April 2009: New design blues

april09coverby Susan – April 2009’s issue of living brought with it improbable hopes and dreams of decoupaging eggs (literally, we hoped and dreamed and Lesley even bought some supplies, but we opted to drink wine instead) but it also brought with it CHANGE.


Well, that’s not true, I like getting new haircuts and new presidents and I find season changes very exciting and inspiring, but the changes we’ve seen in Martha Stewart Living – ostensibly to make the mag more marketable to advertisers – take what used to be a quaint account of how people live in lala-land to a weird fashion/craft/recipe magazine for an audience I can’t even figure out.

Don’t read that “lala-land” comment wrong. I covet admission to that land, kind of. In the same way that I wander wistfully around Colonial Williamsburg and imagine myself churning butter and shopping at the apothecary — until I remember that the apothecary would probably have given me leeches to use and I would have had to come home to a dark hut that contains neither electricity nor tampons. Also I would be dead because I am 28 and would have gotten an infected blister from scrubbing our clothes with lye.  So yeah, it is with that special lye-and-butter-churning nostalgia that I turn to the beauteous pages of Living every month. What would my life be like if I were a fancy, rich person who had all the time in the world to collect honeypots, I wonder. Would that I could serve my family and friends on a beautiful chinoise tablescape! And that’s the point, I get it. In the words of Chris Cornell, Living reaches down and picks the crowd up. It’s like a beautiful pool of the purest, sweetest water, in which we can only dip one imperfectly manicured toe.

Yeah well, now Living is telling me how to buy jackets. And makeup brushes. It’s a slow, calm, 60-calorie version of Lucky and Domino over here, and I’m embarrassed for everyone. I mean, I understand that recommending actual products (complete with helpful URLs) in the guise of imparting helpful knowledge is a sly way of advertising within content, but can’t you keep it topical? As in, “Here is a nice, cheap Macy’s version of this stunning antique tea service, in which you can stick your homemade potpourri made with ingredients from your luxurious backyard garden. If you don’t have a luxurious backyard – or a yard at all – you can get these things from iamaregularperson.com” Those shameless plugs I can live with. Translating Living into the common tongue, that’s great, but delving into fashion and beauty? Leave it to Glamour, Martha.

New sections:

Martha’s calendar (this is really an old section that they brought back, but it seems to replace Gentle Reminders, which was a nice way to start the magazine laughing. This is just weird idol-worship.)

The Briefing (this one might be the worst. It’s Living’s “way of keeping you informed about everything from books to exhibitions, from events to food trends.” A real one-stop shop! Although I did see a couple of things that were cute. But also, I have fifty other sources that provide me with this info, you know what I mean?)

Apothecary (from editor’s letter: “…And since Martha has always been an exemplar of style and healthful living, Apothecary will provide updates about the latest in wellness news and advice on choosing the best beauty products and makeup tools.”)


Homekeeping (OK this one I can get on board with. It fits in with the brand and I learned some things about ironing. I still hate ironing, but now I hate it more uh smartly.)

The Last Course (this is really the part that wounds me the most, as I covered in my last post. From what I gather, it’s a combination of Cookie of the Month and Dessert of the Month, because both of those sections have been eliminated. Spoiler, though, I just received the May issue yesterday and it appears that they have changed it into more of a dessert section. To the average reader, this may not seem like a big thing, but we’re talking the difference between just printing a recipe and an entire article about how to do things a new way.)

RIP sections:

Gentle Reminders (Sort of folded into what we’re supposed to believe is Martha’s personal calendar. Hey, this Saturday the 18th, Martha will be taking down her own storm windows, washing them, and replacing them with screens. I’m sure she is really keen on performing all of her own housework.)

Good Things (ha, just kidding, as if they would ever get rid of that)

Dessert of the Month (we’ve covered this)

Object Lesson (this had been completely irrelevant to me, but was extremely amusing every month. “This month, how to collect cake dome covers.”)

Wine (I think Wine is out, but that may be for good reason, as you will see shortly on this very blog)

OK fine, it’s not that big of a deal, and What’s for Dinner? is still there, thank god, but I feel like the brand I bemusedly cherished is turning into a brand I bemusedly don’t care about.  MAYBE I WILL CEASE MY SUBSCRIPTION. Oh, that is such a lie.


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