Hearst’s House Beautiful builds house-sized brand extension

The idea leads back to House Beautiful’s long-held belief that happiness starts at home, according to editor-in-chief Sophie Donelson. “It was a natural progression to get from ‘your home can make you happy,’ which we do all of the time with colours, flowers and ideas about furniture arrangement to an emphasis on a deeper level of wellness, and wanting to capitalise on that sentiment,” Donelson said. 

“I started to think about home as a force for good feelings. The choices we make at home really impact all facets of our life. So, we started exploring it editorially. We had a meeting where we had a ‘what if’ moment. What if we were actually going to build this home and show readers how design choices can actually impact your state of mind, your wellbeing, your health and your happiness?”

The idea, floated to the editorial team by associate publisher and Hearst Design Group marketing director Sean Sullivan, “he was probably the one in the room who said, ‘let’s build it!’ and we all looked around and said, yeah, lets do it,” explained Donelson. 

House Beautiful, like others, has published floor plans and architectural plans over the years, and at one point mid-century, readers could buy a House Beautiful Home, Donelson explained.

“There’s a precedent to the idea of suggesting building concepts but this program follows through all the way to the paint colors and the experience of how to live happily,” she said.


House Beautiful Whole Home ()

Image: housebeautiful.com


The show home, called The Whole Home Project Concept House, is devoted to wellness and better living. It will be located in the Brookhaven neighbourhood of Atlanta, Georgia, built by Michael Ladisic of Ladisic Fine Homes and designed by architect Linda D’Orazio MacArthur. House Beautiful editors will help design the interiors with Atlanta decorator Sherry Hart. Donelson has invited Matthew Quinn, of Design Galleria, to design the kitchen, while interior designer Sara Bengur is consulting on colour, and Alec Michaelides of Land Plus Associates is installing the landscape design.

The project is the culmination of a year’s worth of wellness content for the brand. Thus far, they’ve published two of four editorial chapters focused around wellbeing. The first one, called ‘Calm,’ was about home organisation. The second, ‘Health,’ focuses on how readers can create a kitchen for a thriving body and mind. The last one will focus on the showhome itself. 

The Whole Home Project Concept House will show readers how strategic design choices can help them live healthier and happier lives. It will showcase better living through design innovation, from a garage designed with organisation in mind, eliminating clutter and promoting calmness, to a kitchen designed with healthier choices in mind, to interior colours chosen for emotional wellbeing, and a holistic garden and landscape design.

As an extension of the brand, the custom-built showhome will act as a venue for the magazine’s advertisers and sponsors, giving them a next-level approach to connect with readers. “The term brand extension — that’s not really how I think of it. I think of this project as one of the parts needed to engage our audience today.”

As an extension of House Beautiful’s brand, it has been a huge undertaking for the team there, according to Donelson. Senior market editor Carisha Swanson is overseeing the research and concept, while senior market editor Jennifer Jones Condon has fabric samples, memos, tile colours, paint samples, and collaborates with Atlanta designer Sherry Hart.

“It’s really just many people in many cities contributing to this,” Donelson said. “Our creative director is already sketching out what the house will look like, to understand what moments we will need for styling and for exceptional happy colour moments for the layout, so we can show people through the print magazine what it looks like.”

For brand extensions as big as this one, magazine media need to find collaborators who have capabilities that you don’t, Donelson said. “For example, we work with long-time collaborator Sherry Hart, who is overseeing interiors for the home. We have a little bit more of an exuberant, colourful style as a brand, than her refined style, so we ask, ‘can you bounce it up a little bit brighter?”

The house opens in October, with a week of consumer events and workshops, and will be featured in the November edition of House Beautiful. “For most people, they might see the pictures in the magazine or online, but in the house, they get to see how it is installed and really understand how it all comes together,” Donelson said. “It’s a win-win-win-win situation. Everyone down from the advertising partners to the reader gets to experience this.”

“I have not seen a home designed for wellness and happiness. This is a first-to-market idea I hope will be replicated. I want to see people copy this, which would be the most flattering thing ever.”



For magazine media looking to extend their brand like House Beautiful has in this regard, Donelson explained that it was not a decision taken lightly. Brand extensions must always be authentic for the brand. 

“I really thought long and hard about wellness and wellbeing – did we have the authority to present those and would our audience want to hear about that from us?” Donelson said. “I really thought about how do we present it in a way that never feels gimmicky and always feels core to our central beliefs. Some things are right for the brand and some things are not. You have to make the same choices for home.”

More like this

Get ready for the Amazonification of media

Hearst’s global president of digital on the evolution of lifestyle brands online

How Seventeen helps teens engage in social activism

How Woman’s Day connects with their 20-million strong female audience

Your first step to joining FIPP's global community of media leaders

Sign up to FIPP World x