Do White Magazine Covers Sell better than Colour?

I subscribe to both Style at Home and House & Home which are the two best national shelter magazines in Canada. I judge a magazine to be great if I get to the end and I’m inspired or I’ve learned something new (much like how we feel about blogs) and I must admit the cover is a huge draw as well. In the past year I have noticed a lot of white covers on Style at Home so just for fun I thought I’d do a review of both to see if that was true:

January 2010
This cover is very pretty and showcases a white kitchen (my favourite). White Cover #1
February 2010
Here we have dark ebony floors and white furniture, and I noticed this cover introduced small photos at the bottom, but that look only lasted for 3 covers.  White cover #2
 
March 2010
Ahhhh, Carrara Marble tiled floors with a claw foot tub and gray walls. The hottest trend in bathrooms right now. White Cover #3
April 2010
Here a black and white kitchen with a very white-on-white colour scheme in the great room. White Cover #4
May 2010
I was in their May issue with a small mention here. Notice how the two chairs are still white even though I do think this is the prettiest cover of the entire year.
June 2010
This issue also has lots of white but it does have a sunflower yellow chair so I can’t call it a totally white cover.
  July 2010
This issue is almost completely white  and it came up in this article in a google search which stated that this issue sold 6,110 more than the same month in 2009. In went on to say this was a risk that paid off with record high sales (which are usually lower in the summer). And it brings our white tally to cover #5.
August 2010
Here the walls AND the floor are white with barely a hint of colour so I still consider this white cover #6.
September 2010
Another white kitchen; white cover #7
October 2010
Here the loveseat in my master bedroom is featured on this gray and white cover.

November 2010
White and gold dishes round out this cover for the holiday.

December 2010
And no surprise that the official holiday issue is gray and turquoise the two hottest colours of 2010 and certainly seen on many trees as the holiday decor of choice this Christmas. So that brings the total to 7 out of 12 although you can see that the covers that were not primarily white still had plenty of white left over on furniture or walls.
So lets see how much white is on House & Home covers in 2010:
January 2010
I loved this cover which featured the home of Victoria Webster, read more in my post here.
February 2010
I was surprised to see this cover as–to my knowledge–magazines like to be first with photos and this stunning staircase had already made the rounds in the blogosphere months before this came out.
March 2010
I would classify this as a white cover because of all the millwork in white. Cover #1
April 2010
This one too is borderline but the charcoal upholstered chairs are the ‘colour here’. Very trendy look with white and gray, however as you know it’s saturated colour that brings gray to life, I think an area rug and cushions with colour would really make this room wonderful (and of course I would say that).
May 2010
This cover gives the illusion of a spring green issue but showcases a white interior. Cover #2
June 2010
Again we have white walls and a white sofa. This cover is cleverly designed to pick up the pink and orange colour scheme amongst all the white.
July 2010
Another space with white floors, outdoor furniture and a white house. I’m calling this white cover #3 in spite of the accessories in colour as the second you remove those you have a white-on-white look.
August 2010
I loved the feeling of this room, I mentioned it in this post. Notice the white chairs and the white rug. It’s an interesting balance of rustic and fresh (which is how you would categorize white).
September 2010
Another room with white walls and 2 white chairs.
October 2010
I loved this cover.  With the orange wood in the back room drawing you into the image almost like a fire.
 
November 2010
I thought this cover was also very pretty, traditional Christmas colours.
December 2010
The only thing that makes this cover ‘holiday’ is the masthead and the wreath. But it’s a great way to showcase the second hottest trend besides a white kitchen – gray or charcoal. Masthead online also compared both competing December issues. Officially, House & Home had 3 white covers out of 12 which makes Style at Home’s tally come to more than twice the amount with 7. And as noted, many of the covers still showed plenty of white.
So there are two observations to make here:
1.  It’s not necessarily that white covers sell better, it’s perhaps more a sign of the current trends. White is needed with the strong bright colours that are hot which takes us right back to the 50’s. And since black and gray have replaced brown and beige, white keeps those neutrals crisp.
2. White covers do sell better because we secretly wish for white furniture, floors and walls but just don’t create this look in our homes because it’s soooo not practical with kids and pets.  Do we buy the magazine for the dream?
Which camp are you in? Love the trend or you just love the idea of white period. I’d love it if you’d post your opinion in the comments!

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  1. Interesting post. I have a total soft spot for magazines, and the ones without colors in the masthead/behind the title were much more appealing to me. So much so that I almost bought a subscription then and there. Dangerous!

    I have to tell you — once your post came up in Google Reader and I said to myself "oh, someone posted a pic of me!" but it was you. lol. Ok, re-reading that, it sounded creepy. Sorry! Not meant to be.

  2. Fascinating question Maria. I think it really is about trends. What colors draw us in. Would be interesting to go back and look at some older covers to see how they rate.
    And we are buying a dream too. Who doesnt want to imagine living in the perfect room, perfect life.. good thing we designers are here to make it happen.

