Country Life magazine: house porn?

During the last few weeks I’ve read over 50 issues of Country Life.

We have a subscription at work and so I’ve been and borrowed the back issues.

In case you didn’t know, Country Life is essentially a weekly glossy combining country house advertisements, some snippets of news and two articles – one on a specific house and the other a specific garden, together with photographs.

Having devoured so many all at once it’s no surprise I’ve been dreaming of houses!

Here are my observations:

  • There are many large lovely country piles (and some horrific ones)  dotted around the country.  If that many are for sale holey maloney how many aren’t for sale and not open to the public. The ‘Handed On’ blog highlights some of these.  It makes me question the commonly held belief that people can no longer live in the institution of the country house without commercialising it.
  • Updown Court has to be the ugliest thing on offer right now.
  • Who has the job of helicopter pilot to take all those aerial shots of country houses?
  • The section comprising smaller articles and letters is set out in a completely inaccessible fashion.  Ugh.
  • I’m not sure if I am a country mouse or a town mouse.  I find affinity with both.
  • On average I find two good articles per week – one highlighting a house and one a garden.  I really like the photography.  Is this really worth my £3.20?  Well, as a form of house porn it probably is but for all intents and purposes this seems like the kind of magazine the publishers should give out for free?!?!  Certainly, estate agents like to post similar sorts of magazines through my mail box for free almost every week (but that’s probably central London for you!).

Where does this leave me?  Well, I asked our librarians what happens to the Country Life magazines.  Turns out they keep them for three months.  What happens then I asked?  ‘Oh, we bin them’.  I saw an opportunity.  After three months the copies are now given to me.  Free Country Life for me.  I’m delighted :).  I’ve already bought the library a very big box of chocolates that I’ll be taking them during Christmas week.

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6 thoughts on “Country Life magazine: house porn?

  1. I have subscribed to Country Life for ten years and not a week goes by that I don’t wait for the next issue with bated breath. It gets to the U.S. somewhat irregularly so I have disappointing weeks and super weeks when two issues might arrive. It is expensive but the quality is excellent. I would say that two good articles an issue is great. Nothing is perfect. My only disappointment with the magazine relates to weeks when the property market is slow and fewer houses are featured. The shelves of old copies also make great insulation against our extreme Minnesota winters!

    1. Hi Jeff. Yes, I can certainly see how Country Life is a treat state-side. I have been dipping into those back issues and finding some wonderful articles. I guess that compared to the brilliant house blogs and sites on the web (e.g. http://countryhouses.wordpress.com) Country Life somehow doesn’t quite meet my expectations. If you like reading about the property market and haven’t yet stumbled on Andrew Triggs’ website do take a peek.

  2. I used to get Country Life back in the Eighties and loved it. The articles were were the sort of thing that you don’t want to throw away – and therein lay the problem , as the stack of CLs grew. Even with the self-imposed discipline of reading and gutting each issue within 14 days (retaining only the salient nuggets) the problem remained – and I realised that the chance of me wading through the gutted remains was remote.

    Solution: Buy the book(s) !
    A lot of the articles on houses sooner or later metamorphose into books, The style changes over the decades – and some of the recent ones seem to be edging towards being picture-filled to the detriment of the scholarly commentary, but by no means all. The prestige of the Country Life name has got their architectural writers and photographers welcomed into some very private historic houses.

    1. I haven’t bought the books. There is, however, currently a large book shelf somewhere in Yorkshire weighed down by the Country Life and House & Home magazines that haven’t yet made their way to the bin.

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