East, west, Home best


East, west, Home best

LAUREEN ROSSOUW talks to the hotshot editor of Home | Tuis.


MEET Wicus Pretorius. He was appointed editor of Home | Tuis in 2014, possibly the most difficult era in the magazine industry. While established titles are disappearing from the shelves one after another, he and his team thrive and today Home | Tuis is the largest consumer magazine in the country after Huisgenoot, with Sarie and Kuier on their heels.

How would you describe your style?

Definitely eclectic. It always surprises me how colourful my house is. It was never planned and I don't really like multicoloured, but the next thing I know I've bought a red chest of drawers or a yellow medicine chest. Drawers and little pots are my weak point — I can't walk past a cupboard with drawers, and when I travel odds and ends always  come home with me in my suitcase. I don't use half of them but the day will come!

I like mixing old and new — too much wood makes me uneasy. I only have one prominent piece of wooden furniture in my house — an American oak dining table. I can't feel sorry for furniture because I have dogs — and I'm certainly not going to try to prevent them from stretching out on it all day.

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Do you think your own taste plays a big role in your decision-making as an editor or do you make business decisions?

What we show in Home is mostly beautiful to me. Of course, not everything is my style but I am not the only reader — my team and I put together a magazine for a diverse market. I struggle with bohemian decor and am probably the only person who doesn't like delicious monsters. Our creative editor, Marian van Wyk, always says that as much as we like to say there are no rules, there are. As long as your decor works. For you, in the first place, but in the broader sense all the elements must at least complement each other.

Ultimately, what I do as an editor is first and foremost a business decision. If I'm suddenly going to show decor that I know won't appeal to our core readers, we're quickly going to lose them. They must feel “at home" in the pages of Home. It should not be intimidating or put readers off.

Do you think the cover plays a big role in the sales of a magazine?

That's an interesting debate. Home | Tuis has a loyal following, with many people saying they don't even look at the cover, they just look for the masthead. They buy regardless. But I would think about 20% of our market will decide whether or not to buy based on the cover photo.

A cover captures the zeitgeist and is the window through which you look at the inside of the magazine. It sets the tone. Home's readers like busy front pages with lots of detail — and enough decor. Sometimes we have very nice photos that are more atmospheric than decor driven. We always choose the photos that show decor, that's the inspiration readers are looking for.

Wicus is also a part-time presenter of Fiësta.
Wicus is also a part-time presenter of Fiësta.

How do you decide what goes on the cover?

While we work on an issue and the layout of stories, we identify photos that can work. We rarely go out to shoot a cover. We look at possibilities before a photo session and the stylist on duty then shoots cover options of the rooms we have identified, but we never “create" (stage) a cover. However, we have gone back to a house to shoot a room for a cover because we loved it so much.

But there are so many factors that determine what the cover photo is, such as what the previous cover was and what the theme of the next issue is. You always want to show buyers something new — “surprise and delight". For example, three kitchens in a row is not a good strategy.

Do the trends around covers change often? For example, will covers that did well in 2022 not necessarily be winners in 2023?

Definitely. About 10 years ago we used models on our covers. We don't do it at all any more — except for a dog or a cat now and then — but it feels “old". And then, believe it or not, we talk a lot about whether a cover is “Afrikaans" or “English" — because we publish in both languages ​​and the covers must be the same according to the rules of the ABC (the Audit Bureau of Circulations). Decor is dynamic and constantly changing. Home is a business that thrives on trends.

Does the cover represent the atmosphere of the content or do you choose a photo from a specific article?

At one of our conferences, an international editor once said “you have to want to lick the cover as you walk by". That may be extreme, but yes, it must capture your imagination. Magazine shelves are getting smaller and many retailers are moving them to just left of the charcoal. Covers need to catch the eye more than ever.

What kind of covers do best?

Kitchens are always popular, because it's the room where people spend the most money. Bedrooms too, because it's the room  people often neglect the most — “because nobody comes there". They focus  on the rooms that guests see. We change the colour of our masthead depending on the cover photo. I can't prove it empirically, but a yellow masthead has always sold best in my opinion.

What part of the job do you enjoy the most?

Editors are an endangered species. And in the magazine industry, which is under pressure worldwide, you have to do much more than just manage content — you have to ensure the sums add up, because it is definitely not “business as usual".

We look at a lot of houses, and money can't buy that feeling you get when you start scrolling through recce photos and each new one just makes you feel even more excited. We have just photographed such a house for our holiday edition — the detail, the art, the furniture, the location. Everything is perfect! Every room is a small gift.

Do you do a lot of brand extensions? 

Yes, niche interests in the magazine industry are a trend and we are trying to capitalise on it. The air fryer is the new microwave and we have published two magazines with air fryer recipes.

