Was it Home that I reviewed a few months back, or was it House Beautiful? I know the mag had either "Home" or "House" in the title, perhaps paired with an adjective like "Traditional" or "Inspired" or "Kitchen-sian." Maybe it was Jim-Dandy Domiciles? Cottages & Consequences?

There's my issue with Home: I may or may not have read and reviewed it multiple times before. But if I did, it left as much of an impression on me as the piped-in background music at CVS. Staying power is underrated.

Really, there's not a ton to say about Home. My notes are filled with thrilling and loaded descriptors like "nice" and "interesting" and "clean." How about a punny, Earl Dittman-ish blurb or two to spice things up ("A Home run!," "Home is where the heart is!," etc.)? No? Well, then.

Enough stalling. Home -- at least when I'm perusing it with no outside distractions and no comparable titles within my reach -- comes across as one of the sturdier members of the genre. It is pleasant and blithe to a fault, alternately attempting to affirm and advise. The mag seems to suggest that there are no bad living rooms; there are only bad individuals who foul 'em up with tchotchkes and other personal flourishes, like photos of the people they love.

The April Home is headlined by a visit from HGTV personality Candice Olson, who appears on the cover with eyes bulging and an eager grin, as if she just can't wait to take a blowtorch to your breakfast nook. Home sure loves it some Candice Olson, referring to an attic redesign she directed as "divine" (never mind that it resembles something out of "Boogie Nights") and the gal herself as "clever."

Photos of her shiny new toys in the attic, however, lack architectural/design context: Home too often downsizes the "before" picture in order to clear space for an extra few glorious shots of the "after." The same criticism holds for the "Best Façade Forward" makeover, in which a single outside shot of the pre-renovation house isn't enough to give readers a feel for all the work that's been done.

"Exuberant Victorians" gets a boost, like several other Home features, from the accompanying "How We Did It" box; every spread should spell out its secrets this way. I liked the "Wonder Walls" showcase, which accomplishes the nigh-impossible by making wallpaper interesting. The "Roommates" presentation of small writing desks, the "Good & Green" tour through an architect's home, the "Designer Look" at gracious dining... they're all here, and they're all perfectly okay.

I wish Home would mix things up a bit more. Yes, the primary purpose of such magazines is to present design and décor concepts in a way so artful, so compelling that readers leave skidmarks on the driveway as they rush out to Lowe's. But to me, Home's finest flourishes are its subtle ones: the flowers-'n'-butterflies illustration that precedes the piece on air purifiers, the "Candiceland" board-game bit. Only here does Home tweak the conventions of the genre, and only here does the mag produce something truly memorable.

So that's that. I find myself pretty much where I was when I started this exercise: No one shelter-ish title strikes me as any smarter, prettier or more creative than the next. This might not be a problem for Home, which has been around since 1981 and thus probably has its share of devotees. But for any newbie or revamp-minded mag trying to break out of the fabulous-home pack, Home isn't the publication to ape.

Published by: Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.
Frequency: 10 issues per year
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