Home magazines

Whether we live in a castle or a studio flat, we all need a bit of inspiration to make the best of the place we call home. Alan Geere goes looking for design tips.

By Alan Geere

Home magazines

Country Living

What’s it about: ‘Decorating * crafts * houses * gardens * food * travel * health’ – tagline under masthead covering all the bases.

Vital statistics: October 2017 issue: 196 pages of 285mm x 215mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, perfect bound. £4.30 cover price. Combined ABC of 187,394. Published monthly by Hearst in London.

Cover: Rather staged picture to illustrate the main coverline ‘Inspired by autumn’, eight other coverlines some of them in annoying and unnecessary italics. That distinctive all caps red-on-white masthead has stood the test of time, but the big H for Hearst next to the bar code feels rather self-serving.

Content: Comes in a poly bag with the promise of a ‘Free Magazine’, which turns out to be a very small booklet puffing a £9.99 book. Contents sprawl over two pages ranging from Homes & gardens to Health & beauty. Helpful topics like growing winter leaves and craft ideas live alongside the impossibly gorgeous homes and gardens.

Digital: Links on the folio line to a newsy website with, rather bizarrely, a large ad for KFC taking centre stage. Has a much more populist feel than the magazine – Lidl’s hangover-free prosecco, take an IQ test, Kate looks ‘glowing’ etc etc – plus listicles galore. A rather demure ‘follow’ button takes readers to Facebook (610k likes) and Twitter (78k followers).

What they say: “A dating site focusing on finding a partner with a love of the countryside seemed like the perfect brand extension and a great opportunity to grow our community.” – editor-in-chief Susy Smith talks up the link with dating website Country Loving.

Verdict: Works hard to hold on to its market leader position in the genre by spreading the boundaries beyond homes and gardens. Eclectic range of ads from movies to cruises add to the more-than-a-homes magazine feel. Looks good and feels comfortable.

Good Homes

What’s it about: ‘Britain’s fastest-growing homes magazine’ – tagline on cover.

Vital statistics: November 2017 issue: 196 pages of 285mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavier cover, perfect bound. £3.65 cover price. Combined ABC of 46,877. Published monthly by Media 10 in leafy Loughton (underground Zone 6, job-hunters).

Cover: Big picture of a room with a fire illustrating the ‘Cosy Living’ coverline, seven other coverlines and three small pictures to go with ‘More inside…’ plus the incongruously placed barcode beneath ‘46+ pages of reader homes’.

Content: Comes in poly bag with some advertising flyers plus the must-have ‘Heating & Flooring Guide’. First up is the ‘From the editor’ indulgence fittingly headlined ‘Indulge in the new season’ followed by two pages of contents helpfully divided into Shopping, Decorating, Real Homes etc, some of which are neatly crafted quotes. ‘I knew we could transform this place’ transports you to a rescued 17th-century mill in East Yorkshire complete with rustic crates and hexagonal mirrors. Everything is very neatly put together plus the floor plans and costings keep everyone’s feet on the ground.

Digital: Visit the picture-filled, clean website from the folio line link and click through to Facebook (11,670 likes) and Twitter (36.3k followers). Neatly divided into living room, bedroom etc, there are also offers and competitions. Sadly, ‘Offers’ consists of one link to an ad for handles.

What they say: “There's no point trying to be cool about it; I'll confess that having my home featured in an interior magazine has been a dream for me,” – happy customer, who just happens to be a ‘lifestyle journalist’.

Verdict: A brave try from ‘the fast-growing homes magazine’, but still a long way to go to catch the sales of the established titles. Publisher Media 10 is now three years on from its acquisition from Kelsey and is looking to live up to its Instagram claim of ‘Giving you more for the home you love’. A good spread of ads, including a small classified section, a healthy indicator of how things are going.

Homes & Interiors Scotland

What’s it about: ‘Scotland’s biggest selling home magazine’ – tiny strapline on cover.

Vital statistics: September/October 2017 issue: 284 pages of 295mm x 218mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.20 cover price. Combined ABC of 9,856. Published bi-monthly by Peebles Media Group in Glasgow, not Peebles.

Cover: Understated. One picture, one coverline, very big masthead. Artful use of colour.

Content: Comes in poly bag with 60-page ‘Building & Renovating Guide’ and a posh kitchens flyer. Minimalist contents spread over three pages touting Living rooms, Architecture, Art & Design showing the breadth on offer. Meaty pieces on designers and their homes complemented by quick reads under banners like ‘Trends’ and ‘Essentials’. All deliciously designed with quality photography and clever use of colour.

Digital: Have to hunt around for the website, which turns out to be as bright and clean as the magazine. They appear to survive without any ads which helps the laptop navigator and each page has links to Twitter (just 4,130 followers) and Facebook (3,340 likes). Patchy posting on both platforms which may go some way to explaining the low levels of engagement.

What they say: “…A high level of accuracy and attention to detail; A full, clean driver’s license (sic)…” from a job ad for circulation manager with publisher Peebles Media.

Verdict: As with most of the titles in this sector, the ads are an enhancement, blending seamlessly with the sumptuous design. For a magazine from a provincial publisher with a relatively small sale concentrating on a clearly defined geographical area, this is an undoubted success and a lesson to everyone wanting to take on the big boys.

