Min Hogg was past 40 and out of work when she read the PO box newspaper ad: wanted, an editor for “an international arts and interiors magazine” to be published by Kevin Kelly, who had found a gap in the glossy market. She replied not just with her robust CV but a detailed critique proposing a mag unlike any other house monthly available, and so Hogg and Kelly, from an unsmart office over a flower shop on the Fulham Road, created Interiors (later the World of Interiors), the most influential UK decor publication since Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts two centuries before. Just to have a copy in your home (not on a coffee table: Hogg despised coffee tables) was to be living well.
For Hogg, who has died aged 80, Interiors was a chance to turn her hobby of snooping on the innards of other people’s houses into a mission. She never met a front door she didn’t want to go through and had already scouted years of picture-worthy houses before the first edition came out in 1981, while her social network tipped her off about likely premises. Imagination, not importance, was her chief criterion for inclusion, plus the evident delight of people in what they had put together, whether an art collection in Albany or 10 tin trays on the walls of a South African mud house, every inch of that earth hand-smoothed.
Hogg rejected perfection to show dusty attics, flaking frescoes, crowded shelves, worn carpets, the kitchens of the schloss or the potting shed of the palazzo. Her curiosity was ethnographic, about how landscape, society and history shape local habitations and living, and she realised that, by the 1980s, national styles could travel: a Gustavian country house glimpsed in an Ingmar Bergman film led her to pursue such Swedish buildings, and we’re still painting our walls the Scandinavian blue-greys she promoted.
She ignored magazine rules about pacing layouts to blow half a dozen spreads a month on barmy subjects – wrought-iron latches or taxidermied Victorian squirrels. Interiors’ front and back pages, in the early years unencumbered by much advertising, were also rethought (Hogg considered neither advertisers nor readers: “You mean you actually care what they think?”) Most glossies then had colonnades of filler text supporting small ads; Interiors ran very personal essays on decorative arts with fine illustrations. As for the sacred monthly magazine tradition of cover lines emblazoned on the front, trailing the stories inside, her view was that few or no words should impede a striking picture.
Born in London, Hogg claimed that her assured taste came from her mother, Pollie (nee Dalby), who decorated the family house, a villa in John Nash’s 1820 Regent’s Park development, and took her to stately homes and museums; Hogg’s own first venture in decor was to wallpaper her bedroom. Her father, Sir James Cecil Hogg, became physician to the Queen; not unconnectedly, the first issue of Interiors had unprecedented pictures of Buckingham Palace’s private quarters, and Hogg had entry to most venues. After boarding at Benenden school in Kent, she studied interior design at the Central School of Arts (now Central Saint Martins), with lectures from Terence Conran, whose then wife Caroline, working on Queen magazine, offered her a typist’s job there.
Apart from a mistaken interlude as a photography agent (she would have preferred to do the shoots herself), Hogg worked her way into, and up, in journalism, writing on design for the Observer, and joining Harpers & Queen as a fashion editor, later chief fashion editor, in 1974. But rapid turnover in clothes didn’t satisfy her the way the slow accretion of a household did; slow was the operative word, as she detested fast makeovers by interior designers. Her fashion editorship of the Arabic mag Sheba, which didn’t last long, was her last frock job. After that, Interiors.
It was so radically different that, despite its queasy initial finances – her disdain for advertisers did not help revenues – Condé Nast acquired the title, changing its name to the World of Interiors, in 1982. After its success, home furnishing and interior design magazines multiplied, although the successors did not have, and did not seem to care about, the deep backstories she sought in the homes she featured. Of the styles into which Hogg divided decoration, she favoured cluttered, ancestral, simple, eccentric and shabby chic (Interiors’ own coinage), but felt no emotional connection with designer-decorated and minimal styles that dominated from the mid-1990s.
As a passionate autocrat, Hogg ran Interiors to please herself, which was exacting on the staff and exasperating to the management; she once threw a solid pottery ashtray at a publisher who queried her bottom line. Neither side ever quite revealed whether retirement in 2000, by which time the magazine’s readership had fallen because of aggressive competition and changing modes, was her choice or Condé Nast’s. Hogg continued to write, and began to design, starting with wallpaper.
Her own home for 40 years was a flat on the “nursery floor” near the top of a house in Brompton Square, Kensington, with the Victoria & Albert Museum so close by she treated it like a design corner shop. It was cluttered, tending to eccentric. Her possessions, especially the textiles she had loved since childhood, were inherited, hunted in sales, or bought cheap while travelling, and through them, artfully displayed (she wasn’t averse to the use of a window dresser’s staple gun), she expressed her life. Nothing was what she called an ornamental “knicky-knacky-noo”: every single thing held memory and meaning.
Her longest human relationship – there had been several, including with the film director John Huston – was with the photographer James Mortimer, who lived with her for a decade. He stored his cameras in the spare bedroom and was allowed to import only his books to the menage: “I didn’t let him have any tastes. Where would he put his things?” Hogg was, she admitted, “hell to live with”.
She is survived by her brother, James.
• Min (Georgina) Hogg, journalist, born 28 September 1938; died 25 June 2019