    Jennifer Duchene
    Home Makeover Mixtress
    http://home-decorating-makeovers.com/

  3. Grace @ Sense and Simplicity

    That is so interesting. I"m amazed how much adding a band of colour behind the name of the magazine makes the cover seem like it has colour even if the room is really just white.

    The other thing I noticed is that if you had changed your definition to counting which rooms had no colour apart from white, black, and gray it would be almost the majority of them (I remember three or four that had colour). That's truly remarkable.

    I'm not really a keener on the white trend. I think it is hard to make it look interesting and harder still to keep it clean.

  4. Maria, there is a timeless quality about white that never dates. I love white – the whole interior of my home is painted white – a beautiful parisian white with grey and pink undertones. It's been this colour for the past 5 years and yes I have already had to repaint once because I have children, but I have no regrets as it looks so beautiful. Oh! and did I mention how beautiful it is?
    I am currently working on a Contemporary new home for a client and the brief is: An all white interior – art gallery style – it's a dream come true for me!

  5. I think we have come a little past beige as being en trend, but have not moved into colour on colour. We loved the idea of calm and space that neutral colours have created for us and white with a pop of colour is more exciting but not tiring or diminishing our sense of space. White is clean, ethereal, heavenly and used by wealthy people who can afford to replace it often with more white! It represents our ideal self, spotless and tasteful.(I think!!)Magazines appeal to our dream of what life could be…if only.

  6. Maria,
    love your thoughts. I just changed my site, to a fresh ground of white (from my pear green) as I adore white.
    I love white and it keeps things fresh, crisp and clean.
    My new kitchen counters will be white.
    super post…again.
    pve

  7. There are factors you aren't considering that have nothing to do with style. Typography and page design. And printing.

    If there is a pale room in that issue, the chances are good it will end up on the cover for totally non-decorating reasons.

    It is easier to read dark text on a light background, unless the type is extremely large (the magazine titles are a good example), or has extra space added between letters, or the designer adds a pale background (a text banner). It is easier for a printer to get clean looking pages when they are doing dark on light because minor slips in registration aren't as obvious.

    So the photographer is going to shoot some pics that will make good "cover stock" by providing some large pale uncluttered areas for the text. The cover designer is going to pick out a picture that makes their job easier and the printing look best.

  8. I am a white lover but it needs some pop of color to really make the room look right for me. An ALL white room seems like a hospital room, anyone who has spent a bit of time in a hospital may feel this way also. I like to see a mix of some warm woods along with the white too. So my dream room, which I am still shopping around for, would have to be the white sofa, maybe white walls(still not decided yet), wood floor, some warm wood furniture, layered rugs, and some pops of color in the curtains, pillows, and art. Not ALL white but plenty to keep in sleek and clean looking.

  9. I have always loved white. I remember when I was a child I asked my mom for a white bedspread. My mother knew nothing about design back then. She was just was afraid of it getting dirty. I was terrified the first time I spilled a drink on it. I washed it before she came home from work and she never knew what had happened.
    Today I still have white bedding. But I made sure it's washable.

  10. White is my favorite color. Whether it it is the main color or used to bring life to other color white, I could not 'live' without white. For example, on the Oct. 2010 cover, I LOVE the gray loveseat (yours!) but I wouldn't love it as much without the white walls and fireplace surround. I just had that exact striped pillow made how funny is that?

  11. For me, the text matters (font size, color, style of font, placement on the page, how much text and how it marries the images)but then I'm more at home with writing.

    How's your bedroom coming along? I remember your color choices because they are similar to mine. I'm still looking for the purrfect loveseat or chair/ottoman.

  12. Space by Eliana Tomas

    Great post Maria.

    When I read on your facebook the question I replied before reading the article, though my comment here follows that reply.

    I really believe it depends on who/readers they're targetting. For instance, French Style has been very trendy and white is always the option to enhance and to add a contemporary touch. Plus it gives that angelical touch, which is that visual dream you mention.

    Another thing you say, which i trully believe and love is the white replacing beige. I never liked it and always chosed white to enhance bold colors. (grey being the replacement to brown is fantastic).

    Some people use color as a touch, I like to add white as a touch 🙂

  13. I am loving white furniture and I have 2 small kids. I have a couple of pieces that are slipcovered in white and I think they are perfect! I would do it again in a heartbeat! Actually I think I might get 2 parsons chairs recovered in white. Maybe something with a tone on tone pattern in it.

  14. Great post, Maria.

    I think we do buy for the inspiration, the dream, if you will.

    I like white. For example, The White Album.

    Color and Design (images and fonts) have always been the ageless challenges in the magazine boardroom; editor and publisher, art director and writer talking, maybe arguing, about what works and does not.

    Its true for books and CDs, too.

    When I worked at Hearst Magazines, first in Newsstand Distribution and Promotion and then at Science Digest, I witnessed this all the time.

    One thing not mentioned here is retail display which so affects sales. There is what is called RDA (Retail Display Allowance) which is paid by, I seem to recall, publishers to retailers, for more prominent shelf display.

