The September issue of Elle Decor arrived in a flourish of silvery hues and starchitect selfies, looking ahead to the future of design with no fear of the past (or of a bold red armchair). At the editorial helm of the Hearst shelter magazine is Michael Boodro, who predicts that over the next quarter century, “the print version of the magazine will become more of a luxury object and we’ll see increases in e-edition sales. I think people will continue to turn to Elle Decor for inspiration and resources. We’re always going to have a passion for finding new talent and peoples’ homes will continue to be a refuge that reflects their tastes.” We managed to catch Boodro between the September issue unveiling and the launch of the magazine’s new book to chat about the big 2-5, what he read this summer, and the best advice Anna Wintour ever gave him.
Elle Decor turns 25 this year. How are you celebrating?
We have celebrated throughout the year with special stories looking back, but it all culminates with our big 25th anniversary issue, out now. It is full of projects by quintessential Elle Decor designers, including Steven Gambrel and Darryl Carter, as well as a celebration of silver—the traditional 25th anniversary gift—and a special section on the future of design, because Elle Decor has always looked ahead and sought out new talents. We also have our third book, The Height of Style: Inspiring Ideas from the World’s Chicest Rooms, coming out later this month [September 16] from Abrams.
How do you describe the editorial mission/philosophy of the magazine?
I actually think our most important mission is to inspire. Sure, we want to keep our readers informed as to the latest projects and trends, but our readers are passionate about design, and they want to know the stories behind the room, behind the product. They are just as interested in design history as in what is new. They are open to new ideas and want to see all kinds of interiors from around the world—even if it’s not the way they want to live themselves. We try to keep them engaged and surprised, on everything from interiors to art to food to travel.
What is the most surprising thing you encountered while looking through past issues?
What surprised me was how fresh many of the rooms still look, even 25 years later. Yes some of the fashions and trends have dissipated—French Provençal style, Mission—although that might be coming back—and hard-edged minimalism. But personal style always retains its appeal. What was sobering was realizing how many talents died young, often due to AIDS.
What’s the best book you read this summer—or what’s still on your list of books to get to before the summer is out?
I am just finishing Beth Macy’s Factory Man, an amazing story of furniture and family that looks at the radical way furniture production has changed in the U.S. It tells the story of the Bassett family, who went from literally controlling their company town in Virginia to shutting down the majority of their factories in the face of NAFTA and dumping by the Chinese. It is full of lively characters, family dysfunction, and heartbreaking loss. After reading it, you will never buy a nightstand or table again without thinking about the repercussions.
I also read an advance copy of Sarah Water’s new novel The Paying Guests, out in September. It starts as the story of a young woman and her mother facing genteel poverty in the aftermath of the First World War and then turns into something totally different. It’s a total page-turner.
What is the most unusual or meaningful object currently on your desk?
A photo of my husband and me in the back of our house in upstate New York. It is very lush and green, and reminds me why I work so hard.
What’s the best creative, business, or life advice you’ve received?
When I worked for Anna Wintour she would often say, “Not every idea works.” A simple truth, but one that is important to remember—no matter how brilliant any idea or concept seems initially. Remembering that keeps you humble. What I also value about that statement is that it is not judgmental. No criticism, no grief, no blame—just move on.
What do you consider your proudest publishing/magazine moment?
Just surviving in this business has been an accomplishment, especially during 2008 and 2009, when the demise of print was considered imminent. I have been lucky enough to have been affiliated with and contributed to some of the best brands in the business—GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Martha Stewart Living, and now Elle Decor. A few magazines I loved are now gone—House & Garden, Garden Design, and a magazine I launched, Culture & Travel. All had their moments of pleasure and pain, fortunately more of the former. But I think what I am most proud of during my career has been discovering and supporting new talents in many different fields.