podcast | Jun 24, 2024 |
At The World of Interiors, a new editor wants every page to be surprising

By the time she was 14, London-born Emily Tobin lived in eight different houses from the U.K. to Chile. “Which is quite telling, I guess, now being someone who thinks hard about what spaces look like and how you make a space look and feel like a home,” the editor of iconic magazine The World of Interiors tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast.

After college, Tobin found herself working for Time Out magazine in Hong Kong (where her brother was living at the time), giving her an editorial foundation, after which she moved to London and became assistant to the editor of House & Garden. “Sue Crewe was so clear about what she liked and what she didn’t like, and she always involved me in those decisions,” she says. “It was such a generous thing, bringing me in on those conversations right from the get-go.”

Tobin worked her way up the masthead over her 11 years at the magazine, leaving in 2022 to be deputy editor at The World of Interiors until then-editor Hamish Bowles suffered a stroke (he has since made an astounding recovery), leading Tobin to step up her duties. Earlier this year, she was formally appointed editor.

The magazine, which recently celebrated its 500th issue, is known for showcasing some of the world’s most beautiful spaces—and how people live in them. Tobin invokes the words of the late Min Hogg, The World of Interiors founding editor, who said the publication would feature everything “from pigsties to palaces,” as long as the space felt lived in.

Since joining the staff, Tobin has helped rebrand the cover—making it more monochrome, letting the photos do the talking—and, most notably, helped launch a new website in 2022. “Print and digital can very happily exist side by side. ... But I don’t want to give the impression that we have launched a website because we are going to be in any way shifting the focus away from print,” she says. “The focus will be on both of them at the same time, and we have a team that works entirely across print and digital. We’re bringing that institutional knowledge from print to the website.” The website will be an addition to the stories the brand has been telling since 1981, offering print features as well as digital-only ones. “Both [formats] will, I hope, continue to be somewhere that sits on the outside and that has a slightly unusual gaze, and that brings stories and people and places to our readers that they might not have come across before,” she says.

Elsewhere in the episode, Tobin discusses how the magazine came about, what the editors look for in pitches and why they aren’t scaling for the sake of scaling.

Crucial insight: Given that social media has exposed many of us to the same images over and over again, Tobin urges her team to engage the world to find new and exciting stories. “It feels even more important now—like a responsibility—for us to be going out and meeting people and to be having conversations, and to be really doing our best to find those incredibly skilled people who exist in all corners,” she says. “How much more interesting to seek those people out, rather than wait to see which image scrolls down and appears on your little screen.”

Key quote: “We’re not necessarily looking to present our readers with a very smooth, uncomplicated experience of beauty. Not everything you see in The World of Interiors is going to be beautiful in the conventional sense of the word. What I do hope—this is something of a formula—is that every time you turn the page, you will be surprised. I hope that it will feel like there is a contrast from one story to the next. I hope that it will feel global in its outlook, and I hope that it will really show the different ways in which people live.”

This episode is sponsored by Loloi. Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

The Thursday Show

BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus and host Dennis Scully discuss the biggest news in the design industry, including RH’s Q1 earnings loss, the latest AI design tools, and Tom Dixon’s unconventional strategy for fighting knockoffs. Later, journalist Mitchell Owens joins the show to talk about his new job as editor in chief of The Magazine Antiques.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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