    Of course, you need good retail sales people and floor managers, keeping those magazine displays ORGANIZED!

    Peace.

  15. Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home

    I think the reason the white covers draw our attention is that they stand out from the rest. Also, they are pretty and seem to stem from our wishful thinking. (Those of us with children anyway) Who wouldn't love to have a white sofa? My grandmother had one and we were only allowed to sit on it on special occasions. I see why now!

  16. You know I love love love white. I have for 15 years. However, I do enjoying reading and browsing home magazines with pops of color. I'm naturally drawn to anything white but I love reading about all.

  17. I'm in Camp Colour, Maria! I like to see colourful magazine covers no matter what 🙂

    I hope that means my home style is still sophisticated 🙁

    Angie
    xoxo

  18. Dale at Hospitality Design Inspirations

    I did a test for myself and quickly scrolled through them all and 3 definately caught my eye:
    Style at Home January 2010
    House and Home March 2010
    House and Home June 2010
    Not sure what that says…maybe that I like orange & white the best I suppose.

  19. Maria, Speaking from the perspective of 'EveryWoman'…I noticed that you didn't mention BHG. :o) White…and Grey..just like you pointed out…were on it's cover and all throughout the pages. Amazing. You are so on track when it comes to color!

    Sometimes I wonder if the January issues are just a reaction to all the bright colors of Christmas decor (or an anticipation of that reaction). Most magazines seem to anticipate the mood of the average woman. How do they know?

    I personally think that January is when it really hits us just how much stuff we really have. On top of that, we add to the pile in December. I just received my gift subscription from Better Homes and Gardens and it was the same theme that you described…white, grey,..and clean..and simple.

    I had a friend who did everything in white..but she got tired of it. I personally thought it was wonderful. I'm not worried anymore about the color or any children or pets messing it up…and I do love the idea of the clean look it creates. it feels organized and simple. But changing would mean a lot of money…so I don't do it. At least I'm AFRAID that I would have to start all over. Frankly, I think Tim would love it!

    But I dream of a beachy home where all the colors are white or natural weathered white wood. I'm just too chicken to change. Inertia or the need to conform.. is my biggest problem, I think. But you are right–White is the perfect background for bright splashes of color.

    I'm already longing for winter white. The colors of Christmas are getting just a wee bit too stimulating. I found myself taking a few too many photos of one window at the Marketplace in The Woodlands. I was thinking how much you would like this store with it's black and white designs and silver sparkles and highlights… with white ceramics. I thought..that would be nice–a post about the color white. I think it's a natural reaction to the Christmas season. (If an earthtones person like me thinks about white..it must be a natural reaction!

    Merry Christmas!
    xo
    Donna @ Comin' Home

  20. There is nothing like the freshness of white. I think you're so right Maria — we do secretly wish for white furniture, walls and floors. I know I would love white painted floors, but my family would destroy them – to say nothing of what my golden retriever would do to them. But it's nice to dream. Magazines are meant to inspire us and I love that.

  21. There is something soothing and Zen-like about all that white; maybe the image of a white home is the decorating magazine equivalent of the bikini-body models on the fashion magazine?

  22. Brillante Home Decor

    Hard to say, Maria. I believe I am attracted to white and to color in the same way but the layout is the most important thing and what the cover says to me. It is like a photograph, B&W or color does not really matter, it is how the subject is represented.

  23. I love white. My favorite is Benjamin Moore's "Ballet White". We painted our entire basement suite that colour, with ebony kitchen cabinets and wood floors. The basement suite doubled as my office and the kids play room, and it actually worked surpringly well in a kid-dominated space! We also have a dog. People thought it was weird that I painted the walls white (they were dark red and the office was dark brown before) but I LOVED the look of all the white. I miss it now that we've moved. White is GREAT for a kids room… if the finish is matte (we used Aura from BM) then it actually doesn't show much, and it's pretty easy to touch up or add a fresh coat now and then. We also added wainscotting to the parts of the walls that were more likely to be abused, also all painted the same Ballet White. Beautiful!! I'm planning on doing the same in my kids new bedroom – Ballet White everywhere!

  24. Wow! You put a lot of detail and effort into this post – kudos to you Maria…. Well, I love white period, just because of its starkness and the way it makes everything look so clean. I'm quite into the Scandinavian looks and designs. However, I do like splashes of colour and natural pieces with white, otherwise, it can get boring.

    xoxo

  25. Livin' the dream – with all three chocolate, charcoal and cream! =) Maybe 'Style' just wanted their cover to stand out more amungst the mix of color on other mags – but do love BOTH covers for holiday — trendy & Traditional color paltettes….

    Merry Christmas and BEST wishes for you in the upcoming NEW year!!

    xo Lynda

  26. Things That Inspire

    What a wonderful and original idea for a post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your observations on every cover.

    I tried to subscribe to the digital version of House and Home, and never received it. Hmmm. Looks like I am missing out on a great magazine.

    Hope you have a wonderful holiday!