Louis Oliver Gropp, a gradual shepherd of shelter magazines by way of a long time of turmoil as editor in chief of House & Garden, Elle Décor and House Beautiful, died on Oct. 17 at his residence in Greenport, N.Y., on Long Island. He was 88.
His daughter Lauren Gropp Lowry introduced the loss of life. No trigger was given.
In 1981, Condé Nast Publications determined to renovate House & Garden, its 80-year-old adorning journal, and selected Mr. Gropp to be its new editor. Like its competitor, House Beautiful, House & Garden was then a middlebrow publication dedicated to recipes, D.I.Y. adorning and handicrafts.
But Ronald Reagan had simply begun his first time period as president, and the tradition was shifting. The luxurious market — the prosperous reader — beckoned. Architectural Digest had already begun to chronicle the great life as lived by heads of state, film stars and Hollywood machers. House & Garden would do the identical.
Mr. Gropp was maybe not an intuitive option to oversee the transformation. He was a gracious and sensible Midwesterner with a modest, Methodist upbringing who collected midcentury trendy furnishings, admiring the ethos behind these clear, purposeful strains. Since the late Sixties, he had been modifying the House & Garden Guides, single-topic magazines on photo voltaic homes, constructing and renovation, kitchens, adorning how-to, and residential storage. They had been helpful and fashionable and met the D.I.Y. spirit of the occasions.
The new House & Garden, which was launched in January 1983 as “the magazine of creative living,” appeared nothing like its outdated self. It was very grown up, very intellectual and really elegant. Gone had been the jumble of canopy strains — “Paint Your Own Fabric Patterns!” — and the pet meals and categorized adverts. There had been no tales about adorning in a small area, crocheting towel edges or turning your closet into an indoor backyard.
Instead, there have been options concerning the nests of cultural lions, just like the playwright Lanford Wilson’s Manhattan loft, designed by Joseph D’Urso, or the style designer Bill Blass’s house, executed up by Mica Ertegun and Chessy Rayner. And there have been tales to match, articles by Elizabeth Hardwick, Gore Vidal, Rosamond Bernier and Jan Morris.
The combine was maybe not precisely to Mr. Gropp’s style, notably because the Eighties rolled alongside and the interiors of the wealthy grew fussier and extra elaborate; the brand new emphasis mirrored extra the affect and pursuits — and social circle — of Alexander Liberman, the Russian-born émigré and artist, who was the fearsome editorial director of Condé Nast.
Yet Mr. Gropp’s nice expertise was his capacity to adapt to the imaginative and prescient of others, and to assist and promote that imaginative and prescient. His editors adored him, and so did the advertisers.
“Lou was incredibly good-natured and open-minded,” stated Shelley Wanger, Mr. Gropp’s articles editor, who coaxed many writers from her former employer, The New York Review of Books, to contribute.
Stephen Drucker, the veteran shelter journal editor who labored for Mr. Gropp within the Nineteen Seventies, stated by telephone: “Lou saw himself as a business head. He didn’t think for a minute about being a star himself.” He added, “He showed that you could be successful — and you could be kind.”
In 1984, House & Garden gained two National Magazine Awards for design and normal excellence. It was the one journal in its class — magazines with circulations between 400,000 and 1 million — to take action.
By 1987, nonetheless, Mr. Liberman and S.I. Newhouse, Condé Nast’s quirky and recessive proprietor, had soured on the journal, and its editor. (The inventory market would crash later that 12 months, and advertisers had been already spooked.) The two males had been courting a younger British style editor named Anna Wintour, whose ambition was to run American Vogue. They gave her House & Garden as an alternative.
Mr. Gropp was abruptly — and, within the business, famously — fired whereas on trip along with his household in Newport Beach, Calif. His dismissal adopted that of William Shawn at The New Yorker and preceded that of Grace Mirabella at Vogue. The firing blitz of those revered editors inside a 12 months turned a part of Condé Nast’s grisly lore as a snake pit, and added to Mr. Newhouse’s fame “as a sort of troglodyte who enjoyed humbling his top talent,” as Dodie Kazanjian and Calvin Tomkins wrote in “Alex: The Life of Alexander Liberman” (1993).
Mr. Gropp was sometimes sanguine. He all the time stated he went on to raised issues, as editor of the American model of Elle Décor, the French adorning journal, after which House Beautiful, which he ran from 1991 till his retirement in 2000. There, he preserved the journal’s DNA — accessible design for a large viewers — however broadened its focus and refined its look.
“I always thought of Lou as the Walter Cronkite of the shelter magazine world,” Warren Shoulberg, a design business guide, wrote in an electronic mail. “I don’t believe anybody else of that era had the credibility and gravitas Lou did. He was also a really nice person and never seemed to flaunt his stature.” (Though he was a dapper dresser, Mr. Shoulberg added.)
Ms. Wintour’s House & Garden, which she renamed HG, turned a handy guide a rough, fashion-inflected publication — notably placing individuals in elegant interiors — but it alienated many subscribers and advertisers. Condé Nast needed to arrange an 800 quantity to deal with all of the complaints and cancellations.
Within a 12 months, although, Mr. Liberman and Mr. Newhouse determined the time was proper to eject Ms. Mirabella at Vogue and change her with Ms. Wintour. House & Garden was shuttered in 1993, revived in 1996 and closed for good in 2007, a sufferer of the housing hunch and the looming recession.
Louis Oliver Gropp was born on June 6, 1935, in La Porte, in northern Indiana, and grew up simply over the border, in New Buffalo, Mich. His mom, Carol (Pagel) Gropp, was a homemaker. His father, Hosea Gropp, shoveled coal for the railroad.
Louis studied communications at Michigan State University. As a journalist, he thought he would possibly write about faith; as an alternative, his first job supply was from Home Furnishings News, a commerce journal. He had already fallen in love with modernism, after strolling right into a Chicago furnishings retailer whereas on his job search and seeing items by Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia and Eero Saarinen.
“I had never seen things like that,” he advised The Chicago Tribune in 1991, recalling the nondescript furnishings he grew up with. “You didn’t have a style in a small Midwestern town,” he stated. “You had a sofa and a matching chair.”
He moved to Manhattan within the Sixties and married Jane Goodwin after assembly her at Riverside Church in 1965. In addition to his daughter Lauren, he’s survived by his spouse; one other daughter, Amy Gropp Forbes; and 5 grandchildren.
In December 1993, Interior Design journal included Mr. Gropp in its Design Hall of Fame, singling him out for his considerate strategy to design protection.
“Design journalism, so often fueled by image and flash, has always produced its share of shrill pronouncements and hyperbole,” Mayer Rus, the journal’s editor, wrote on the time. Yet Mr. Gropp, he stated, “has managed to navigate the industry’s minefield of egos and chintz with probity, grace and an overriding adherence to the highest editorial standards.”
“Uninterested in bumptious rhetoric and affected poses,” Mr. Rus added, “Gropp’s work has always placed a premium on the celebration of good design.”
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