NEW YORK — The mock-up cover of Meredith Corp.’s new magazine, Living Room, features an attractive couple lying head-to-head on a bright red sofa. It’s a picturesque moment, with both of the subjects smiling widely. And yet, what the eye goes to is not their studio-engineered moment of bliss, but the bottom of the page, where a chair, a pile of beach towels and a very retro-looking espresso machine are lined up side by side, like products in a catalog.
The impression is intended, since Living Room wants to translate the success of such titles as Lucky into the home arena. The magazine has been under development for two years, releasing two test issues in 2000 and 2001 with a third test of 425,000 copies due for release on Sept. 17. Its target readership is 25 to 39 years old, with a median household income of $65,000.
Living Room already has undergone an extensive renovation after Bonnie Fuller signed on last August as its editor. Although Fuller left the magazine in March to become editor in chief of Us Weekly, her influence is all over the mock-up she helped develop — like Us, Living Room is a magazine where editorial content is built around pictures and products, not vice versa.
“What I wanted to see,” said editorial director Myrna Blyth, “were the kinds of editing techniques that are used effectively in magazines for young women, but that haven’t been used in home magazines.”
The front of the book is similar to the product pages found in fashion magazines like In Style and Lucky. One page features “Star Looks at less than stellar prices” and then builds captions around the tastes of film sirens like Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore. The pricy Eames coffee table is placed in one box, while another box next to it features the cheaper Ikea version. On the next page, readers are treated to “4 New Chairs Voted the Sleekest and Most Comfy.” All of them run under $50. (The back of the book will consist of longer features, with particular attention paid to the homes of celebrities, much like In Style runs now.)
When asked whether the success of Lucky influenced the development of the magazine, current freelance editor Jeanie Pyun, formerly a deputy at Mademoiselle, said: “We look at everything. What I think Lucky does so well is cut to the chase. Readers want to know what’s out there and what the available options are in terms of buying stuff.”
It is not a bad place to look for inspiration. In less than two years on the market, Lucky has gone from a rate base of 500,000 to 750,000. And Real Simple, the home-style magazine Living Room probably most resembles, was up 24 percent on newsstands in the final six months of 2001, according to the publisher’s statement filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Both of them are up more than 50 percent in ad pages through the end of the second quarter, according to Media Industry Newsletter.
“I think that because of recent events, people are reconnecting with their families,” said Pyun. “The perceptions about the economy have meant that people are spending less on travel and going out. With that comes more home entertaining and more time spent at home. But that also means you need to design a space you can enjoy being in.”