House & Garden

What’s it about: ‘The best in international design and decoration’ – explainer on Twitter page.

Vital statistics: October 2017 issue: 318 pages of 285mm x 220mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.40 cover price. Combined ABC of 111,017. Published monthly by Condé Nast at Vogue House in London.

Cover: Full bleed picture of a tastefully set up room complete with small tree (it’s in Maine we later learn), seven coverlines and big masthead with the date and price distractingly inset into the O of House.

Content: Negotiate the first of many swanky ads to find an artfully understated contents page which takes us up to page 143 of the 318. Ahh, turn more pages of ads to find ‘contents continued’ on page 18 although the poor reader has no navigational aids. Things don’t really get going until page 45 with ‘Insider’, a pot pourri of things to buy and what passes for news. On through decorating and lifestyle features, all displayed with confidence and verve. The second half of the mag is given over to ‘Country House’ with more of same but in the country.

Digital: Arrive at the website via folio line reminder and readers will find tons to look at thanks to small, tasteful typography and small, tasteful photography. Some may say it’s rather bland but it pretty much says, job done. Rather clunky click-throughs to Twitter (163k followers) and a massive 6.1 million likes on Facebook. Lots of activity on both, especially engaging with readers.

What they say: “I meet interior designers on a regular basis and see new interior projects daily, either in person or in photographs. This is usually a huge privilege, but there are times when it can be quite demoralising.” – editor Hatta Byng shares the tough yards from H&G Towers.

Verdict: Not just a magazine, more a way of life. Weighing in at 800 grams (1¾ pounds in old money) this is the heavyweight of the sector, confident yet careful with hundreds of tiny details of prices, stockists etc. Looks good and feels good even if the lifestyles on show may be beyond the attainment of mere mortals.

Ideal Home

What’s it about: ‘Est. 1920’ and ‘Britain’s bestselling homes magazine’ – taglines around masthead.

Vital statistics: November 2017 issue: 198 pages of 289mm x 209mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £3.99 cover price. Combined ABC of 162,110. Published monthly by Time Inc in London.

Cover: Big picture of room with fire to ‘Snuggle up in style’ (also featured inside with the image ‘creatively’ flipped). Twelve other coverlines used cleverly so it doesn’t feel crammed.

Content: Editor’s Letter (complete with mention of Tesco) followed by neatly signposted contents spread. Real Homes, Style & décor plus a voyeuristic Before & after section full of real people doing real things plus what it costs. Offers, recipes, tips and tricks mean that open any page and there is something to dip into. Useful shopping directory and small classified section at the back.

Digital: So-so website has bold presentation with big pictures but over-large magazine style headlines that don’t work so well online. Also ads for Dunelm and Tesco that don’t take any prisoners. Click through to Facebook for a whopping 4.45 million likes and Twitter for 114k followers. Everything from ‘How to look after your gutters’ to win a £1,500 ‘home cleaning system’ keeps the millions happy.

What they say: “It’s the foundation Ideal Home was built on when it was launched in 1920 and is still true today. I hope the range will become a go-to for the things that make a home more comfortable, stylish and special.” – Vanessa Richmond, editor at Ideal Home, reaching for history to celebrate the launch of a homeware and furniture line with retailer Very.

Verdict: A thoroughly professional yet still creative publication all presented in the approachable and self-assured way that comes with doing it pretty well for nearly 100 years. Here’s to the next century.

Your Home

What’s it about: ‘Hundreds of great-value ideas for every room’ – tagline under masthead.

Vital statistics: October 2017 issue: 130 pages of 288mm x 212mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, stitched. £1.99 cover price. Combined ABC of 109,727. Published monthly by Hubert Burda in Colchester.

Cover: Picture of a smiley woman standing in a kitchen (£2,000 on eBay we learn later), four other pictures, 12 coverlines, two mentions of ‘Win!’ and a paper clip.

Content: Comes in poly bag with ‘Your essential guide to flooring’ and some ad flyers. Straight into ‘Welcome’ page which clearly displays ‘Follow and share with us’ then a clearly signposted contents spread promising Decorating, Makeovers, Home Improvements among the delights. The cover story on the £2,000 eBay kitchen is a pleasure while the ‘Real Homes’ keep it, er, real. And ‘6 Ideas to Steal’ is definitely one for the swag bag.

Digital: Website url is on the cover. Plenty of content across all areas of activity plus social media links which rather bafflingly don’t go to the relevant sites but offer links for you to share. A lively Twitter page with freebies, quizzes and messages from our sponsors has gathered 65k followers while Facebook has just 10,500 likes.

What they say: “I've known the wonderful team for a number of years and they have always been, in my mind, the best PR agency out there.” – Editor-in-Chief Anna-Lisa De'Ath doing her bit for PR/editorial relations in a testimonial on the website of a PR agency.

Verdict: Approachable touches like ‘Your letters’ and plenty of mentions of ‘your home’ invite readers into this homely magazine. A reminder that it’s not only rich people who live in homes and we all like to improve our environment even if we not sitting on a fortune.