Several years ago I was offered a great writing gig for a major American magazine. After some serious thought, I ended up turning it and canceling all my subscriptions to American magazines. The reason? I felt that most of the magazines were nothing more than ads (and not just in the advertisements) and “self help” that ultimately made people feel worse. There wasn’t inspiration in most of the magazines I read – it was “just do this and you’ll be happy/perfect/liked” etc.
I didn’t want to perpetuate that so I stopped writing for and reading them.
When I returned to Provence a few years ago, in my gite rural was the wonderful, large, glossy magazine Maisons Cote Sud (Houses of the South). The wonderful photos, beautiful ideas and – for me – the homes listed for sale in the back had me instantly smitten. When in Aix en Provence I stepped inside a book seller where I bought this magazines, plus Marie Claire Maison and Marie Claire Idees (which is my favourite and I’m frustrated that I can’t find the winter edition anywhere!). My next stop was Copenhagen where I ended up buying the wonderful BoligLive.
What I love about these magazines is the wonderful pictures that allow me to dream, that give me inspiration, and always make me think of other things to do or write about. Although I can read them it’s not always easy (and definitely not quick) so I most often just look at the photos and make up my own directions or story.
With American magazines, they’re very much “how to” – how to make it, how to buy it, how to prepare it, how to be it. They tend to leave little room for the imagination.
I was talking with my flirty-hair friend who is Danish but lives in Nova Scotia and she brought this up in our conversation. She mentioned how a lot of people she knew in Canada felt scared to do things on their own; afraid they’d “do it wrong” or make something a mess or have it not look right. That, along with their American counterparts, they found it easier to go and just buy a look or read about a product in a magazine and order it online than to transform an idea into something personal.
Now, I must confess that for the last several years I haven’t had the time, confidence or space to make things personal or just have an idea from a picture and then make my own. I tended to buy more than make and I became, at one point this past spring, addicted to American home magazines and DIY Home TV. However, I actually never made the home nicer because of this and I often felt like I couldn’t do anything or ideas just remained in my head.
It wasn’t until I gave myself a break from all the “how to have a perfect home” magazines and TV shows did I start to create my own style and once again just take inspiration from things instead of feeling the pressure (or need) to recreate a scene exactly.
I encourage you to go to your local book seller and pick up a foreign home magazine – especially one that you can’t read – and just flip through the extra large pictures, the fabulous photos, and perhaps the for sale section in the back. I bet you you’ll look at things a little differently and feel a little transformed after, instead of rushing to purchase a recommended product that’s “new” and a “must” or trying to recreate the perfect hostess party.
For me, the European mags give me a break and just inspire me a little into another world which is what I think is their purpose.
(I should note, for all of that above I found the U.S. Magazine Domino and the Canadian House and Home to be really useful for trying to set up my own home with products easily located or ideas I could actually do. So I’m not saying European magazines are superior, but I think there is just a different purpose.)