Q&A: Joanna Saltz on what's new at House Beautiful

Joanna Saltz
Feb 28, 2019

Joanna Saltz is the editorial director of House Beautiful and Delish. She was tapped for the House Beautiful job last April. Saltz had been executive editor of Food Network Magazine from 2012 through 2015 and was at Seventeen in the same capacity for eight years before that. She has said she is looking to connect with House Beautiful readers and relate to the way they actually live in their spaces and help them create the home of their dreams.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Hi everyone! Excited to be here with the Washington Post and taking your questions. Ask away and I'll do my best to get to them all.

Joanna Saltz is the editorial director of House Beautiful and Delish. She took on the House Beautiful job last April. Her first print House Beautiful issue was the January/February 2019 edition. Her other posts include executive editor of Food Network Magazine from 2012 through 2015 and Seventeen in the same capacity for eight years before that. Joanna is looking to connect with House Beautiful readers and relate to the way they actually live in their spaces. Many print readers are interested to know how the digital side of the brand and the print side will work together. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey. 


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We are stumped on what color to paint our dining room in the house we recently bought. The adjoining rooms are painted Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray (sunroom) and Ralph Lauren Stone (living room). We love both of those colors. The dining room, however, is painted Portage (C2) and it reads very dark and green (I really don't like green paint). The room doesn't get a ton of direct sunlight. We were leaning towards a warm grey to bridge the two rooms, but the paint samples we've put up so far haven't worked. Any suggestions? Thank you!

Wow, first off, you have fantastic taste in paint colors. I'm a sucker for greys and stone colors, but having met with so many color experts recently, I'm really inspired to push it. Everyone who's come through the House Beautiful doors recently have been gushing about yellow. Have you considered? It casts a gorgeous glow on food, would give you a little color, and would bridge those rooms beautifully.

As a realtor that primarily shows houses to buyers, I have seen hundreds of kitchens with white shaker cabinets and white and gray marble or granite counters. Backslashes seem to be always subway or a geometric. White and gray. I love this look, but it’s getting tiring now. What’s next?

Great question. I have to be honest: I love a white and grey kitchen, but I feel you...we need more fun. Rather than relying on the backsplash, we're seeing so much wallpaper in kitchens now. It allows people to keep the fixtures neutral (great for resale), but give them the chance to push the boundaries. Also, since you're a realtor, you know that people shy away from wallpaper, thinking it's hard to remove. These days, that's not the case. People shouldn't be afraid to try it.

I have been a loyal House Beautiful reader for many years and it used to be one of the most stunning print publications in the market. Now it seems that the print version is an afterthought and all the focus is on digital platforms leaving the magazine behind. Is there not room for House Beautiful to excel in both print and digital formats? Do you have to sacrifice one for the other?

I'm so sorry that people feel that way. Print is most definitely NOT an afterthought--in fact, it drives most of what I do every day. I love that we can create a lush magazine featuring amazing designers (like cover star Nick Olsen this month), and create a website that includes brands people shop every day. Also, this is all an evolution...we'll try somethings, and what works will stay...what doesn't, won't.

How did you decide on the font package for the new magazine? Are you open to user feedback because I'm sure you are aware that we are finding it hard to read the new issues.

It's so funny. I didn't change the font size, the page quality, or even any of the fonts. I really tried to remain true to what was created before me, tweaking the way we USED the fonts in the magazine. In fact, over the past four years, the size of the magazine was made smaller overall, and I would love to bring it back to that larger trim size someday. 

What is your social media strategy? It seems to have moved away from design and praising designers to pop culture and clickbait

I like having fun. I like people who like having fun. I love design, but I also love having a conversation. I think we should be allowed to take ourselves a little less seriously, while still enjoying great design. 

Do you personally attend trade markets to fund what’s new, or has internet eliminated the need? Are your readers more interested in what’s new or what works to solve their decorating challenges? Love the magazine thank you!

This is actually a great question because trade shows and market appointments do take up a lot of time. It's important for our editors to meet people at trade shows/market, and our audience loves knowing what's new--but in this day and age, we need to be faster to report on what's happening. A lot of times, we can't wait until our print deadlines to report on new products because at that point, the news is old. So you will see that the magazine will help designers and home-owners solve decorating challenges, while still including some news. It's a balancing act. 

