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Comments Posted 10.01.09 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Cutting Remarks


Design*Sponge alerted me today to the release of the first issue of Lonny, an online-only shelter magazine brought to you by some former editors of the late, lamented Domino. I wrote a couple of times for Domino and loved it very much for about 20 minutes each month, but it is only since its demise that I see what a particular niche it filled. Only Cookie seems to serve the same affluent, modern-but-not-minimalist, color-loving, kid-having mostly-female population and they only run one house feature a month. (I love the Tennessee log cabin they show this month, with beautiful Matthew Hranek photography. My son even has all the same toys as the costumed tot in the shoot.) All the other magazines are too fancy, or too not-NYC, or too modern, or too too. I frequently found Domino too girly for my taste. Of course, we are now in the process of submitting our house to magazines to publish and we would be foolish to turn our noses at any of them. Sometimes the critic and the proud homeowner cannot exist simultaneously.

I took a quick page through Lonny, and it recaps many of the choice elements in Domino: those front-of-the-book round-ups of a single material (Snakeskin! Disco! Prep!) in clothes, accessories and furniture; the little by-the-by remarks and practical tips; the variety of square footage and budget of places shown. But they also trumpet the freedom of the online format and the fact that one of the features can be 35 pages. Now, is it just me, or is that not such a good thing? Yes, I have been frustrated by partial images and too-short glimpses of others’ domestic paradises in the past, but it has to be an awfully good, rich, fascinating place to warrant 35 pages of photos and I don’t think former Domino EIC Deborah Needleman’s country house and garden, lovely as they are, warrant that. The best effects, like the pewter-painted study, look almost too Domino to establish Lonny as having a different personality. Too many photos start to cheapen the effect, especially when you are virtually paging through. Isn’t the point of shelter magazines to show things looking their best? How else can we be aspirational? Does anything look best in 35 different ways?

I don’t want to be a grouch — I look forward to the progress of Lonny, looking for ideas to steal, gifts to buy — but the problem of the 35 pages of a single house is really the same as the problem I have with much of the web. Like a chump I believe in editing. Selecting the right images. Picking the right words. Paying attention (sometimes) to the word count the magazine sends you. Not just going on and on. These restrictions usually make a better product, however irritating they are in the short term. It is the same reason architecture is better for push-pull dialogue with a client. I hope the Lonny editors think hard about what the web could really bring: they have the insta-shopping in hand, since the items in each photo are clickable, but what about more unmercenary options and alternatives? With all the space in the world, I’d love to see wheels of red-and-white fabrics when I scrolled over a chair upholstered in just one, or more visual exploration of the visual steals people use to put their places together. I am endlessly fascinated by the evolution of taste, my own most of all, and there must be some way to layer that in with links. Go deeper into the best pictures, don’t just give us more of the shoot. We’re (not) paying for editorial judgment.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
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DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

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