Tuesday 20 August 2019

Obituary: Min Hogg

Editor of 'The World of Interiors' had a bold, eclectic vision of shabby-chic style

DOING IT IN STYLE: Min Hoggand
DOING IT IN STYLE: Min Hoggand

Min Hogg, who has died aged 80, was the grande dame and founding editor of The World of Interiors, a magazine considered the bible of interior design.

Min Hogg popularised "shabby chic", and her friend Nicky Haslam credited her with being the first person to make styling important in a magazine: "She saw that, say, 17 bowls of oranges on a table could be more beautiful than a bunch of flowers."

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The homes of low-grade celebrities rarely appeared in her pages; instead, they featured more eclectic creations culled from her address book, including on one occasion a formerly derelict stable that had been elegantly redesigned by a 21-year-old squatter - although the publicity led to the young man's eviction.

Started in 1981 as Interiors, the magazine was conceived to bring together the widest range of styles. "Everything from a palace to a pigsty," was Hogg's description. Disparate as these places might seem, all were united by their flavour of authenticity.

From the outset the magazine endeavoured to display homes that had personality, be they deluxe confections or places done up on a shoestring. The cover of her first issue depicted Anouska Hempel's London sitting room, and inside was a feature on Bryan Ferry's house as well as the first public pictures of the private apartments at Buckingham Palace.

Although Hogg insisted that she harboured no animus against professional decorators, she believed that amateurs had plenty to teach pros. "They are generally more enthusiastic and certainly more honest about their mistakes and how they managed to camouflage them," she said. "Why does everything have to be so perfect? Nothing in real life is, you know."

Her pet peeves included the minimalist wooden floors and white walls beloved of many metropolitan homes. "Absolutely cheap," she declared. "It's in every loft and shop because people are petrified of colour. Then they go slightly bananas in the bathroom and tend to have those very shallow glass basins, without even a shelf for your toothbrush."

Min regarded her job as her hobby, and she was the reader she was trying to please.

Georgina Rose "Min" Hogg was born in London on September 28, 1939, one of two children of Sir Cecil Hogg, an ear, nose and throat specialist with rooms in Harley Street.

He was Aurist to the Queen and would bring home from his palace visits paper handkerchiefs smudged with the Queen or Princess Margaret's lipstick. Her mother was Pollie (nee Dalby), who, Min recalled, was blessed with "innate good taste" and would insist on regular outings to stately homes and museums.

From an early age young Min was interested in other people's style. "It's the absolutely unabashed, unabated snooper in me," she said.

She grew up in a Nash villa by Regent's Park, but during the Blitz was evacuated to the Welsh countryside, experiencing "the joys, or terrors, of the farmyard". From Benenden School, in Kent, she went to the Central School of Art to study design with Terence Conran, later admitting: "We were more interested in his private life than his teaching."

She entered journalism through Conran's wife, Caroline, initially at Queen magazine. From there she moved to The Observer, writing about architecture and decoration, before working as a photographers' agent and then returning to what had become Harpers & Queen.

In 1974 she was appointed fashion editor, with Anna Wintour, the future editor of Vogue, as her assistant. Fashion was not Min Hogg's real enthusiasm, but after five years she was hired as fashion editor of Sheba, a short-lived Arabic-language publication that was described by The Washington Post as "basically a consumer guide on how to spend your husband the oil sheikh's billions".

She found her "dream job" a few years later after answering an ad in The Times for an "editor of an international arts and interiors magazine" being launched by Irish publisher Kevin Kelly from a room above a florist in Chelsea. The magazine was a hit and within two years was sold to Conde Nast.

Min Hogg was known for her wicked, knowing smile and a deep, raspy laugh that bore witness to a lifetime's devotion to nicotine.

She disliked visiting the hairdresser and would dye her hair and cut the fringe herself. The bulk would be wrapped around her head, held up with a turban-like scarf, exposing the pearl earrings that for many years she made.

In 2000, aged 62, and after almost 20 years at the helm of The World of Interiors, she resigned. She said she had tired of the bonds of office administration and wanted to be free from the responsibility of being "head girl and having to tick people off".

Later she wrote for Cornucopia, a magazine dedicated to Turkish design, invariably returning from her many travels with a new ornament or trinket. Latterly she was selling her own "seaweed collection" of wallpapers and fabrics.

Min Hogg, who died on June 25, never married, but enjoyed several romances. She shared her home for 10 years with the photographer James Mortimer. Another lover had been the film director John Huston, whose daughter Anjelica recalled how "Min let me wear fishnet stockings and high-heeled shoes, so I could practise walking like a fashion model, up and down the driveway".

Sunday Independent

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