The last two issues of House Beautiful are so stripped - of styling, paper, features, even the fonts - that I threw them away soon after they arrived. (By contrast, I keep favorite issues and refer to them over years.) It seems you are planning to cancel print. Is that the case?

I'm not killing the magazine! I love it! I want it to last forever! Quote me on that! :)

My kitchen includes a desk nook where I spend a lot of time. It is overflowing with papers. I would love a file drawer. To the side of this desk is a built in Miele steam oven that I never use. I took it out (to see) and there is a space with nicely finished edges 22inches x 17 3/4 inches and 26 inches deep. Could I get a drawer made to fill this space? I assume I could never get it to match 10 year old cherry cabinetry. I was thinking a stainless steel front to mimic the steam oven--so it looks like an aplicance, but is a file drawer. Is this crazy? If not, who do I contact do make it for me? Or do you have other ideas?

I'm sure you could have something made, but rather than try to match, why not try a pop of color? Or a vintage storage piece that could add some character? PS, when you solve this issue, come find me---I have a similar spot overflowing with papers myself and it's the bane of my existence. 

Why the arrows over photos in the new issues? Some of us like to use these as tear sheets and the arrows ruin the photos.

I added arrows because there were so many great details in these images that we didn't have space to report on...frankly, if I added more copy to the stories, the photos would have to get smaller. I think we've designed them in an unobtrusive way, but as I stated earlier in the chat, I'm open to evolution. We'll see how it goes.

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The issue of copying, stealing and appropriating design work is getting some well-deserved attention recently. What's HB's opinion on IG "designers" who stock their feeds with others' work to create an online style persona [and jumpstart a business]? Does the magazine industry see this as disreputable as professional interior designers do? PS :: The March cover is stunning.

Wow, what a great question. And thanks for the nice words about the cover. This is a challenge, and as someone who looks at designers' Instagram accounts to check out their work, it's actually frustrating when I can't tell what they've actually done and what they're celebrating from others. That said, Insta is a platform for sharing, and this industry LOVES to celebrate each other...and I can never fault them for that. As long as people are giving proper credit and praise (and not being bullies), I'm okay with it. But make sure you're feed is a good balance of your work and others!

I still love my dark cherry kitchen cabinets, but after 25 years some of them need refinishing. I've tried to find a company in my area (San Francisco), to no avail. Is this something I can do myself? Would you suggest painting them (dagger to the heart)?

Oh gosh, I would NOT refinish them yourself. I feel like that would be a nightmare. Painting could be nice, though...and professionals can do it beautifully. I'm obsessed with the high-gloss kitchen we featured in the March issue...a lacquer finish could be amazing.

If you can stand one more comment on the subject: my decorator recommended a pink undertone for my ceilings: Benjamin Moore’s atrium white. It looks like a white ceiling, but just provides a subtle, more flattering glow to the room than a stark chalky white.

Love that! Brilliant idea. 

I am redoing a dark dingy basement with one tiny clerestory window. Floor will be maple wood-look tile and ceiling and trim will be bright white. I'm looking for a light blue that will have enough color to pop against the white but not be overwhelming. Not so gray it looks dreary but not robin's egg. I'm thinking of SW Byte Blue or Soar. Do you think one of those would work? Anything else I should consider? (open to any brand) Thanks!

Hmmm....it's funny: when I asked a designer recently about a color he had used and whether it would work for my space, he was like, People ask me that all the time...and what I say is that your space is unlike any other space in the world. You have to test and test and test until you find the shade that works with your particular lighting, windows, woodwork. I love blue, but the wrong one can look REALLY wrong...so I would say try and try until you get it right. 

The paint/(enamel?) finish in our bathtub has begun to peel away. It is spreading the same way paint peels from a wall defect, but the chips are brittle, unlike wall paint. Is there an easy and lasting way to touch up or redo the coating? The bathroom was remodeled 4-6 years ago, but I do not know if the tub was replaced or refinished in any way at the time.

I've never done this before, but apparently you can have your tub reglazed by a professional (which I would suggest over a bathtub liner). It would cost you a few hundred to have done. Look into it!

I've noticed your Insta is sharing more content from other countries (most recently, Russia and Brazil). Are you going to show more homes from other countries?

If something is inspirational, I'm happy to feature it. I think social media is so interesting on that front...you can see things from all over the world. I feel like that's changed the design game, in a lot of ways. 

