The competition pits 10 interior designers against each other for a chance to win a commercial contract to design a bar at one of London’s hotels. Each week, a different challenge is set, designed to test their ability to meet various client briefs in different commercial and residential settings. Across the series, the contenders redesign commercial spaces, from shops to restaurants and salons.Each issue or publication often acts as a “how to” guide for interior decorating and styling, as well as providing readers up to date design news and the latest trends. Contemporary houses in the magazines today are often highly styled photographs, which are done by interior stylists or decorators. They often do not feature people and just focus on the furniture or interior. Some magazines, such as Apartamento, feature homes that are not staged, but rather highlight elements of the house just as the inhabitant has left them.
Graphic layouts became an important feature for interior design magazines, as many began following each other or beginning their own trend. It began allowing more space, focusing on the arrangement and layout of text, image and font. The titling of the drawings, in stylized capitals, was carried out in a specific style associated with the Rudolf von Larisch school of lettering. Often the interior schemes were represented from above and from a diagonal axis, emphasizing the angularity of the composition with a rapidly receding vanishing point. Illustrations ranged from full colour paintings to carefully reproduced lithography prints of interiors and drawings, usually in colour. From the 1920s onwards, design publishing was driven by avant-garde design ideals and commercial publishing practices. The introduction of the digital camera in the late 20th century allowed photographers to capture the interiors of celebrities as well as everyday people.
The second half of the 19th century brought about the development of several publications offering advice on how to manage and decorate the home. Suggestions ranging from fashioning gothic architecture inspired furniture and embroidery were featured in household manuals Cassell’s Household Guide and Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in the 1860s. Aimed at the increasing Victorian middle class, these manuals encouraged the purchase of material goods for their homes. The manual Hints on Household Taste by Charles Eastlake first published in 1868 dealt explicitly with decorative choice and consisted of articles that were first successive in magazines. Inspired by American advice manuals, these books often reflected on the gendered nature of society, drawing divisions between the ‘masculine’ dining room and ‘feminine’ drawing room. Design suggestions for the drawing room included using light colours while methods for dining rooms, libraries and studies featured heavy furniture and animal skins.
However, domestic manuals in the 1920s revealed the changes in the gendered division of space and pushed the rise of the sitting room as a shared space. From the 1920s to the 1970s, advice literature was increasingly concerned with the shift from a service culture to a self-service culture. This stems from the idea that readers now had to learn how to host dinner parties or functions with the absence of a butler or housekeeper. Advice writers catered to a new group of readers keen to entertain in a manner different from the one they had known growing up. The hostess performed the conflicting roles of both entertaining the guests and cooking, which involved her in both front and backstage regions of the home.