.

And I truly believe readers should pay a higher subscription price or more magazines will fold. The devalued subscription-offer situation has become insane. I know that it’s impossible to take even a short taxi ride in New York for what one year of my favorite magazines costs; I’d be pleased to pay up!

Photos from Style and Substance: The Best of ELLE DECOR

Comments Closed

  1. caroline @ patagonia gifts October 14, 2009 | 4:39 pm

    oh my! that all white kitchen with pink flowers is such a dream!

  2. Cherish October 14, 2009 | 4:54 pm

    I agree with her statement and I hope that Ms. Russell is correct in her opinion that traditional print magazines will survive. I always look forward to receiving the latest issue in my mailbox; it’s akin to opening a gift. There’s nothing like curling up on the couch on a Sunday afternoon, coffee in hand, to peruse a magazine and daydream about redecorating. Life just wouldn’t be the same without print magazines.

  3. Habitually Chic October 14, 2009 | 5:35 pm

    Carolina – that is a beautiful kitchen!

    Cherish – I would die without my magazines so I hope the remaining ones survive!

  4. A Gift Wrapped Life October 14, 2009 | 5:40 pm

    As an interior designer I would never have survived without all the inspiration found in print magazines. Perhaps now that we are feeling the loss of a few, we will better appreciate the effort and creativity that goes into our monthly magazines and support the ones we admire and enjoy.

  5. little augury October 14, 2009 | 6:05 pm

    Heather-what a great interview, especially the questions. Of course the answers are too-but much of the expected. I was disappointed in the book- I could not imagine the task of culling through all the images to select the best- but the quality of the book itself is not the best. I think the cover missed the mark totally. I just went back through it last night actually and found the real redeeming feature is there is now a compendium for the years of collecting the magazine.That makes it worth having.GT

  6. Greet October 14, 2009 | 6:24 pm

    Thank you Heather for this interview! I enjoyed reading it! And I do hope that magazines will exist in future because I am always so glad and can’t wait to see the newest issue of my preferred magazines!


  7. eddieross October 14, 2009 | 6:47 pm

    We love Margaret and Elle Decor! Great interview, Heather!

    E + J

  8. thomas October 14, 2009 | 8:42 pm

    I could hear Margaret’s voice. 🙂 Great interview and great questions!

  9. Laura Trevey October 14, 2009 | 11:45 pm

    What a wonderful post ~~ I hope that magazines will be here for the long haul!!

  10. Ashfield Hansen Design Inc. October 15, 2009 | 1:07 am

    Thank you for a great interview with the ever-fabulous Margaret Russell! Thanks for asking about her place in particular…I’ve been wondering if we were ever going to see it.

    I think there is a reason that Elle Decor is still around…They are simply the best shelter magazine in the U.S.!

    David @ Ashfield Hansen Design

  11. Rebecca June October 15, 2009 | 2:57 am

    All I can say is how wonderful you did but how jealous I am of you!


    Rebecca June

  12. Dagny @ Beautiful Living October 15, 2009 | 8:29 am

    Excellent interview! I completely agree with Margaret about the subscription price. US magazines are prices ridiculously low compared to Northern European mags. There’s a HUGE difference, and I definitely think readers should be willing to pay more.

  13. Laura Casey Interiors October 15, 2009 | 12:28 pm

    What a great interview. Much credit to her that Elle Decor is so fabulous and still in print.

  14. Urban Dwellings Design October 15, 2009 | 1:01 pm

    I too agree about the subscription price and would definitely be willing to pay more to keep magazines in business. I don’t want to loose any more! Great interview!

  15. Ruthies Renewed Treasured October 15, 2009 | 1:49 pm

    Just finished reading my latest issue and had my coffee in hand and was curled up on the couch! The magazine is filled with wonderful pictures and I loved the Women in Design interviews, would love to see more of those.


  16. red ticking October 15, 2009 | 3:38 pm

    BRILLIANT post heather…. bravo! xx pam

  17. Katherine Lee October 15, 2009 | 9:50 pm

    i truly love elle decor, i think it’s really one of the only true american design magazines left. great interview, thanks!

    xo katherine aka. urban flea 🙂

  18. columnist October 16, 2009 | 10:41 am

    I’ve nominated you for a Kreative Blogger award.

  19. Renee Finberg October 21, 2009 | 12:14 pm

    the blog looks gorgeous!!