At the moment, I've escaped my West Village studio and am spending the month nesting in a charming white cottage on the beach in Long Island. The premier issue of Domino magazine, the much-awaited new home book from Conde Naste, arrived and hit just the right spot. In the table of contents, there is a picture of a white cottage and a hand written note from the editors saying "This bucolic paradise costs less than a NYC studio. See page 48."

Hmm...The article, "The Second-House First Strategy," in the magazine's "nesting/real estate" section, notes that for $190,000, I can buy five and half acres, two bedrooms, and three stone fireplaces in the Catskills, whereas my tiny studio with its ramshackle kitchen would cost more than double that.

It's this combination of practical advice and down-to-earth, slightly irreverent décor tips (i.e. the editor's note has a to-do list at the top of which in bold says "Home Should Make You Happy," "Steal ideas from other people's house" and "Renters need not be second-class citizens") that puts Domino in the Ivy league of the new school of home magazines.

Last year, rumors flew that SI Newhouse handed Domino the subscriber list of House and Garden, which has been leaking ad page revenue for months. Now following the lead of shopping magazine successes like Lucky and Shop, etc. Domino, which is edited by House and Garden's former editor-at-large, Deborah Needleman, has shifted focus from the old-school, designer-driven aspiration formula to a more do-it-yourself aesthetic, which mixes high-end with low-end and the eccentric.

For example, one feature shows an anthropomorphic conch shell with its mouth wide open alongside an editorial note that says "My muse for this whole room." The table of contents is accessible, pointing me to smart ideas on how to accessorize my kitchen with a French, modern, or earthy style, or how to shop for affordable art. The copy throughout the book, however, is a bit bland. Just because copy has been outranked by design in these new shopping books, doesn't mean that the words shouldn't pop with point of view.

I like Domino because it combines a little of elite aspiration - a house tour of Carolina Herrera Jr's Madrid apartment -- with personal advice to help me make my home fit my identity, though the prices in the magazine are still pretty high.

For the moment, the shelter category is red hot, with advertisers pouring money into their pages. But as the flooded market slows, it remains to be seen which mags will make it out on top. Media observers have said that the magazines that maintain a central niche focus will do well. Domino's eccentric style is wonderful, but it still leans towards the high-end of House and Garden. The question is whether this will keep the interest of real do-it-yourself decorators. They may just end up turning to O at Home.

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