Since taking over the top job in 2016, Amy Astley, the global editorial director for Architectural Digest, has expanded the brand’s digital presence across every platform and format. Some of the things she has initiated have been increasing the magazine’s social footprint, producing a You Tube series and writing a book, “AD at 100: A Century of Style.”
Her editorial experience came from a career in the areas of art, design and fashion, including five years at House & Garden and nearly a decade at Vogue. Astley was the founding editor of Teen Vogue, launched in 2003, where she helped build a lifestyle brand that continues to expand.
Astley recently joined The Washington Post for an online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing in how people are changing or re-evaluating their homes during the pandemic? What has made the biggest positive difference for people?
A: There are so many changes, and they will last. We’re seeing designated spaces for work from home, school from home and gym from home. People who can afford more space will want more space.
Outdoor space is critical. People might think twice about living in glass towers where the windows don’t open; people want fresh air and open windows. Natural light, nature, space to isolate sick people, a shift away from open plan.
We see people really investing in home and appreciating interior design and professional services. Also, a movement away from cold minimalism toward a cozier, warmer and more personal environment.
Q: What’s trending for 2021?
A: Lots more shopping for home online. It’s on fire as we all fixate on improving the spaces we’re confined to.
Q: How do you select homes and architectural structures to feature in the magazine?
A: The other editors and I spend a lot of our time each day following leads from designers, architects, people who work in the industry and celebrity homes. We look at all projects closely and choose based on many different factors: We like geographic diversity, different kinds of spaces — apartments, houses, large, small, city, country — and we show many styles — classic, modern, avant-garde, minimal and eclectic. We look for “best in class” projects — a top example of doing minimalism might be Axel Vervoordt, for example. We like a range. Some houses will be a big hit in print, others on social media, still others on YouTube. I am thinking about all the platforms, all the audiences.
Q: How do you think millennials will change the look of American homes as they grow older and start families?
A: They won’t soon forget the lessons of the pandemic. I expect this intense and difficult experience to affect lifestyle for decades to come. Overall, a real sense of the comfort of home and the importance of home will last. These younger people will invest in their nest to make it their haven.
Q: I need to replace all the outdated ceramic tile and carpets in my house. I would love hardwood but can’t have it because of the cement subfloor. I’m trying to decide whether to use wood-like porcelain tile or wood-look luxury vinyl plank.
A: I had a similar issue and we eventually put down cork floors. Cork is warm, comfortable underfoot and not super expensive. I think go for wood-look vinyl since a wood floor appeals to most people.
Q: How has the pandemic changed the role of interior designers and how they work?
A: I think the people are appreciating professionals more than ever. I think people are really understanding how vital their home is, and that investing in a professional might be a good idea. There are great people working at every budget level. Hiring an expert can save money in the long run as you avoid expensive mistakes.
Q: What’s the future of huge, white, open-plan kitchen, living and dining areas?
A: Designers are telling us that clients are realizing they need private zones to use for work, school and the gym at home, especially if they have kids in the house. The open plan is not going away, but it certainly will be a factor to consider for the future. Sadly we all realize that this could possibly happen again. The ability to isolate sick people, to designate spaces for different uses and different people, to contain voices, will be a long-term impact.
Q: Have there been significant sales increases for furniture and home furnishings during this past year?
A: Yes. There have been huge increases at every level, from Restoration Hardware to Home Depot. We’re all stuck at home and trying to spruce the place up.
Q: We are looking to buy some new furniture (couch, armchairs, recliner). We like antiques, but I think we need to buy new furniture for sitting on. Most of what I’m seeing is too modern and square for our taste. Which brands have an antique look to them and won’t break the bank?
A: Try Anthropologie for a romantic look.
Q: Has the pandemic dulled the popularity of big name designers? Is the era of designer envy over?
A: Nope, not over. We’re all house-obsessed these days. Big name designers bring inspiration and big ideas. I think of many of us (myself included) wish we could hire one of these experienced pros to give us a makeover.
Q: How do you see the role of Architectural Digest going forward? How long will there be a print edition?
A: AD feels more relevant than ever, as the whole world is sheltering at home and feeling both grateful for their home and perhaps a bit motivated to improve aspects to make it function or look better. Our digital audiences, traffic, social media followers, YouTube views, e-commerce have all exploded during the pandemic as audiences look for inspiration, ideas, and entertainment, too. Print absolutely lives at AD. It’s a vital, prestigious and lucrative piece of our business, but the magazine is also the center of our universe. All the other businesses, such as digital, events and books, are spokes off that center. Our print subscriptions are up. It is a very dynamic piece of AD’s story and I adore making the magazine each month.
Q: What is the most innovative aspect, either in digital or print, that you have implemented at Architectural Digest?
A: Digital is the space I really innovated the most during my tenure, which will be five years in June. We launched the successful Open Door series on YouTube, where we now have over 4 million subscribers. I am proud of massively growing our social footprint during this time. I started AD Pro, a daily digital newsletter for professionals in the design industry that’s behind a paywall, and Clever, the vertical for a younger AD reader. Clever drives a lot of our web traffic and e-commerce. It is a big success and really my overall goal when I started here was to reach a much broader base of design lovers. I wanted AD to feel buzzy, culturally relevant and in tune with the times, not like your grandmother’s magazine. I feel like the team has really achieved this.
Q: What’s your daily routine at the magazine like?
A: I’ve been working from home for nearly a year, as have the staff. We have Zoom calls all day. I check in with the teams and try to stay connected and productive and to keep everyone moving in the same direction. I start on Zoom at 8 or 8:30 a.m. most days. I send and read emails, write and edit and communicate with designers, architects and homeowners as I scout and secure stories for AD. I work long days and late nights. I used to see lots of people in the office and in our industry at events; it’s more challenging and time-consuming now and you really have to make an effort to stay in touch. But we’ve been thriving, growing and succeeding during the pandemic. We have an incredible team.