BOOK REVIEW: Undecorate

-1I LOVE A NEW DECORATING BOOK, especially these days, when they help make up for the sad lack of decorating magazines. And despite its name, Undecorate, whose tag line is “The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design,” is a decorating book.

It’s an attractive book, to be sure, and fun to look at. But the concept is disingenuous. Undecorate (Clarkson Potter) shows twenty homes and apartments that are very much decorated in any reasonable sense of the word, only by their owners instead of those with A.S.I.D. after their names. Those homeowners are nearly all prop stylists, set builders, retailers in the home furnishings biz (including the book’s author, Christiane Lemieux, founder of DwellStudio, a textile and children’s furniture company), and so on. They’re hardly what the book’s introduction calls “real people.” They’re visual artists, with an eye for color, a knowledge of historic styles, and an overall creative bent. Most are based in New York and L.A., with a smattering of Southerners.

Totally understandable, of course. What publisher would spring for a full-color coffee-table look book showcasing the homes of real real people? We have the Internet for that.

With only a couple of over-the-top exceptions — an obsessive collection of bright-green ‘Sprout’ memorabilia (Sprout being the Jolly Green Giant’s sidekick), a Chicago couple who share living space with half a dozen classic cars — these camera-ready homes are far from immune to decorating cliche, never mind rules. Over and over, we see studiously neutral color schemes, white sofas and cowhide rugs, trendy vintage science posters, Harry Bertoia wire chairs, and other familiar tropes.

Author Lemieux’s Manhattan apartment. Does this look undecorated to you?

Lemieux congratulates herself and her subjects for being in on “the beginning of a movement.” Really? No one over 25 can possibly think mixing flea market finds with modern furniture, hanging vintage advertising posters in a child’s bedroom, or painting an accent wall pink — all examples from the text — are new ideas.

Former Domino magazine contributor Chase Booth’s house on Copake Lake in upstate New York

“Undecorated style isn’t one wholesale thing,” the book’s intro states, taking a stab at definition. “It’s a shifting target and has more to do with process than finished product.” Deborah Needleman’s foreword calls undecorating a movement free of ideology — meaning, I guess, anything goes.

In her acknowledgments, Lemieux thanks Rumann Alam, the under-credited writer, for “making sense of a somewhat nebulous idea.” Two hundred pretty pictures notwithstanding, I’m afraid it’s still a nebulous idea.

Now Domino is Falling!

DOMINO MAGAZINE IS FOLDING, and I am devastated.  Hard on the heels of Cottage Living, my other favorite magazine is ceasing to publish.  Why why why why WHY??!!!???

As if it wasn’t enough to lose Cottage Living, Country Living, O at Home, the infant Blueprint — not to mention HG — now this lively, original, and inspiring magazine, that just made you want to go re-arrange furniture and paint a wall pink, is no more.

I never subscribed, because I just couldn’t wait to receive it in the mail if there was any chance of finding it at a newsstand a day or two earlier.

Domino was fun and and unpretentious — they never shied from IKEA furniture, if it was used well — and they featured mostly old houses, often in Brooklyn. In the February ’09 issue (March ’09 will be the last), there’s a 1930s brick row house in Brussels, Belgium; a gingerbread Victorian in New Orleans; and a couple of L.A. bungalows.

A few months back, irresistibly, they featured Chase Booth’s three-week makeover of a dank ’70s ranch with an acoustical tile ceiling in Columbia County, and made it look GREAT.

Is the economy really THAT bad?

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From today’s Conde Nast to Fold Domino (UnBeige)
Conde Nast is folding Domino, the young “Shopping Magazine for Your Home” launched in April of 2005. A final March issue will be published, and will be shuttered. “This decision … is driven entirely by the economy,” said Conde Nast president and CEO Charles Townsend. BusinessWeek: Domino and the folly of the magazine spin-off. NYO: A spokeswoman said Domino editor Deborah Needleman and publisher Beth Brenner would both leave the company, but that some staff would be given new jobs at Conde Nast. NYP: Though the upscale shelter magazine was a money loser, Newhouse’s decision caught insiders and outsiders by surprise.