Beverly Russell: “An editor who championed women in journalism and led the design magazines Interiors and Architecture”

From a New York Times obit by Alex Vadukul headlined “Beverly Russell, Who Ran Design Magazines With Flair, Dies at 87”:

Beverly Russell, a British American journalist and editor who led the design magazines Interiors and Architecture, advocating for women to seize their place in media and design, died at her home in Albuquerque….

In the 1980s halcyon days of print media, Interiors was one of the design industry’s premier trade magazines, and Ms. Russell was its chic and commanding editor in chief. From the magazine’s Manhattan office, she led its coverage through a decade of ritzy architectural trends, touch-the-sky skyscrapers and glamorous starchitects.

Interiors published articles tailored for industry insiders, running profiles about ascendant design-world figures, comprehensive product reviews and features that examined overlooked corners of the industry. A special issue in 1982 devoted to the art of commercial lighting, for example, included articles about the Lighting World International Expo, Central Park’s lamps and shopping-mall lighting.

In 1980, a year after she was hired to run Interiors, Ms. Russell said that her editorial vision would embrace the go-go gestalt of the impending decade. Interiors, which was founded in 1888 (and folded in 2001), would become a “business magazine.”

“Trade is too old-fashioned, professional too pompous — a business magazine is more appropriate for the ’80s,” she added. “I believe it’s only those designers who are businesslike who will succeed in the ’80s.”

And as far as Ms. Russell was concerned, that success wouldn’t exclude women — a goal she endeavored to realize throughout her career.

“It’s only in the last 20 years that the architecturally trained woman has made an impact in this world of interior design for public spaces,” she told The Times in 1992. “In terms of interior design, and the way a woman approaches architecture, there’s much more sensitivity to space, and how an interior works and how a person will use it.”

Ms. Russell went on to pursue projects that championed women in creative fields. In 1992, she wrote “Women of Design: Contemporary American Interiors”; a few years later, she published “Women of Taste: Recipes and Profiles of Famous Women Chefs.” In 2015 she wrote a memoir, “Deadline Diva: A Journalist’s Life,” which recounted her own travails.

Her memoir documented her formative years as a journalist in London, where she cut her teeth at the competitive tabloids of Fleet Street, filing scoops on deadline as her boss barked at her until she was in tears. It also detailed her immigration in 1967 to America, where she started working as a magazine editor at Condé Nast in New York.

At Condé, while she toiled at Brides and then House & Garden, Ms. Russell witnessed the company’s fabled and frosty culture of excellence. She was at her desk, she said, when Diana Vreeland was abruptly let go as editor in chief of Vogue, and she witnessed how Ms. Vreeland’s flamboyant red-walled office was swiftly repainted beige for her replacement, Grace Mirabella.

After a decade at Interiors, Ms. Russell also took on the role of editorial director of Architecture magazine in 1989. A few years later, she founded a creative consulting firm, Beverly Russell Enterprises. She retired in 2006.

When she began running Interiors, Ms. Russell hired a young Pilar Viladas as her assistant. Ms. Viladas went on to become a noted design journalist and was for a long time the design editor of The New York Times Magazine and T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

“I had little editorial experience,” Ms. Viladas recalled in a phone interview. “I was contacting everyone who had a connection to the publishing world and they all said, ‘I wish I could help you.’ But Beverly said, ‘I’m going to be the editor in chief of Interiors and I need a young person I can bring with me.’ By which she meant she wanted to show me the ropes.

“Within a year or so, I worked on a cover story, and I was interviewing Marvin Traub, C.E.O. of Bloomingdale’s. I was just this wet-behind-the-ears kid and Beverly gave me my start.”

“The men kind of ran the show back then,” she added. “When Beverly took over Interiors, she saw herself as a woman making her mark in the industry, and I think that was important to her.”

Beverly Anne Russell was born in London. Her father, Leslie, was a department store executive. Her mother, Maude (James) Russell, was a homemaker. As a girl, Beverly read voraciously and became smitten with the written word; she turned in a book-length homework assignment when she was 14.

Her first job in journalism was at The Manchester Evening News, and as she chased stories around town, she met a fellow journalist, Roger Beardwood, whom she married. When he was hired at a magazine in New York, she moved there with him and their young son, soon landing a job at Condé Nast. Her marriage to Mr. Beardwood ended in divorce, as did her marriage to the photographer Jon Naar.

In her 70s, Ms. Russell moved to Mexico, immersing herself in San Miguel de Allende’s artistic expatriate community for six years. She also focused on personal projects, releasing self-published books with spiritual themes like “Lines on Aging” and “Crossings: Words of Comfort.” She later lived in the British Home, a retirement community in Sierra Madre, Calif., geared toward Anglophiles and people from Britain.

About a year ago, Ms. Russell learned that she had a terminal heart condition, and the finality of her diagnosis — as well as the loss of autonomy that she felt came with it — profoundly disturbed her. She recently moved to New Mexico, where physician-assisted suicide is legal, and she underwent the procedure this month.

“She felt strongly about doing this,” her son said. “My mother lived her life on her own terms, and she wanted to go out on her own terms. She insisted on writing her narrative right up until the very end.”

“She always thought of herself,” he added, “as a pioneer.”

Alex Vadukul is a city correspondent. He writes for Metropolitan and is a two-time winner of the New York Press Club award for city writing and a winner of the Society of Silurians medallion for profile writing.


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