Reflecting on 70 years well lived – and what the future holds as an unrivalled platform for advertisers.
It’s only fitting to sit down at a beautiful coffee table and share a conversation and a cup of tea with Australian House & Garden’s long standing Editor-In-Chief. After all, it’s on coffee tables right across Australia that you’ll find many prized and well-thumbed copies of Australian House & Garden. Since 1948, it’s been the absolute go-to source of information for aspirational home owners. So, as House & Garden celebrates 70 years of ‘holding a mirror up to contemporary Australian living’, we chat to Lisa about her magazine’s passionate audience, the editorial content they feel most inspired by, and the cross-platform opportunities for brands on both coffee tables and in the ever-changing digital world.
Lisa, firstly Earl Grey or English Breakfast?
English Breakfast with a dash of milk.
Tell us about how you came to be Editor-In-Chief of the number one most-read premium homemaker title in Australia.
I trained as a journalist in newspapers, securing a cadetship in 1988 with the News Ltd Group. Six years later, in 1993, I moved into magazines. My first job was at ACP Magazines as a sub-editor. I was Deputy Editor for the launch of Australian Good Taste magazine, later editing it for four years. ELLE Cuisine and ELLE came next. It was then back to newspapers where I had the good fortune to edit Domain and Good Living Fashion. An invitation to return to ACP as Editor of The Australian Women’s Weekly was too good to refuse. I spearheaded its 2005 revamp and then joined Australian House & Garden as Editor-in-Chief in 2006, tasked with keeping the magazine aspirational, on trend and relevant across multiple content platforms.
In your 12 years at the helm, what have been the highlights and what changes have you ushered in?
Engaging content is the beginning and end of what we do… interesting, informative stories wrapped in a visually beautiful package. Australian House & Garden is such a trusted source. Three generations of homemakers have looked to us for their ideas and advice, and now we’re inspiring a fourth generation! We treat everything that happens in their home journey with the greatest respect, whether they are decorating a child’s room or planning a big renovation or new property investment. Renovators, passionate decorators… they really engage with the editorial content we provide. Building an experienced editorial team whose creativity can be seen with every page turn is key to H&G’s success – and to demonstrating the magic of magazines in general. Building our social media audience and supporting Homes To Love, the digital destination for Bauer Homes titles (Real Living, Homes+ and Belle), has been a focus in more recent years. We are also walking the talk – and building an architect-designed house with Mirvac, sharing the journey in all H&G channels.
Tell us more about the Australian House & Garden reader?
She loves her home! She gets excited about all things renovation and decorating. She craves ideas, and loves beautifully photographed examples of homes and gardens that will trigger her next great project or let her share the design solution she’s been searching for with her partner. She’s aspirational, house-proud and waiting to be inspired! She’s me, really! Ha. And a lot of my friends. Along with her home partner, she’s a highly active home-maker, renovator, and an avid entertainer – in her spare time.
Does the editorial content appeal to her ‘wider life’ as well?
Our magazine is anchored by 60+ pages of the best homes and gardens in Australia, but our broader editorial offer addresses other important areas of our readers’ lives. They love to travel, shop and entertain. They like to know which beauty products to put in their newly renovated bathroom, to receive health tips and pet tips and design news. And a fabulous Sunday lunch menu and table styling ideas is always welcomed. Topical subjects – whether it’s renovating, downsizing or adding space for a teen/grand parent or casual accommodation – all have a place in the magazine. Service journalism is not dead!
The H&G environment is described as ‘dynamic and innovative’. Can you share your ideas on how House & Garden delivers as an unrivalled platform for advertisers? What does the future hold across multiple platforms? What are the surprising opportunities for advertisers that we may not know?
H&G is the homes bible – and the breadth of content is what ensures the brand can continue to create fabulous content for our audience and exciting opportunities for advertisers. H&G has led the conversation about home design in Australia for 70 years, and our My Ideal House design competition and now new home build continues that tradition – and highlights good, affordable design while exposing the build process to everyone. It’s opened up content opportunities galore and terrific partnerships with advertisers across multiple platforms. Our Top 50 Rooms initiative is 20 years old this year but it’s as fresh as the day it kicked off. Long-term sponsors are back and we have a couple of new categories in the mix this year. The awards lunch is the highlight of the design calendar and the People’s Choice vote generates terrific traffic on Homes To Love. Our Garden of the Year competition will kick off in Spring. Importantly, we will be looking to engage partners for a significant initiative that aims to inspire and drive sustainable living – at a household level.
It’s your magazine’s 70 years birthday in March! How will the celebrations unfold throughout the month and across the rest of the calendar year?
We’ve just launched the 70th anniversary issue, on a beautiful evening at The Mint in Sydney, with the many friends of H&G – the long-time contributors and design community who keep our pages humming, and our valued commercial clients who continue to support the ideas that we dream up.
The April Collector’s Edition is a keeper – it contains a dance through the decades, calling out the trends and style influences and influencers that have shaped our home lives. Plus we delve down into the cars, colours, furniture and even pets that are part of Australia’s domestic record. And naturally we take a look at the technology, people and ideas that will influence the way we live in decades to come. The next five issues of the magazine are themed around the Senses – Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch, Smell – and we will continue to feature some Then & Now content to keep everyone smiling throughout this special anniversary year.
In late March we’re unveiling a show garden at Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show, a collaboration with Eckersley Garden Architecture. It will pay homage to the Aussie backyard, acting as a Case Study garden, a compilation of the best historical ideas to create a garden that’s right for now. We will be hosting the International Speaker Series at Décor and Design in July, with a great line-up of guests presenting, including International Designer of the Year, Martin Lawrence Bullard. Mid-year is also when we publish The Milan Furniture Fair Report and Eurocucina insights. Capping off a very busy year, in November we will celebrate 20 years of Top 50 Rooms, the longest-running interiors showcase and awards event in the country.
Tell us a little about the celebrated Australian House & Garden Time Capsule which has been entrusted to SLM for 10 years.
We were keen to mark this special anniversary in some way, and I was quite tickled by the idea that in 10 years from now, someone could open a time capsule and be transported to an Australian home in 2018. I found a little company in Brisbane who custom-make stainless steel capsules or trunks to order. And we’ve filled it with household items – from new voice activated technologies to smartphones and fitbits to current health food fads like coconut water and kombucha. Naturally we have included the 70th anniversary edition of the magazine, along with current building and decorating samples, and a record reflecting popular culture: what we’re reading, watching and listening to right now. We’ve also asked our readers to send in their recommendations as to what should be included. The time capsule will be stored in the archive at the Carolyn Simpson Research Library at The Mint, a Sydney Living Museums property.
It bears a plaque requesting that it is opened on March 1st, 2028.
Lisa, how was your tea? Thank you so much for your time.
Spot on. Thanks!