Elle Decor

In the age of "masstique" décor books like Domino, In Style Home and O at Home, Elle Décor has become insidery and downright trade-magazine-like. The decorative arts have been something I've always thought of as the less glamorous stepsister of fashion, and therefore, the aspirational aspect of it doesn't draw me into a magazine as much -- especially when DIY is all the rage and costs half the money.

The style and design of Elle Décor is still beautiful, but it clearly has lost its audience and point of view. The October issue is devoted to showing how traditional home décor style is made hip: according to the editor's note, the key is avoiding clutter at all costs.

The front of the book is mostly ads, and when you do happen to find some editorial, it generally involves nothing that I would ever place in my home. First, there is a new line of over-the-top pink furniture designed by Jamie Drake. Drake's claim to fame may be designing for Madonna and New York's Mayor Bloomberg, but the only place I could ever imagine these pieces would be in the Italian summer home of a forlorn porn star. We also learn that plum is the new color of fashion's romantic mood; the "august fabric of grand country houses" make great change purses; and Chef Daniel Boulud's new favorite recipe includes deep-fried chicken and onion rings, a dish which no fashionista I know would ever go near.

The feature well definitely lacks clutter, but it is also totally impersonal and cold. A feature about an American couple's new London townhouse offers nothing of the life of the couple, but only the ideas of the designer they hired, and in the end the décor has no soul. The same goes for the spread on Sarah Jessica Parker's new Bridgehampton summerhouse. The one good article actually includes realistic-looking photos of make-up artist Sonia Kashuk and her family in their home, which gives a little more life to the magazine's stylist's vision. Otherwise, most of the homes featured in Elle Décor feel like phony show houses -- even though they are beautifully styled. After all, the real style of a home, whether or not its owner is rich or a celebrity, comes alive through the personalities and stories of the people who live there. Clearly, this isn't a priority for Elle Décor's editors.

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