as the interior
magazine like no other, praise be
By Jeff Bercovici
Here’s what you’ll
find in a typical shelter magazine: penthouse apartments and mansions
belonging to socialites and celebrities, miles of hardwood floors and
acres of stainless steel, bathtubs the size of swimming pools and pools
the size of small lakes, antique French garden tools and one-of-a-kind
designer kitchen utensils.
Here’s what you’ll find in Nest: a
40-year-old man who wears diapers and sleeps in a crib, an Indonesian bird
that decorates its lair with colored stones and vomit, the final resting
place of Napoleon’s penis, cosmonauts and Navy seamen, a
barbed-wire-trimmed bed that’s also a tank, and a Gothic Christmas card
from weird filmmaker John Waters.
Nest is not your typical shelter
Going into its fourth year of publication, Nest
bills itself simply as "A quarterly of interiors."
And so it is, but in fact it has become
much more than that.
It's now regarded as one of the most beautifully crafted and
wildly imaginative magazines in existence--and not just by the people featured
Last year, Nest received a General Excellence award from the
American Society of Magazine Editors.
This year, the magazine has been nominated in three
categories, including general excellence, design and photography.
While other shelter magazines work within a
narrow definition of a home, Nest’s interiors include any space
inhabited by people, or even animals.
Among the subjects of recent Nest articles has been the shobo,
a type of earth-floored longhouse inhabited by the Matis tribe of the
A story on Project Greek Island tells of a giant bunker built under
a mountain in West Virginia for use by members of Congress in the event of
a nuclear war.
Then we have, with text and ample pictures, stories on a
Texas house constructed from thousands of beer cans; the recently
de-orbited Russian space station Mir; and the USS Louisiana, a nuclear
missile submarine. (The last article was written by "Fight Club"
author Chuck Palahniuk.)
Editor in chief Joseph Holtzman founded Nest in 1998
and continues to publish it out of a studio apartment on Manhattan’s
upper East Side adjacent to his own one-bedroom apartment.
A designer and former college teacher, Holtzman had no
experience in publishing when he decided to start a magazine of his own.
"In a way, the whole project has been perpetuated
by stupidity and ignorance," he says. "At first I went to
experts who told me it would fail. They wanted me to pay them $30,000 to
do it right."
Among the consultants’ criticisms: the failure to
identify a target audience.
"They asked me, ‘Who is your reader?’ I said,
‘Anyone who reads this.’ They said, ‘That’s not how it works.’"
But Holtzman didn’t allow himself to be
"I walked out of the office. I thought, why
would I listen to them? It was an ugly office and they had bad
Instead, he poured what money he had into the first
issue of Nest.
In shaping the magazine, Holtzman drew on his
experience creating interiors, approaching the magazine as a physical
space or object rather than as mere pages.
With no formal training in magazine design, his designs
were unfettered by traditional limitations.
One issue of Nest was printed entirely on paper that
had been die-cut into a trapezoid; another came in a zippered multi-color
transparent plastic jacket.
Still another featured nude models wearing scratch-off bathing
suits on the front and back
Holtzman, who lays out each page of the magazine
himself, says such innovations are as much for his own diversion as for
"Just to keep from being bored, I do
something," he says.
He also amuses himself weaving one or more themes into
each issue, themes which can be as simple as "plaids" or
"peacocks" or as conceptual as "the instinct to
decorate." Holtzman says he doesn’t select the themes, which often
bear no obvious relation to one another.
Rather, he says, themes emerge organically over the three months it
takes to put together an issue.
For Nest No. 11, the principal theme of which was
crosses, Holtzman had the printers use a laser to burn a cross-shaped hole
through each copy from front to back.
In addition to integrating the singed holes into the design of each
editorial page, Holtzman did his best to do the same with the advertising
pages. For instance, in an ad for the Museum of Modern Art, the cross
provides the hole in a letter "o."
Holtzman cites this as an example of how he
creates extra value for advertisers. But he concedes that not every
advertiser is thrilled to have a hole seared through the middle of an ad.
Nest’s current circulation is 75,000. The magazine’s
newsstand sell-through is, of necessity, extremely high, says Holtzman,
noting that between production and distribution costs, each copy of Nest
that sells on the newsstand for $12.50 costs him $15.50.
For that reason, Nest has embarked on its first-ever
subscription drive, sending out 250,000 booklets to what Holtzman calls a
"carefully targeted group."
But no matter how big its circulation gets, Holtzman
says Nest will stick to its quarterly publishing schedule. He worries that
a higher frequency would dilute the individuality of each issue.
"I don’t want to become formulaic," he says. "We’re not
going to do ‘Nest Goes to Spain.’"
April 23, 2001 © 2001 Media Life
- Jeff Bercovici is a staff writer
for Media Life.
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