What do you think the top three selling magazines in the UK are? Well, I’ll tell you: according to the latest ABC statistics, as of August 2016 the top magazines in the UK and Ireland by sales are: ‘TV Choice’, ‘What’s on TV’ and ‘Slimming World’. Interestingly, the first ‘home interest’ magazine, that rates in 29th position, is Ideal Home and it appears that ‘Disney Frozen’, ‘Lego Ninjago’ and ‘Sparkle World’ (what the hell is Sparkle World?!?!) all beat Living etc. in spot 74. Honestly, I just despair. Not for the first time in my life I ask WHY? Come on people. I do appreciate that interior magazines may not be for everyone but Slimming World at number three?? Do you not know by now that a vase will ALWAYS fit?
Two weeks ago, I posted a blog about whether or not interior magazines were becoming redundant – what with the growth of Instagram and its enormous daily hit of interior design inspiration for us obsessives or even for people just looking for a few good ideas to copy. Judging by your responses it was a bit of a hot topic. Although many of you felt that there was no need for you to buy them (“I only buy them if my insta-chums are in them”, “masses of advertising and little actual content”), the vast majority still felt there is a place for interior magazines. It seems that to all of those who still buy interior magazines, although Instagram offers a huge amount of interior inspiration, it can’t completely replace the actual physical enjoyment of flipping through a magazine, in peace, with a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
Since such a large group of us still enjoy interior magazines, I thought it would be interesting to find out how people get their homes into them, so I headed to an expert in the field: freelance interiors journalist Annabelle Grundy. I was lucky enough to interrupt her busy schedule to ask her some questions but first, here is a little bit about her and her husband, specialist interiors photographer Colin, who takes the pictures for all their great features.
Annabelle and Colin started working together in the early 1990s. Colin has worked on food photography, celebrities, cars, shooting books and lots of general magazine feature work. Celebrity work morphed into ‘celebs at home’ with the advent of Hello! and OK magazines and from there he gradually moved towards interiors; he has specialised in this field for the last 20 years. As for Annabelle, alongside magazine features she has written for BBC books, newspapers and other interior design books. Together they currently work for most of the UK’s leading titles. So clearly, if we are going to find out any answers about how to get your home into a magazine then these are the two to ask. Here are a few questions I put to Annabelle:
What types of homes do interior magazines look for?
Each magazine has its own reader profile – age, sex, income bracket, design taste, level of trend awareness. So for example, Living etc or Ideal Home would look for something very different from Style at Home. Likewise, English Home or Period Living wouldn’t be very interested in anything you might see in Real Homes. Mostly they want homes that their readers can easily identify with: achievable, affordable homes that are similar to a reader’s own but decorated in an inspiring and interesting way. There are openings for unusual properties eg. houseboat, converted school, chapel, water-tower, etc, and also large, grand ‘country piles’ and very expensively-equipped, upmarket properties, but these are harder to place. They are also always short of Xmas homes (probably because of the extra hassle and styling work for everyone!) and picturesque seaside homes are usually sought-after too.
What in particular makes a magazine-worthy home?
Magazines look for homes that tell a story, with consistent, contemporary style right through, so all rooms (kitchen, living rooms, at least 2 bedrooms, bathroom and any other nice spaces like hall, conservatory, dining room, etc.) have to be well-decorated and accessorised, with a cohesive look. They are interested in styles that readers can recreate or be motivated by, either by buying it or by making it themselves. Inspiring, creative homes, packed with clever design ideas and shopping tips. They are also interested in problem-solvers, so homes dealing with practical issues like space-saving, storage, lighting, etc.
Is there anything else that will stand one home out from the rest?
Visual impact, especially colour, is important. Although a subtle, white-on-white interior might look fab in the flesh, it is colour that jumps off the page. Seasonality is also a factor: some homes clearly lend themselves to, say, cosy winter looks and others to bright, sunshiney looks.
Could Mrs. Smith with a ‘nice’ home get it into a magazine or does there have to be something different about it? Who is more likely to get their home in a magazine – someone with a ‘nice’ home or one that is much more modern and on trend?
A lot is down to timing and luck!! Magazines usually run 3-4 homes per issue, so if one already scheduled is very edgy and modern, they might be looking for something softer and more accessible to balance it. ‘Nice’ is definitely in demand, so long as there’s a bit of a story. If Mrs. Smith just went to John Lewis and bought everything from there, it’s more tricky to sell it. Magazines get offered so many more ‘nice’ homes than very on-trend, unusual ones, so there’s more competition around that type of house.
D0 magazines particularly request that you are on the lookout for homes that have …..(blank). For example: We really want more homes with dark walls, or we really need more homes with a hygge feel (or whatever trend is out there).
They do sometimes request ‘themes’ but they tend not to be overly in one niche – variety is the key for ‘real homes’ and they would usually shoot their own roomsets for trend pages.
How have things changed since you started?
When I first started it was all Changing Rooms, mdf everywhere, bright, bold colours, stencilling (remember that?) Designers Guild prints and paint effects. The backlash was a slew of super-neutrals and whites – gorgeous to look at but quite hard to make look interesting on paper. We’ve been through the ‘kitchen-diner’, furniture upcycling, eco-trends, wallpaper, and now it’s modern country, Scandi-style, vintage and inky darks that are among what’s in demand. Digital photography has changed everything too – we used to work with film, and Polaroids for test shots which now seems sooo laborious. You didn’t get to see the finished images until they came back from the lab, so if you notice a mistake at that point, it’s definitely too late. There was no Photoshop to help you out so photographers had to be far more technically skilled.
Once someone’s home is selected to be featured in a magazine what can they expect to happen on their photoshoot and how long does it take?
A photoshoot for a whole house takes us a day. We usually bring flowers and maybe food props to put on kitchen work tops etc, and sometimes a few cushions, throws, crisp ironed pillows etc, if we feel there are any gaps. If we’re coming to shoot your home, we’ll probably have already had an initial visit, or at least seen some photos, so we’ll know a bit about your style and colours. On the day, it’s good to have your house tidy, beds made etc. Colin would work through the house – often the shooting order is dictated by how the light moves around the house through the day. You’ll need to be in a couple of photos yourself but this is usually a ‘doing’ shot and is about putting the home in context, so don’t worry about it! The interview would usually take place on the shoot day as well, though sometimes I do this by phone. I write the article after the shoot and let you see and check it before it goes to the magazine.
What does the person getting their home in a magazine generally want/get out of it?
It’s fun, and usually if they’ve put a lot of themselves into their home and they’re proud of it, they enjoy having it showcased, talking about it and sharing their experience with other like-minded folk. Provided it’s homes-related, a homeowner’s business can usually be credited in the article too, though it has to be woven in, as it’s an interiors article, not a business advertorial.
If anyone is reading this who thinks their home might have what it takes to get in a magazine what should they do?
If you’d like to see your home in a magazine, please get in touch with me! Initially I’ll try to come and see your home and take some pictures or ask you to send me some photos of your home. I’ll also ask you a little bit about yourself, who lives in the house, what you’ve done to it, your style, taste etc. I’ll then send the images and info about you to whichever magazine we think it might suit. They hold regular editorial meetings where they review submissions for freelancers like us. If we get the go-ahead for your house, we’d then arrange a convenient day with you for the shoot and interview.
Well, that’s my house out the window then – there is a reason you never see my kitchen on Instagram) although, excitingly for our family Annabelle and Colin are about to photograph my sister-in-law’s home for a magazine. Here is a sneak peak (I think it might just fulfill the colour requirements desired by magazines):