We’re still recovering from last week’s A-list on steroids pep rally for the Giants (it was like shooting fish in a barrel — thanks, Harvey Weinstein!), but today it’s back to Michael’s for another heaping helping of the power lunch crowd. The scene was dominated by spin meisters of every stripe, social swans and money men. (Is the expense account for middle management making a comeback? Discuss.) Representing the celebrity squad was Star Jones who is always fun for a quick, dishy chat.
I was joined today by House Beautiful editor-in-chief Newell Turner, the magazine’s new food contributor Gabrielle Hamilton, who is the owner/chef of Prune, and publicist Michael McGraw. Newell, who usually eats at his desk, decided he may have to rethink his lunch plans when he spied so many Hearst colleagues sprinkled around the room. Indeed.
As a longtime reader of the magazine, I told Newell that its monthly features on the best paint colors for different types of spaces were indispensable to me when I took on the daunting task of painting the interior of our new home last year. Color, or more precisely, how to choose the best ones to enhance your living space, is one of the guiding principles of the magazine. The March ‘Green’ issue will offer a myriad of takes on how to live with the soothing shade. “Our deep-dive color issues always result in a lot of reader response,” Newell told me. He didn’t know what to expect when he devoted an entire issue to pink but was pleasantly surprised. “We had less complaints about it than when we did our ’Blue’ issue.” In the April issue, readers will have the chance to pick “America’s Favorite Paint Color” from 10 options in a contest on HouseBeautiful.com. The results will be published in September.
- Gabrielle Hamilton, Diane Clehane and Newell Turner
Newell, who became top editor in 2010, decided to focus more on American designers, because “American decorating has come into its own despite the economy.” Readers seem to agree. Last year’s June and July-August issues had the highest newsstand sales since November 2002.
Newell recently brought Gabrielle on board as House Beautiful’s food contributor because, he says, “I liked her sensibility and her appreciation for good, simple food.” For her part, Gabrielle, a self-taught cook, has never fallen victim to precious, of-the-moment trends in foods. The voted Best Chef in New York City in 2010 by the James Beard foundation, Gabrielle attributes her successful run at Prune, which she opened in 1999, to “luck” but then said, “I work very, very hard.” Somehow, she’s found time to write pieces for The New Yorker and The New York Times among many other outlets and had her book, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef (Great title!) land on the Times bestseller list. “People have become obsessed with food — how it looks, how it’s prepared. Look at all the shows there are now on food preparation. I wanted to include it in the magazine in a fresh, new way,” says Newell. “Gabrielle is the perfect person to do that.”
These days, Newell is also working to develop more digital content for the mag’s website and enhanced digital edition available on iTunes. He added videos featuring the magazine’s staff in October. When developing content for that platform, he told me he guards against anything looking “too polished” because “looking a bit rougher” online lends an air of authenticity. Interestingly enough, he also revealed there is only a 7 percent crossover between House Beautiful’s print reader (the target demo is women in their 40s and 50s) and the digital reader who is younger and hipper. (Don’t shoot me; I’m just the messenger). “It’s the same content but a different voice. The digital tone is younger and a bit more irreverent.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. The ladies who lunched: Debbie Bancroft, Anne Hearst, Patty Smythe and Laurie Waters
2. Investigation Discovery’s president and GM, Henry Schleiff, and Kerry Kennedy
3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, who stopped by our table to say hello to his old pal Newell Turner and deliver an unexpected little treat to me. This ‘little birdie’ says thanks!
4. Jacqui Safra (Jean Doumanian‘s husband, in case you didn’t know)