In November and December the glut of holiday decor mags usually strains store shelves to the bowing point, and careless shopping cart drivers may find themselves buried in the check-out aisle. But this season there will be far more trees in living rooms than in the Christmas paper mill, thanks to the recession. My top holiday magazines list is therefore a bit shorter - but the quality, thank St. Nick, is still there. Here are the best books to buy for yourself or give as gift subscriptions to someone really lucky.
Canadian House & Home
America's new favorite magazine, CH&H does decor right, with nary an "eh" in sight. Former Domino readers will love the clean modern and eclectic looks, with lots of little tips and the much missed "margin scribble" - all those brilliant little side comments on various room elements that Domino excelled at. It's neither traditional nor celebrity obsessed (calling Architectural Digest - hello?). If you're working on your third vacation home or decorating your first rental, CH&H will inspire you. One year Canadian subscription $26.95. One year U.S. subscription $56.95.
I shied away from Veranda for years - a little too formal, a little older (like Brooks Brothers for homes - I figured, it'll feel right for me in a few decades). But Veranda seems to be inviting her younger, hipper sister over for coffee more often, as casual styles and current trends are popping up. A Mary McDonald living room like this one will give you plenty of fresh ideas. One year subscription $15. Bonus: subscribe online and get a year of Elle Decor for only $5.
Victoria is one of my most beloved magazines, and I've been reading it since childhood, in spite of its terribly misleading name. It is neither an encyclopedia of Victoriana, nor devoted to any historical era (any more than Veranda is only about porches). Victoria might better be called Bliss - timeless, exquisitely detailed stories about decorating, traveling, entertaining, and women entrepreneurs have the collectively soothing effect of a hot cup of tea. Beautiful photographs make each issue memorable, and classic copies are still coming up for bid on ebay. One year subscription $19.98.
I'll be the first to admit that I used to really dislike House Beautiful. One part pretension, two parts design encyclopedia, reading it gave me the same feeling as attending a cocktail party where I didn't know the people or the gossip (oh, you haven't heard of this designer? Pity you). But I am LOVING their 2009 makeover with a fresh look and even fresher design choices. For October and November they had me at hello - bright, vibrant rooms, eclectic mixes, streamlined styles, and an abundance of chinoiserie. One year subscription $10.
All images, from magazines as listed.