Sunday, July 10, 2011

Remembering Nest

A reflection on Joseph Holtzman's legendary innovative publication.
Photo of page from Nest Quarterly.
Karl Lagerfeld once said, "I am inspired by everything. There is only one rule: eyes open!"

And while Karl has been a longtime creative inspiration, my true eye opener to the design world was the moment I opened my first copy of Nest: A Quarterly of Interiors.

Begun by fledgling publisher and art director Joseph Holtzman, a self-taught interior designer and decorator, Nest Quarterly (unrelated to current monthly, The Nest) was a shelter magazine which featured unorthodox exposes on architecture, landscaping, graphic design, interior design and general culture. Its lens took us to unlikely places of wonder, focusing on found sites and the often overlooked world of design - spaces people really lived in as opposed to the ubiquitous, vacant, exclusive interpretations of beauty that filled the pages most interior design magazines.

Fall 2000 cover.
Now defunct, due mostly to its commercially viable improbabilities, it published 26 issues and ran from 1997 until winter 2004, spurring this somber epitaph from the AIGA upon notice of cease:  "A truly great magazine has come to pass. Despite its amateur beginnings, Nest has become one of the most daringly innovative and audaciously progressive new publications to hit the newsstands."

Likewise, it often evoked compelling reactions from much of the design establishment. Architect Rem Koolhaas called it "an anti-materialistic, idealistic magazine about the hyper-specific in a world that is undergoing radical leveling, an 'interior design' magazine hostile to the cosmetic." And design columnist Fred A. Bernstein, writing in the New York Times, declared that publisher Joseph Holtzman "believed that an igloo, a prison cell or a child's attic room (adorned with Farrah Fawcett posters) could be as compelling as a room by a famous designer."

Photo of pages from Nest Quarterly.
Photos of pages from Nest Quarterly.
Julian Schnabel's Montuak House feature.

During its tenure it examined everything from dusty mod bus depots of the Sixties, to offbeat traditional dwellings such as filmmaker Julian Schnabel's Montuak House, to the fascinating geometric adobe huts of Africa's lost tribes of the Dogon. It was the crossroad of design and anthropology, a document of truth and fearless honesty. It drew reverence from top designers such as Todd Oldham and pop-culture anti-hero John Waters. It almost never relied on repeated, redundant formats or regular features, and experimented playfully with graphic design, seeking to make each issue a treasured work of art. In essence, Nest Quarterly challenged the meaning of interior design, consumerism, and the very nature of the magazine publishing world.

Sustainable Publishing for the Book Arts.

Nest wallpaper feature.
Although Joseph Holtzman has chosen a somewhat less visible public profile these days, Designer In Exile reports that his former literary editor, Matthew Stadler, has been collaborating recently with a new enterprise called Publication Studio. A note on their website describes the project as follows:

"Publication Studio is an experiment in sustainable publication. We print and bind books on demand, creating original work with artists and writers we admire, books that both respond to the conversation of the moment and can endure. We attend to the social life of the book, cultivating a public that cares and is engaged. Publication Studio is a laboratory for publication in its fullest sense — not just the production of books, but the production of a public. This public, which is more than a market, is created through deliberate acts: the circulation of texts; discussions and gatherings in physical space; and the maintenance of a digital commons. Together these construct a space of conversation, a public space, which beckons a public into being.”

Old issues of Nest sell on Ebay for as much as $150. But if you happen to be one of the lucky enthusiasts who held on to their original issues, I recommend keeping them. Times are tough, I know. Sell your car, furniture, plumbing fixtures, house, whatever. But don't sell your copies of Nest - they're priceless!--D.A. DeMers.

Coming Friday: Designer In Exile's exclusive chat with distinguished muralist and teacher Harvey Weinreich, a veteran of the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. There are no other magazines out there quite like Nest. Each issue was starkly different from the last one and it is hard to even classify Nest into a particular genre. When it showed up in my mail, I had no idea what to expect.

    The artistic content was really interesting, unique, clever and well-done. If it were not for the offensive content, such as the issue titled "Piss Elegance" with the image of a toilet set on the cover, the magazine would have been a great conversation piece on the coffee table and would have had lasting value. Some of the content bordered on pornographic.

    --Suresh P.

  2. Nest was awesome! Thanks so much for posting this. That magazine was truly unparalleled – so richly detailed and diverse in scope. It's hard to think there will aver be anything like it again. Not in this age of unoriginal generic content from interior design "marketing" publishers.


  3. Nest was a punk rock journal for the interior design world. At least in ethos. It was precisely the antidote to everything wrong with the industry - its arrogance, its elitism, its boringness... Designer In Exile prescribes that same antidote. Please keep posting great articles like this!

    Ann Weinberg.

  4. Never made to IPad. Sad.

  5. Such wonderful memories of this magazine. I nearly cried when I heard it folded.

    --Neal R.

  6. A year ago, they still had a website - unattended, and with last entry from 2004. The old web frame was becoming increasingly incompatible with new browsers. Was eery, like watching an old abandoned ship slowly sink.