Hi Jura with Spring just around the corner I find I am so very much missing the Decorator Showcase House that was put on by Children's Hospital for years. I would get a group of ladies together go and see the house have a little lunch and have a lovely time. Is there anything like that going on in the DMV now?

I think many people are missing the show houses and the latest one the DC Design House that closed - here's my story on it from last year. There is the annual Historic Virginia Garden Week - which runs April 27 to May 4 and has many beautiful tours. So check it out. Any other spring design tours you may know of?

The new layout is very basic. To my mind, the readers of house beautiful love color, pattern, texture and decadence. What is the inspiration behind this pared-down aesthetic and why have you chosen to change the direction of the magazine in this way?

This brand has been long known for all of those things, and in a lot of ways, I've tried to pare down the design of the magazine to let the photos of the spaces shine through. (I think so many of the well stories in March celebrate decadence...) But if you love over-the-top pattern, texture, and color, wait until you see the April cover...it'll start to roll out next week. 

How do I make a tiny studio feel really large?

Cover the walls! Everyone says that pattern and color really do expand a space. If you're renting, there are so many great removable wallpaper options now. Take a chance.

I bought a laquer coffee table about 10 years ago. Love it. However, it is more purple than red so doesn't fit my living room and it has been chipped (white shows through). Thoughts for me instead of giving it away?

Can you afford to re-lacquer it? Sounds amazing, but also sounds like it's gotten its wear. Might be time for a recoat.

The Hyattsville Preservation Society sponsors a historic house tour in May. These are not professional decorator houses, but rather the actual residents' homes.

Thanks for the tip.

In response to your suggestion that you wanted the photos to be easier to see, the new typography - all black, lots of underlining - is so clunky it actually makes it difficult to look at the layouts in the print edition, which many of us prefer to read. Please hear the feedback that you're getting.

I hear your feedback. And to be fair, we also get positive feedback about some of the tweaks we've made. I appreciate people being open and honest, and as I said earlier in the chat, we'll continue to try things and evolve. I want this brand to live on for a long time. 

I reglazed my bathtub using a DIY epoxy kit. It was cheap (under $50) and very successful, but it was not easy! Lots and lots of surface prep, then two horribly stinky days of application. But it looked great and lasted. My sister has done the same.

Thanks for sharing this. Wow. Impressive!

I really love House Beautiful's Next Wave column and I've always wondered how do you decide who will be featured?

Our style director and senior editor work together to find up-and-coming talent who hasn't really been featured in magazines before. They get really passionate about discovering people who are doing innovative things in design. This franchise has been in place for over 15 years, and I think it's so meaningful to continue the legacy.

I've gotta be honest—I stopped subscribing to a lot of interior design magazines because I felt like I couldn't relate to them. So much of the stuff was custom and to the trade, and let's be real: I can't afford an interior designer, so that stuff isn't going to happen for me. How are you bridging the gap for those of us who want a nicer home...even if we're on a budget?

I think it's important for people on a budget to understand what good design really is. And if you can't afford to USE an interior designer, I want to create a media space where at least you can LEARN from them. I want you to feel comfortable getting inspired by great talent, not intimidated. You don't need a lot of money to have a great space (any good designer will tell you that); You just need to make smart decisions...and I want us to help you make them. 

Hi! I know spring is around the corner, but it still feels cold and gray where I am. How can I make a dreary, wintry room more cheerful?

I'm OBSESSED with plants right now...like the rest of the world. I kill every plant I buy, but that doesn't stop me from buying more. Buy yourself flowers. Buy tons of plants. I can't really bring myself to buy fake ones, but I know people who swear by them.

Wow this chat was on fire! Thanks Joanna for being so up front about all you are doing at House Beautiful. Change is hard, as we all know. But we'll be watching that space. Next week we'll move on to organizing with the two co-founders of The Home Edit: Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin. They are stars of Instagram and have a new book coming out.  Until then.

What other brands or publications do you draw your inspiration from?

I'm lucky to work for a company where I'm surrounded by amazing publications. I'm constantly inspired by the people I get to work with directly--Elle, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, Country Living, Women's Health, not to mention Elle Decor and Veranda. But I never stop thinking about my job and what we're doing...so I really find inspiration everywhere.

Thank you so much for having me! I know there were a ton of questions I couldn't get to, but I appreciate the passion and enthusiasm. Have a great day!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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