Blueprint is designed to appeal to Gen-X and Y women, and, in that capacity, introduces its very own signature cocktail (a Blueprint martini, with vodka, cointreau, curacao and blueberries, for those who want to be in the bluetini know). But booze aside, and as its name might suggest, Blueprint is still very much a work in progress.
For starters, the sturm und drang hit before the ink even dried on the first issue, witheditor Rebecca Thuss quitting her post. This week, the Martha Stewart Onminmedians announced the hire of Sarah Humphries, from Real Simple, as editor. (The next test issue is due in August.)
Blueprint is not exactly real simple, but it’s much simpler than your basic Martha Stewart Living approach. An already-much-parodied aesthetic of overachievement, Martha-life (pre-and post-prison) tends to be all perfect and serene on the outside, of course, but requires Amazonian strength and Schwarzeneggerian-levels of discipline on the inside. Whereas I might be proud that I changed a lightbulb without inflicting an interim period of semidarkness on my family, Martha has been known to teach us how to build--and electrify--our own chandeliers (when not regravelling the driveway or husbanding the chickens.)
Or perhaps the monomania is channeled differently. I like the fact that one of the home makeover pieces features a Martha producer who moved into her picture-perfect Victorian with her husband three years ago and has not yet had time to decorate. (Their first kid was born two weeks after they moved in, and another followed two years later.) There’s that outside/inside split again, but this is actually honest.
''The commuting parents had little time to sleep, let alone hatch design ideas and scout furniture shops,’’ the copy explains. That’s what I’m talking about! The couple had brought two classic club chairs and stopped there. Like real people, they had previously decorated with hand-me-downs (including a hideous sofa from his parent’s Florida condo.)
Rather than bringing in a platoon of triumphant, crying carpenters and designers, and showing their work in sped-up time, a la ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” this piece talks about the actual decisions made along the way: a dozen one-foot squares of varying colors were painted in the hallway before deciding on the wall color, for example. And the couple improved only the entry area and living room, which seems much more attemptable for any demographic.
There’s also a handy-dandy removable handbook for couch-buying, “Buy a Better Sofa,” that spells out the classic styles, and offers a helpful checklist on materials (“the best frames are kiln-dried hardwood…’’) Even though the book is aimed at younger, more peripatetic readers, the editors seriously diss sleep sofas, which they say weigh a ton and tend to be uncomfortable. Hallelujah!
Other helpful suggestions are included in a piece about blowing up a detail of a photograph for wall art, (doable) and another on entertaining outdoors (semi-doable), including placing decals on the hurricane candle lamps (forget it). Fashion pages are shot in what looks like the magazine’s very antiseptic offices, and have a penitentiary feel. Indeed, the issue has a bit of a schizy personality--it boasts the grown-up martini, yes, but a spread on “Camp Gear’’ could have come out of the pages of Seventeen.
And while the idea of combining home decorating with articles about multivitamins, tai chi, and dancing shoes is more modern, it also makes for a bit of a mish-mash. Though livened up by an interesting layout and cool typography, ''100 Reasons To Crack A Smile’’ is more head-scratching than smile-producing. (Three of the entries involve babies, senior citizens, and dogs in bikinis. ‘Nuff said.)
By contrast, David Rakoff, a writer who knows how to be funny, offers an appreciation of Marlo Thomas’ “That Girl,’’ now out on DVD.
I found the cover too precious and model-perfect, in a throwback, catalogue-y, meta-J.Crew way. Could the high rubber boots (Wellies) that the size 00 model wears under her mini skirt be a gentle allusion to Mother Martha herself? In reality, of course, the devil wears gardening clogs.
Which made me a bit nostalgic for Martha’s pre-prison appearances on Martha Stuart Living covers. She’s physically missing in these pages, but her smiling, superachieving visage does appear in a one-page ad for her Baking Handbook. She’s shown holding a four-layer fruit tart. Other ads for the empire include one for marthasflowers.com (“fresh from the farm… straight to the heart”) and another promoting MS Signature Furniture (which is used liberally in the Victorian living room home makeover.)
So the working analogy here might be that Martha Stewart Living is The Big House, and Blueprint is the little one that we just bought but have yet to finish decorating, while still taking donations from Mom.
Sans ''humor’’ about senior citizen in bikinis, I’d give it a fighting chance.