Monday, May 18, 2009

Magazine Review: Country Living

As is probably abundantly evident by my blog, I do not have what could be termed a "country" or even Shabby Chic aesthetic. Generally speaking, I dislike doilies, lace and calico and I think gingham is far better suited to fourth of July picnic tables than in my own home. And yet, after reading numerous bloggers like Erin at Elements of Style and Erika at Urban Grace raving over the "new" Country Living, I decided I had to give it a spin myself.

Fortunately for me, the newly revamped CL is not what I would generally describe as "country" -- there's a refreshing lack of barnyard decor (like the dreaded rooster-in-kitchen) and the aesthetic is far more chic than grandma. Instead, I would describe it as "modern cottage". For those of you sorely missing Cottage Living, it's really a great replacement. If, however, you dislike a more cluttered, vintage aesthetic in favor of a more streamlined, modern one, then you can probably guess that this magazine is not for you.

Overall, I really like how the magazine is laid out -- and I think the magazine industry could learn a lot from CL, with its focus on affordable style, a DIY-attitude and the use of accessible sources. Sound a lot like the old domino? Style aesthetic aside, it is. Of all the U.S. home decor publications today, this magazine comes the closest to replicating the spirit (though perhaps not the eye) of domino.

One of my favorite elements is that CL ends each house tour with a one-page spread on translating the look to your own home (which typically means highlighting key pieces and accessories and where you can purchase similar items). Each issue of CL also includes spreads on various trends and key pieces, both of which often appeared in our dearly departed domino on a regular basis. I wish more American magazines would pick up on both of these story-types. I find it odd that two major foreign publications -- Canadian House and Home and LivingEtc -- run these types of articles regularly, but no (current) U.S. publication featuring modern/contemporary decor does. Hopefully House Beautiful and Metropolitan Home will get with the program and start creating similar features. CL also includes regular recipe features as well as crafting and DIY projects and while the crafting/DIY skews a little too cutesy for my taste, their recipes definitely suit my Southern palette.

My major complaint -- and I recognize the absurdity in what I'm about to say here -- is that Country Living is just too country sometimes. For example, the May issue featured an entire spread devoted to gingham and included a story on the history of canning. These are not stories that a Houstonian can relate to. Having said that though, many of the homes featured are lovely. Page after page of old and beautifully restored cottages allow the escapist in me to long for the "simple life" complete with white picket fence and a crumbling barn out back. The magazine also features items that could easily translate to different types of decor, from contemporary to French provincial, and turned me on to some sources like Mothology, which sells these amazing storage totes, made from recycled Bordeaux sacks:

At $16 for a small and $24 for a large, these are priced at or below many other wicker or fabric storage baskets and have a lot more character to boot. I'd use the larger one to store towels (as pictured here) and the smaller one to store lots of gorgeous French olive oil soap.

Has anyone else picked up Country Living lately? If so, what did you think?

All photographs from Country Living.


Liz said...

I haven't picked it up yet, but it looks like I need to! I love the pics you featured.

Christy said...

I have never really paid attention to this magazine before...but it does look interesting. I'll take your word for it - I'm not about to subscribe to any more mags - I'm MONTHS behind on my current subscriptions. Having a baby does that. Sigh... :-)

(the history of canning?!?! WHO, pray tell, would be interested in that?!?!)

Averill said...

Christy: I can imagine that an infant would make extracirriculars like magazine reading or even sleeping a bit hard to work into your schedule! As far as who might be interested in canning...your guess is as good as mine. :)

Themis0307 said...

I almost picked up this magazine but thought twice because I, like you, don't like the "country look." Hmmm...I might have to take a second look.

Style Redux 2 said...

Averill-You have done a lovely job of showing the palatable side of Country Living, and I did look at it at the newsstand out of curiosity and desperation there are so few good shelter magazines left since the demise of Domino Magazine. That being said, I hate anything, and I mean anything, associated with "country," so the name alone is a deal breaker. I hate country music, food, etc. etc. etc. Being in the country sucks the life right out of me. I adore cities. You are right that it's not really country, but I can't stand shabby or cottage either. I am still mourning Domino and this is not in the same league. I am also not a fan of Architectural Digest or Elle Decor, although I think House Beautiful is much improved. Maybe if they called it CL?

Kristina with a K said...

Nothing wrong with some lace and frills now and again ;)

I too saw this and almost grabbed it. But decided against it because I was worried I get pages of roosters and wooden apples.

I might go get it next time I'm out. I'm totally drawn to the purple and green on the cover.

Averill said...

Beth -- I definitely understand your distaste for country and shabby chic and know quite a few people who feel the same way. It's definitely not my taste, but (provided it's done well) I don't hate it.

I also agree that AD and ED aren't really cutting it (and honestly, I've NEVER understood the fascination with Elle Decor). House Beautiful has definitely been my fallback, but I also really love Canadian House & Home (which I subscribe to digitally). Cdn H&H is definitely the closest thing to domino that I've found anywhere.

Averill said...

Kristina - I, too, was lured in by the cover. I'd definitely give it a go next time you're out shopping; it's a lot more sophisticated than roosters and pigs (though there is some of that). I also think you'd like all the crafting articles.

Kara said...

I really need a replacement magazine for my beloved Cottage Living and Domino. I just don't think Country Living is going to do it. I'm waiting for my first Sunset to arrive.

Averill said...

Kara, I've heard good things about Sunset. Let me know what you think!

Patch said...

The history of canning, eh?

Yes we can!

(Couldn't resist.)

Alicia said...

Hate to break it to you but canning is making a comeback..NYT weekend feature, new books coming out. It relative to the slow food movement sweeping the nation. Not up my alley but still..

Im so not into doilies & gingham but I love CL simply for the inspiration I find in its pages that I apply to my taste. Heck roosters in decor originated in France. I love the country as much as I love the city. Having living in both I've learn to appreciate what each has to offer.
I'm glad you're giving it a chance.

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