Chalk painting and decorative chalk painting projects are also a big trend in South Africa and in the past few years we have published a bunch of painting guides with chalk painting ideas and step-by-step projects.

We also do a renovation guide every year, linked to our annual Fix it with Flair contest, and outdoor plans in Home Yard. Also a nice old-fashioned hardcover diary for paper lovers who don't want to do everything on their phones, and even crossword puzzles — games remain ever popular.

Each of these editions has to speak to a specific market segment, and we have to plan them so they don't compete with the main magazine.

Who inspires you?

It comes from the heart: our readers! They are planners and creative — as we know South Africans are.

We run a handful of competitions every year where readers get a chance to show off their projects — from Fix it with Flair to Rookie Stylist (for amateur stylists) to the Tjhoko Champs (for chalk paint  enthusiasts). And I can feast my eyes, and more: the stories they tell!

For Fix it with Flair we have a gala evening where the winners and runners-up come on stage and I ask them a few questions. People have almost lost limbs, shocked themselves to death, survived floods, slept in houses without a roof, camped in the backyard while construction was happening around them — one had a heart attack. Everyone always agrees: don't renovate if your relationship is in murky waters, because the boat will sink.

South Africans have a wonderful way of just getting on with it. And I see it in the stories our readers tell. It will be a South African who turns off the last light in the world...

How big is the role social media plays in your marketing and sales?

Of course we use social media for marketing — Instagram, Facebook and now also TikTok — but my theory is that the social media community and users are not core readers of the print magazine. There is definitely overlap. But the average Facebook user/follower is older than the average reader of the print magazine according to AMPS (All Media and Products Survey), the measure by which we define print media audiences.

A magazine reader is a special person — someone who sees the value of well-researched information, the value of curation. It's escapism but also a service. It's reliable and well thought out and laid out, taken care of, nothing is just random.

Your favourite furniture designer? In the world? And in South Africa?

Verner Panton — one day I will buy another set of his classic Panton chairs. There was a set of six  advertised recently — yellow! — but I lacked the funds. I still regret it.

Locally, I want a Gregor Jenkin steel table. I got the quote, now I just have to save.

Your favourite art gallery?

The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo in the Netherlands, with the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world. And the natural beauty of the Hoge Veluwe National Park in the Netherlands leaves you with a sense of bliss. It's a bit of an effort to get there but I highly recommend it.

Your favourite dish when you entertain?

Hard to say: I'm an adventurous cook and like to entertain — it depends on the last recipe book I bought. I like to attend cooking classes when I travel and they always reflect in what happens later in my kitchen.

Your favourite period in decor and design?

Brutalism fascinates me. The way concrete can capture your imagination — hard and relentless at the same time, but impressive. Etched against the background. It's cold and unapproachable but it shelters and is functional — its contradiction is poetic.

Your dream home? What will it look like and where is it?

Ah. For years I've been saying that one day I'm going to build a  rectangular open-plan house that looks like a little church on a dusty plot of land in Prince Albert, as long as there's irrigation water for a symmetrical olive grove to surround it. White and minimalist inside, with klompie bricks in a herringbone pattern on the floor. One short side of the “church" will consist only of glass and face the sun in the winter, because I never want to live in a cold house again.

And then of course a lovely stoep with a focal wall full of tiles in the Delft style.

Tell us more about your dogs.

They're two rescue dogs — Ashgat and Knapie. “DNA jackpots." I work so they can maintain their lifestyle. Ashgat is a bit autistic and has been seen sitting in the shower staring at the shower head for hours. #truestory. Knapie is still a baby and an attention seeker. If I had a pouch like a kangaroo, Knapie would hide there all day. People always think they are of the same race but they just happen to look alike. Wire-haired dogs shedding a LOT of hair. Thank goodness for the robot vacuum cleaner.

Wicus enjoys his dogs and his home.
Wicus enjoys his dogs and his home.

What do you think of mid-century modern?

Such beautiful designs, especially in architecture. The houses with the big windows and overhangs, sloping roofs, different levels —they're timeless. Mid-century modern is a big trend in South Africa when it comes to furniture, and I completely understand that.

Where do you go after Home?

Magazine editors have extraordinary skills, and I'm not blowing my own horn. But think carefully: we have to read and understand audiences and give them something for which they pay more and more, because magazines are a premium product and creating content the way we do it is expensive. That's why I say I'm an “audience expert" — that's what I've been doing for 25 years.

A magazine is a documentation of time and the useful information of the specific period. Trends fascinate me, and how the world will look in two years, five years, 10 years. Change has never happened as fast as it is now. A year ago — less than 12 months — Chat GPT did not exist in our everyday vocabulary. And look what has happened!

♦ VWB ♦

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