Have you read Southern Living lately? If you haven't, you are missing out on a truly inspiring magazine. Editor in Chief Lindsay Bierman has breathed new life into Southern Living, and the changes are particularly evident in my favorite part of the magazine, the Home pages.
I first met Lindsay a year and a half ago, when he was new to his Editor in Chief position (but certainly not new to the magazine business, as he had years under his belt from Coastal Living, Cottage Living, Southern Accents, and as a deputy editor at Southern Living). As he talked to me about his vision for Southern Living, I knew we were going to see fantastic results in the issues ahead.
Lindsay is undoubtably one of the busiest people I know, but being the genuinely kind and approachable person that he is, he graciously took the time to answer some questions for Matters of Style!
MoS: You have a graduate degree in architecture from UVA and worked for the well-known firm of Robert A.M. Stern. How does an architect end up as a magazine editor?
LB: I started my career right out of Georgetown at a tiny real estate magazine that no one has ever heard of in New York. One day as I was interviewing Stern for a story (I couldn't believe he agreed to meet me!), I nonchalantly asked how someone like me could get into an office like his—and it just so happened that he needed a ghost writer for his numerous books, articles, and lectures. He gave me my first big break: In the first week on the job, I began working on the introduction to a monograph on Frank Gehry; a 1,000-page volume on the history of New York architecture and urbanism; and a scholarly lecture for Columbia University. A few years later I left for UVA. Armed with my Master of Architecture degree, I got an amazing job as Design Editor for Architecture magazine (then the journal of the American Institute of Architects), and later returned to Stern's firm to practice. Between all-nighters in the studio, I kept up with the writing by working in a few freelance articles for such magazines as Elle Décor and Interior Design.
The opportunity to help launch Coastal Living came up in 1997—long story, but I longed to head back South—so off I went to Alabama to become the magazine's first Design Editor. My many years at Coastal, Southern Accents, and Cottage Living prepared me to take the helm at Southern Living. I feel incredibly lucky to be a steward of this beloved and iconic brand and eternally grateful to all of the people who inspired, mentored, and guided me along the way.
Janet Gregg in Cottage Living
MoS: We still bemoan the loss of Cottage Living. The interiors of Cottage Living were comfortable, fresh, and accessible. Are you taking the same approach to the interiors featured in Southern Living?
LB: Absolutely! I've recently brought several of my Cottage colleagues over to SL: Style Director Heather Chadduck, who works on home and food shoots; Decorating Editor Lindsey Beatty; and Executive Editor Jessica Thuston, who oversees our home and garden pages. I want the interiors we feature now to be rooted in tradition, as they always have in our pages, but a bit more modern in spirit. My favorite rooms have a freewheeling mix of old and new, high and low, formal and casual--one house that comes to mind is Christy Ford's in Charlottesville. I love the Saarinen table in the living room amidst all her antiques, the modern green chair in her office, and the slipcovered camelback sofa in the breakfast room.
Photo: William Waldron
I also love our May cover, with Lindsey's sunroom--how chic are her curtains paired with the fabric on those French chairs? I admire that kind of fearlessness with color and pattern; it totally reflects her personality. I think what makes our content relatable, no matter how aspirational it may be, is that it truly reflects the way most of us want to live.
Photo: Laurey Glenn
MoS: I grew up reading my grandmother’s and my mother’s copies of Southern Living, and now I subscribe myself. It really seems like you are taking Southern Living in a distinctly fresh and, dare I say, younger direction. In your mind, how is the magazine different today than it was just 5 or 10 years ago?
LB: I'd say it went from being a magazine to becoming a truly cross-platform, multi-media brand. Our content takes on so many more forms now--from tablet editions to videos on our website to dozens of annual books and Special Editions--and reaches our consumers (formerly known as readers) in a myriad of ways. The front cover of every issue used to be our front door. For younger readers like yourself, the point of entry now might be through Pinterest, Facebook, southernliving.com, television, our Weddings issue, or our new tabletop collection in the Ballard Designs catalog. Inside the magazine, we're evolving the photography, styling, design, and content in a way that appeals to the daughters of the South as much as it does to the mothers of the South.
MoS: In today’s globalized economy, it is refreshing to see distinctly Southern artisans and manufacturers featured in each Southern Living. Are you seeing a trend of people increasingly appreciating goods produced locally and regionally?
LB: In a world where the same stores seem to pop up on every corner, I think it's really important to support local individuals and economies across the South. That's why we've dedicated a page to products actually made in the South, not just designed here. Many readers may not realize that we feature numerous artists and shopkeepers in our various regional editions. (Not all readers get the same version of the magazine.) So if you live in Texas and get our Texas Living edition, you'll learn about someone in your own backyard and be more likely to buy from them.
MoS: Southern Living is by far the largest magazine published in the South. Is it important to you to keep the magazine’s headquarters and operations in Birmingham, as opposed to somewhere like New York?
LB: We were born in Birmingham, and grew up to become not only the South's largest title but the fifth-largest monthly paid consumer magazine in the entire country. I can't imagine anyone ever thinking it would be a good idea to move us out of the region that has nurtured and inspired and supported us since 1966.
MoS: Southern style is certainly unique—in your mind, what is it that makes the Southern home unique?
LB: The best of Southern style has a certain easy elegance and exuberance, or what I like to call "a gracious plenty." I stole that phrase from the title of a book about food, but I use it to explain what makes a home "Southern." And by saying that I don't mean it's all about overstuffed, cluttered rooms. I'm saying there's a fine line between pretty and fussy, and we walk it every day. Who doesn't want pretty? Southerners do it better than anyone on the planet. It's part of our charm.
Phoebe Howard for Southern Living
MoS: Your Editor’s Welcome note at the beginning of each issue of Southern Living is always well-written and poignant. You truly are a talented writer—any book deals in the pipeline we should know about?
LB: Sarah, you're so sweet to say that! No book deals. I have a few ideas though—someday, perhaps. But as our Copy Chief will tell you, I'm chronically late with my copy and can barely find the time to write each month, as much as I enjoy it.
Lindsay, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. When I was growing up, the ultimate compliment about a person's home was, "Your house belongs in Southern Living." Your work at Southern Living has given new life to this expression.