My love affair...with interiors mags


Ok, I admit it, I do have a tiny bit of a problem. I love the odd glossy interiors mag. Well perhaps it’s more than the odd one - and perhaps it’s even more than love - but my husband accusing me last week of having an outright addiction to them was, I felt, a tad cruel.

Looking at my magazine collection today, some decades old, I realise he might be onto something.

When I worked as an interior designer, I could easily explain away my fetish of staring lovingly at gorgeous rooms; but what’s my excuse now? I’m not renovating, my house is done and I don’t actually really “need” for anything displayed within their delectable pages. I just like them... a lot.

I am not alone in having a love affair with the humble magazine and even in this age of declining print media, Australians buy 5.5 magazines every second. But what is it about interiors mags in particular that makes them so irresistible to me?

Good design can never be underestimated but as I flip through some of my favourite old editions of Inside Out or World of Interiors, I realise what it is that I am drawn to. It’s inspiration rather than aspiration I find between their covers. It’s the creative lives being alluded to more than the houses themselves. Whether it’s the New York apartment or the outback station, it’s the glimpse of another’s personal world that is so enticing.

I am not interested in magazines illustrating show homes that are arrived at in one makeover session by a designer or the rather dry architectural tomes expounding reams of technical blurb. The more arty publications showing something of the genuine chaos and brilliance of life is what I am after.

Again and again, I tend to be drawn to the images of work in progress, of creative solutions arrived at with little or no resource. I realise that like most things, creating a home is about the journey, not the arrival.

Artists' homes are a particular favourite, always filled with works in progress, drawings and strange objets d’art all jostling for position. You can see what has inspired the artist from their collections and it is often the incongruous groupings of objects that allows for a deeper understanding of the owner’s character.

Of course, being a Salvage Sister, I love to see the clever ideas people have come up with for recycling stuff. Be it the street find, revamped, proudly displayed and boasted about, or creative uses for commonly discarded items: it is often the inexpensive idea rather than the expensive overhaul that holds the greatest charm.

Viewing a cook’s kitchen with the clutter of their favourite pots and pans and even the cook at work is so much more of a treat for me than viewing a designer kitchen built for show and that will never be called on to produce more than a slice of toast. I believe it is partly this wish to see life lived that is why the TV cooking show genre has been so phenomenally successful.

Magazines such as Frankie and Apartamento are relative newcomers to the mag scene. Their content has a humbleness. They celebrate the small things like freshly baked bread, the joy of owning chickens or the pleasure that can be found in the op-shop find. They show a bit of mess and quirky individualism in the homes of the people they interview. They show their concern for the environment and hark back to a sort of 1960s good life ethos.

I realise my thinking is somewhere on the same page. I’m not going to change the world by reading these glossies but they do allow me to affirm my thoughts on living, on design and style. So, I’m not about to call off my love affair with the mag anytime soon. But, to keep the husband happy, I might see if I can get my fix online.

Matilda Campbell is a Salvage Sister,

Images of the author's home and ever-swelling interiors magazine collection, courtesy Matilda Campbell.

This story My love affair...with interiors mags first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.