PLAYING DOMINOES: Since it closed as part of the great magazine bloodbath of 2009, Domino, the interior design magazine Condé Nast created in 2005, has existed as a brand only in the shape of special editions, like spring’s Domino Small Spaces, that appear on newsstands twice annually.
But this fall, possibly as early as September, the Domino brand will be dusted off and resuscitated in the form of an e-commerce site with a quarterly print magazine, according to several sources.
Taking the lead on the relaunch are the founders of the e-commerce design site Project Décor, which include one of the cofounders of the food delivery app Seamless Web. Condé is believed to be holding on to the brand’s intellectual rights and to have an ownership stake, though it’s not clear what the ownership structure looks like.
The partnership between the publisher and the start-up bears a resemblance to Condé’s other recent investments in digital assets, like the purchase of the recipe planner ZipList last April, and may presage a more serious relationship between the two companies. In 2010, Advance Publications, Condé’s parent, set up a $500 million war chest for acquisitions, mainly in the digital realm, led by a former Yahoo executive, Andrew Siegel, now senior vice president, strategy and corporate development.
Condé declined comment Wednesday; Project Décor could not be reached.
Domino was launched under editor in chief Deborah Needleman, now at T: The New York Times Style Magazine, and publisher Beth Brenner as the shelter equivalent of Lucky, a combination magazine and catalogue, and though it folded after only three years, it acquired a cult following. Condé has been working on a revival of some kind for a while. Before she became general manager of Lucky, one of the projects on Gillian Gorman Round’s portfolio was finding outside investors to develop Domino as an e-commerce play. She was not successful, and last January she was reassigned.
An e-commerce play is exactly what Project Décor’s founders are envisioning for the new Domino.
Project Décor, a quasi-shoppable Pinterest that allows users to design rooms and also shop for furnishings, was founded in 2012 by three well-known entrepreneurs and angel investors. There’s Andy Appelbaum, one of the cofounders of Seamless; Cliff Sirlin, and Aaron Wallace. On the site’s “about” page, each founder describes his design inspiration. Appelbaum’s is Greg Brady’s attic room, referring to one of the characters on “The Brady Bunch.”
Though only a year old, Décor has some momentum going for it. In May, Appelbaum and his partners raised $5 million in venture capital. Their plan, according to sources, is to redesign Décor under the Domino umbrella, while continuing as a social media and shoppable digital catalogue. The new venture would not be in the business of holding merchandise or processing transactions.
Efforts to jump-start Domino shifted into high gear in the last couple of months and are set to continue in coming weeks as the new venture is shopped around to advertisers and vendors. Last week, Brenner, the founding publisher, resigned as publisher of Meredith Corp.’s Traditional Home to come on board, though it couldn’t be confirmed if she’ll hold a true publisher’s title or function as a merchant.
Her return to a position of leadership at a revived Domino is a surprising development. Brenner’s tenure ended on a down note as paging in its last full year — the midst of the recession — fell 4 percent against 2007, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Condé finally pulled the plug in January 2009. She had already been preceded to join the Project Décor-led venture by Michelle Adams, a former market editor at Domino, who quit her post as editor in chief at the digital shelter magazine Lonny in July to become involved as an editor. Brenner, who is still working out of Meredith, could not be reached for comment.