Architectural Digest: A century of style

Admit it: Most people like to take a peek inside how the rich and famous live, right? It’s an escape, and these days, a needed guilty pleasure after being stuck inside our own homes for the past two years.   

Well, we’re in luck. Month after month, bold-faced names, like tennis star Maria Sharapova, open their doors for Architectural Digest.

Visiting Sharapova Los Angeles home, correspondent Serena Altschul said, “Your bowling alley really stood out.”

“I know. I think that stands out for me, too!” she laughed.

“Are you a bowler?”

“It’s not like I’m a bowler or anything.”

Maria Sharapova’s Los Angeles home was featured in Architectural Digest, which described it as “discreetly ravishing.” 

Architectural Digest

Bowling alley aside, Sharapova’s home is a place she finds refuge after jetting around the world. “It’s a safe place to come home to.”

… a place she felt safe letting AD inside for a glimpse.

“I think from an outside perspective people only see what you give them, right?” Sharapova said. “But there’s also a human element to every athlete. And this was a really incredible opportunity to show that to the world.”

Interior design-obsessed rocker Lenny Kravitz agrees: “As a designer, being on the cover of AD is an honor, of course. It’s like being a musician and being on the cover of Rolling Stone.”

This month’s cover features the annual AD 100 List – the very best designers in the business. 

Architectural Digest

For a century now, Architectural Digest has been taking note of how and where we live.  Just before the pandemic, the magazine celebrated 100 years with a book of its favorite homes, and a stylish party.

Vogue Global editorial director Anna Wintour helps oversee AD for parent-company Condé Nast. “To be in Architectural Digest meant that you’d achieved great heights and that it was the final step of recognition,” she said.

In 2016, Wintour’s protégé, Amy Astley, was hired to boost the brand. “I think she brought it a new perspective, a younger perspective,” Wintour said. “And she brought it charm and personality and intelligence, and it was a little bit less, maybe, rigid than it had been before.”

“I wanted it to be buzzy, current, relevant, [for] people to talk about it,” Astley told Altschul. “Now, people say to me, ‘I saw Maria Sharapova on the cover.  I saw Lenny Kravitz on the cover.'”

Astley’s first cover as editor-in-chief was fashion designer Marc Jacobs. “Lots of people had asked in New York, and he had said no. He was waiting for the right moment. And Architectural Digest was the right moment for Marc Jacobs.”

Now, even the most private A-List stars seem to pull back the curtain. 

Altschul asked, “What is it about human nature that makes us so curious about each other’s homes? Is it fantasy? Is it voyeurism?”

“You want to see how other people live,” said Astley. “It’s an enduring interest to see beautiful homes, how other people live, what that could look like. Maybe it’s inspiring, or maybe you’re like, ‘Ugh, I hate that.’ I think that’s also just a sense of hope for people: Someday I’m gonna have the house I really want.

And boy, has the way we lived changed since The Architectural Digest was founded in California in 1920. 

Architectural Digest debuted in 1920.

CBS News

Astley said, “The old ways people lived, very formal, very stiff? It’s out. It’s completely different now.  You wouldn’t have an open kitchen in the old days.”

“No one would want to live near the refrigerator and the stove?” said Altschul.

“Bathrooms? You wouldn’t show that back in the day. And now it’s a trophy room.”

Led for decades by the late-editor Paige Rense, Architectural Digest has both recorded and set design styles. 

“It’s really wild to see the different trends in decorating,” Astley said, showing Altschul a copy of the May 2001 issue. “Here’s the glamourous nighttime shoot in the dark. Now, we mainly shoot in the daylight, because tastes change and times change.”

And those times are captured in a time capsule. “Sunday Morning” got a rare look inside the Condé Nast archive’s cold-storage vault. “It’s 40 degrees in here!” Astley said. “It’s like a converted meat locker. it’s like walking back in time.”

AD’s original files and images, like Fred Astaire’s living room, are stored in perfect order, next to other legendary titles like Vogue and The New Yorker.

The cold storage archive of Architectural Digest preserves such stylish interiors as Fred Astaire’s living room. 

CBS News/Architectural Digest

“How fun is this?” Astley said. “Vanity Fair! This is why we’re not allowed here! Because I’m snooping around where I’m not meant to be!”

Altschul asked interior designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, “I have a feeling that your home pretty much looks this together most of the time?”

“It does, 100 percent it does!” Berkus replied.

There’s a pretty good reason why: Berkus and Brent, and their two kids, are familiar faces in Architectural Digest, along with their homes.

“My mom was an interior designer,” said Berkus, “so we had a subscription to AD growing up. And it was always on the coffee table until it got too high, and my mom would move the old issues somewhere else. But it was the magazine you didn’t throw away, because it really was a documentation of the history of design.”

Even for star designers, it’s still a thrill to say yes to Architectural Digest. Berkus said, “You have to be pretty much willing to swing the doors open as wide as possible to say, ‘This is our life, please, welcome, we would love to have this record of this time in our lives and this time, in particularly, in our kids’ lives.'”

Brent added, “It’s such an emotional component to it, too. It’s really special.”

And that’s always been AD’s secret: eliciting an emotion, a special feeling, of home. 

Astley said, “Architectural Digest has lasted 100 years because of the quality of the mission, that we’re showing you the best.”

For more info:

Story produced by Jon Carras. Editor: Mike Levine.

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