09 September 2010

Interview with Southern Living's New Editor: Lindsay Bierman

I am so happy that Lindsay took some time to share
us a little about his background, what he loves
in design, his thoughts on magazines, and how the 
Southern Living of today captures both the new
and old.

(image Cottage Living)

Many of you, like me, were so thrilled when Cottage Living alums
took over in the editing of Southern Living.  We were so sad
to see CL close its doors; but we were treated to many of its
same elements when Eleanor Griffin became editor.

We have seen many of the things we loved from Cottage Living
appear in a mainstay magazine many of us grew up with,
Southern Living.

From columns which help readers to update the exteriors of their
homes, to features for how to translate a look for different aesthetics,
to even the font:

(this month's issue)

From an interiors perspective, I have been thrilled
that I can see homes that inspire me with new
materials and fresh ways to design and decorate.  

And in the other lifestyle areas, I enjoyed the new
take on traditional southern cooking.  Southern Living
offers you a southern recipe as well as a healthier, 
"not your mama's" version.  Sometimes I cook one, the
other, or tweek it in the middle.

I am excited that someone which such a broad background in
history, design, architecture, publishing....and more....is
editor of one of my favorite magazines!


Julie:  When you were little did you envision having this type of job?  I am
just curious to see if you intended to work in publishing or if it happened more organically.

Lindsay:  I started reading Architectural Digest before I was ten, so I guess it was inevitable! I actually always thought I'd be an architect--I got my start as a ghost writer for the renown firm Robert A. M. Stern Architects in NYC, and returned there to practice after I got my degree, but I was naturally drawn into magazines. I found it was the best and only way to combine my love of writing, editing, and reporting. I also got to travel the country in search of great design.

I have a BA in history from Georgetown, and a master's degree in architecture from UVA. As an undergrad, I worked for a year on Capitol Hill, then switched my intern career and volunteered at Sotheby's and the National Gallery. I got some amazing exposure and experience!

One of Stern's homes in Architectural Digest 

 Julie:  I know that you worked for Coastal and Cottage Living in the past, and obviously their homes, in general, appealed to possibly a younger reader with a
more modern aesthetic.  What I am trying to ask is how to you educate your readers and still keep them?

Lindsay:  Every magazine has a distinct point of view. I want Southern Living interiors to be relatable in size and style. Modern doesn't necessarily mean minimal or austere--it depends on the context. In our October issue, you'll see what I'd call a very modern approach to Southern style in Athens, Georgia: watercolor portraits hung above the sofa with brass tacks, vintage upholstery recovered in fresh graphic prints, and an inspiring mix of mid-century classics and antiques. The house feels so rooted, so pretty, and so definitively southern in the way it strikes that perfect balance of our mother's classic traditional sensibility and the daughter's freedom to break some rules.

(our mother's Southern Living)

Julie:  Of course, Eleanor Griffin did an excellent job of giving us sad
Cottage Living readers a fix of some of the things we longed for (mentioned previously).  Will your mission forthe magazine be similar to Ms. Griffin's?  How or how not?  

Lindsay:  Eleanor and I closely collaborated on the development and launch of Cottage Living from day one, so we share the same aesthetic. She was (and is) a great mentor to me. I plan to build on last year's redesign by introducing some new decorating columns that I know you'll love!!! Look out for them between now and early next year.

Julie:  Being an editor, will you miss being "able to get your hands dirty"
on shoots with styling, writing, etc.?  Do you find it a unique challenge being able to express yourself creatively as editor?

Lindsay:  All those years of styling and producing prepared me for the greatest joy of all: managing the creative process and growing young talent. It's not for everybody, because few people realize how much corporate and management stuff editors have to deal with (especially with an editorial staff of 80). Although I can't spend time on location, I'm intimately involved in directing and overseeing what's on every page.

Julie:  Speaking of being creative....what would your style be in your dream
home?  Most of us have seen your home published in Cottage Living.

Lindsay's home in Cottage Living 
image via Two Ellie

(I bought my tulip table...not the "real" one...mine is from IKEA...
because of his banquette!)

Do you think you will stay mostly white in the new home, or are you
really craving a new look?  (If you are like me, I need three or more
homes so I can express each style!)

Will you publish your new home?

