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While it is celebrating 100 years, Architectural Digest is looking at its L.A roots

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When Amy Astley was appointed editor in chief of the shelter magazine Architectural Digest three years ago, she compared it to inheriting a & # 39; sleeping beauty & # 39 ;. The publication Condé Nast had glamor, prestige and pedigree but a small digital print in an era in which HGTV and house-flipping Instagram influencers took over the spirit of the times.

Astley, who sees this as a return to her roots (her career with Condé Nast started at the HG magazine, which has since been defunct) immediately urged the brand to lead the online conversation, and the numbers prove it: website traffic grew by 223% in the two years that began in December 2016, while on social media it rose an astounding 718% on YouTube and 930% saw on Instagram. While other magazines are being fired, she has launched two sub-brands: the millennial-focused Clever and AD Pro, for industry professionals. Astley has also included buzzy names such as Kylie Jenner in her magazine, in addition to the traditional stable of high society types.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the magazine, and with it the necessary parties – including a special printed edition in November and a lavish coffee table book with some of the brand's most luxurious images. Because the magazine was founded in Los Angeles, Astley ensured that those roots were respected, emphasizing Southern California and its importance in the world of home design. The editor spoke about iced tea at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood about running a magazine in the digital age, why birthdays are good to look forward to, not back, and why Los Angeles "dictates how people want to live now." (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Architectural Digest was founded in Los Angeles, and you emphasize that as part of your centenary, including the book & # 39;Architectural Digest at 100: A Century of Style. What was California's contribution to architecture and home design for you?

Well, you have every type of architecture here. There is Spanish, Tudor, super modern, Craftsman. It's all there, which I think is unique in the country. You cannot exaggerate California's influence on the American style. It is the taste and lifestyle of California that actually dictates how people want to live now. Inside-out, let the sun and the sky and the light inside, large windows, sliding doors. Gardens, swimming pools, a focus on the gym – these are all things in California. You know, I think the ultimate trophy is now a Pilates or yoga studio! That is all of California.

The Bel-Air house of Fred Astaire.

(Russell MacMasters / Architectural Digest)

The book is really an overview of how Americans have lived in the last 100 years – and how American life has changed. What was your takeaway after viewing all those images?

If you look at something like the home of Fred Astaire in Bel-Air, it's fantastic. But the formality with which people used to live, such as a good sitting room and dining room – that is over. I have heard people say that we come across the open floor plan, but I don't see it. We move away from formality to informality and an embrace of family.

I'm sure you and your team will see beautiful houses every day. But what makes a house worth it to be on the Architectural Digest pages?

I always talk about & # 39; wow factor & # 39; and & # 39; best in class & # 39 ;. So if it becomes a modern home, it would be better to be at the top of what that looks like. If it is floral, it is better that it is done really well. It should look like it is only on our pages and not in other magazines. I'm looking for AD100 (the annual list of the magazine with remarkable designers, architects and decorators) talent as much as possible, people who in our opinion work at the top of their field. As if it were a modern house, the architect would be Olson Kundig or John Pawson or David Adjaye. That level. There are lots of great modern houses with large glass windows, but we want people who don't just work at the top, but push the design forward, from interior design to the garden to architecture. It must be influential and directional, something that pushes the design interview forward.

Kylie Jenner

Kylie Jenner is one of the younger stars whose houses can be seen in Architectural Digest.

(Douglas Friedman / Architectural Digest)

Naturally, birthdays encourage people to look back, but what do you want to expect from AD as an editor in the future?

What really struck me while editing the book is that the last hundred years have been great, but they were all on paper; the next hundred years are no longer on it. Everything is possible. In the last three years we have built a good website, we have grown a lot of Instagram, we have 2 million YouTube subscribers when we didn't have one yet. These are many dedicated people who contribute their talent, you know? I am certainly not alone. And we look at the next five years: what is the next Instagram? What is the next platform? Because we want to be there.

You have presented younger, riskier topics – Kylie Jenner, Wiz Khalifa – in your tenure. What has been the reaction?

I don't want to be so boring that people don't talk about. Bill Sofield, the decorator of Tom Ford, recently quoted Diana Vreeland and said something like: "A little bad taste is like a dash of bell pepper." It adds a little spice and fun and a bit of something that is not there. I think it's important to be connected to how young people are. Kylie Jenner is a global influencer; we should see her house – and it's OK if you hate it! People are getting out of shape, but it's fine; its my job. I think a steward of the brand now means being in the moment and making something of cultural relevance.

What do you think the big trends will be in the future.

Sustainability and the environment. I think we have a trend towards smaller houses. It feels wrong to live in huge houses. Of course people still do that, but I think people are much more aware, such as: how much space do I really need? How much energy do I use for the heating and cooling of my house? And there is technology, the smart house: Alexa, Nest, home security. Again, the world is frightening, so more security at home and technology at home … although I will say, I have the feeling that there may be a technological backlash. But the trend that I don't think will disappear is the California trend of indoor and outdoor living. I think that people are becoming increasingly aware of plants and greenery and gardens and how good it is for the world and for us.

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