Design Magazines Are Like Porn


There aren’t too many homeowners that I know who don’t, at least occasionally, take a sneak peek at decorating and design magazines. Even those few who refuse to view them will have a little look at the doctor’s office while waiting for an appointment simply to pass the time.

They are certainly hard to ignore, with their beautiful glossy covers, their sumptuous titles and their unending promises of an improved life through good design (as a designer I can’t entirely disagree with that last statement!).  But how much is it true and does it actually benefit viewers?

Clever author Marjorie Garber, writer of the book Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love our Homes, suggests that these magazines are truly beautiful, but cautions readers to remember that not all we see in media is true. Fashion magazines doctor photos of models so why would we assume this doesn’t happen with model houses, shot for shelter magazines? Perhaps a shadow is removed, a plug is taken out, a slightly uneven baseboard is straightened, all things that can easily be changed in Photoshop.

Garber also notes that people want to look at these magazines and believe that such a beautiful home exists and that it is possible to obtain a space that is truly flawless. But how possible is it without a lot of work, time and money? Perhaps this is not noted as clearly as it should be. Much like pornography, we can’t but help take a peek, tantalized by what we see but refusing to accept that it is real and yet somehow hoping it may be.

This is an interesting comparison and makes me think of some clients who endlessly cut pages out of magazines as spaces they want. We will do our best to achieve this, I say, but remember it is going to take time and cost money. Yes, yes, they say with glossy pages in their hand…they have bought the dream…the room, the beauty, the concept and the photo. I know this won’t be cheap, but for now, it is a wonderful image that is a dream to be achieved and it has brought happiness, at least for a moment, until the bills to build that dream start rolling in.


I want to add to this author’s thoughts that we can learn a lot from the photos we see of gorgeous homes. They are aspirational and give us something beautiful to look at. They do provide some great ideas as well. But remember, your house is your space and it’s personal, meant to reflect who you are. Take these wonderful pictures as inspiration and with a grain of salt, knowing that your home may have the odd flaw here and there but that’s what makes it home! It may never be perfect, but it’s the perfect place to raise your family and to express who you are, warts and all.