As Canadian Living’s Home & Garden Director, Brett Walther shares simply chic décor strategies with the magazine’s 3.9 million readers. With an emphasis on getting high-end style for less, his do-it-yourself approach stretches decorating dollars, and translates the hottest design trends into easy, breezy, weekend updates.
Before joining the Canadian Living family, Brett previously served as the features editor at Style at Home magazine, where he became a familiar face across the country as a regular guest on CityTV’s CityLine.
After hours, Brett can usually be found at his Toronto Cityplace condo (where you can “almost, but not quite” watch the Jays on the Rogers Centre field), making the slow – and expensive – transition from minimalism to maximalism.
Did you always want to be in the media?
Remember that TVO show from the early ’80s where the three kids inherited the clubhouse filled with robots, and started a newspaper as a cover for fighting aliens? That pretty much cemented my career path, and I’ve never strayed far from those dreams of making it as a real-life boy reporter. I’d toyed with the idea of playing it safe as an in-the-trenches foreign correspondent in my late teens, but the danger of the design beat ultimately won me over.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d love to be where I am now, having spent the past five years elevating the profile of Canadian Living’s Home & Garden section to rival our Food content. That’s right – watch out, Test Kitchen.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Make yourself indispensible. Your greatest achievement as an intern is to make your editor wonder how anything got accomplished before you came on the scene.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I adore House Beautiful and Country Living. Even if a particular story isn’t appealing to me from a style standpoint, their savvy packaging pulls me right in. I’m tempted to add CBC to come off all highbrow, but it’s only on for Coronation Street.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Sherri Donghia, the design director of the Donghia home textiles empire. The interview was a marathon three-hour stroll through her impossibly inspiring fabric showroom, which ended with her offering me a job in her Manhattan HQ. I’m sure she was thinking “swatch-room stock boy,” but I was still rather flattered.
Interviewing other journos is rarely any fun. We tend to be a terribly guarded bunch in the presence of recording devices. Worse than that are interviews with pseudo-celebs who suddenly decide they’re designers because a bed-in-a-bag has their face plastered on the packaging. Barf.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Products on-page should never appear larger than they do in real life,” “Anniversaries aren’t real news pegs,” “Every planter pot needs spillers, thrillers and fillers,” “Know your reader,” and “A person who is nice to you but is not nice to your server is not a nice person.”
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Dorothy Draper wrote the seminal DIY decorating guide, Decorating is Fun! back in 1939, and it’s basically my manifesto – even beyond the confines of design. If something stops being fun, I know that it’s time for a change.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Be as transparent as possible. If access to a junket or interview opportunity is dependent on specific conditions and expectations of coverage, I need full disclosure in advance. Is the client going to push for a specific platform for publication? Are they hoping for release by a certain deadline? Although I’m obviously not going to accept a seven-night stay at the new Knightsbridge Bulgari without covering it in some capacity, I’ll graciously decline the invitation if I know in advance I can’t deliver anything near what you’re hoping for. It’s common courtesy. My momma taught me that.
And please – for the love of all that is holy – enough with those silly supplied hashtags at press events.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
There’s that gorgeous Helen Mirren line from Gosford Park when she goes on about how she’s good at her job because she knows what her ladyship wants before she knows she wants it herself… It’s always lovely to be furnished with the full complement of high-res images, product specs, Canadian retails and sourcing deets before you actually have to request a thing. Jennifer Thompson from Elevator, for example, is a master at that sort of intuitive approach to PR, and I love her to bits.
Karate-chopped cushions, pot light chandeliers, bun feet, flocked wallpapers and windows without drapes.
Cabriole legs, grey-washed wood, horizontal stripes, camelback sofas, button tufting, and blue-and-white transferware.
Best place on earth?
My family’s farm in southwestern Ontario.
Madonna on one side, and her would-be-decorator brother Christopher on the other. I’d referee.
Jose Bautista. Even if you’re not a Jays fan (and shame on you if you’re not), the beard is worthy of worship.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I have a full-on, Zak Morris Saved by the Bell phone. It’s a miracle I can even text.
Pool or ocean?
Voicemail or email?
Email. It’s very possible that phone of mine isn’t voicemail-capable.