Lindsay:  Phoebe Howard says I have "severe decorating ADD." One day I'm craving a red-brick Georgian I see for sale, the next day I'm obsessing over a 1960s modern house. She really helped me take what I have and make it all work together beautifully, after ten years of indecision. 

Example: a Kelly Wearstler pillow fabric hijacked the entire downstairs a few years ago; the green in the print inspired all kinds of decisions I later regretted like green walls, a green sideboard. I've wasted a lot of money on bad ideas--nothing major, mostly paint and fabric--but consider that a part of the learning and growing process. 

Kelly Wearstler's Imperial Trellis 

My house is on the market now because I want to downsize and build a very small rustic-modern lake house (that means old telephone poles separated by panes of glass). If I can get it together, I'll shoot it for Southern Living--but that will take a while!

Julie:  Now, for some obvious questions:

I think that all of the changes in leadership in our favorite magazines have made the magazines (that remain) leaner and better.  Do you agree?

Lindsay:  More advertising=more pages, which is never a bad thing for everybody, but I'd say we're smaller and smarter after the economic meltdown. We've streamlined our workflow, focused and strengthened the content, and pared it down to what readers love most.

Julie:  What are some of your favorite design books and/or blogs?

Lindsay:  I can't name favorites! I'm a multi-media junkie.

Julie:  I feel that blogs only enhance the magazines....not take away from
them.  I equate it to the fear that VCRs, in their conception, may replace movie-going altogether.  That obviously didn't happen.  How does SL plan to embrace the web anymore so than you currently do (which I know is a good bit!)

Lindsay:  There are endless ways we can extend our brand online, and we have only begun to explore the possibilities. The iPad may change the way we consume magazines, but that's not at all driven by reader demand. 

Print audiences have grown for magazines over the past several years, along with media consumption in general, and survey after survey shows that our readers won’t give up our magazine. I see apps and blogs and online mags as just more of what I love in a different format, to satisfy and different craving and provide a different experience. I keep thinking that If all we had were computers now, and someone told me they had invented this unbreakable thing that you could take anywhere without a protective case, that didn't need a battery or an outlet, and you could fold and bend or tear up as you wish, and that it was called a magazine, I'd be amazed!

Julie:  Any favorite designers you would still love to work with that you
haven't yet?

Lindsay:  I love to discover and support new talent. I've been fortunate in my career to work with some of the very best, some of them from the start of their careers.

Julie:  And lastly, what advice would you give someone who would love to have
your job?

Lindsay:  The passion you have for a subject will translate directly onto the page (in print or online), so learn to express it in meaningful ways that connect with your audience. Establish and articulate your mission and define your purpose. Gain diverse experiences as a producer, stylist, editor, and eventually, as a manager of staff, time, and budgets. Be patient, don't expect the top job by the time you're 30. Listen and learn from your mentors and peers, and most of all go with your heart--it will never steer you wrong.

Thank you so much, Lindsay!

Julie (and Milk and Honey Home readers)


  1. Thanks for that special treat! Very enlightening!

  2. Loved your interview! How much fun was that!!! Can't wait to read my new Southern Living! Miss Cottage Living so much - ordered Coastal Living just because Heather Chadduck is involved. She has an amazing eye.

  3. Great interview Julie! Also, that picture of Cottage Living was one of my favorite covers!! Those doors have been filed away for my fantasy house of the future!!

  4. What a great interview, Julie.
    He's from DC!! wow!
    What a lovely post ....


  5. What a wonderful interview!! I always look forward to my monthly Southern Living, and I'm thrilled that Lindsay Bierman is at the helm. Exciting change...

  6. Bravo! I'm a huge fan of Lindsay's and learned even more about him from reading this. Great interview!

  7. Awesome interview. I really enjoyed this! He's quite inspirational.

  8. I REALLY LOVE the giant chalkboard in that kitchen! Great interview, thanks for sharing :)

  9. Great interview. I am a big fan of Lindsay so it was so fun to read this!

  10. What an interview! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Truly fantastic!!! I enjoyed reading all of it.

  12. Great read; what a treat. I had no idea that some of those at Cottage Living had migrated to Southern Living. How lucky for us!

  13. I heart Southern Living!! One of my favorites! Great interview!

  14. Great article as I cannot wait to see where Lindsay takes Southern Living-

  15. oh my loved this! He is such an inspiration. So wish I could buy his house :)