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Robert Rufino Makes News on the Shelter Front

Architectural Digest's interiors editor, who is now at Elle Decor, declined to comment on his reasons for leaving but described the separation as amicable.

ON THE SHELTER FRONT: By and large, the interior design magazines don’t make a whole lot of noise. A tweet like this one from Elle Decor — “Trend Alert: Feathers” — is big news. So it took some by surprise when a feature by Robert Rufino, Architectural Digest’s interiors editor, appeared in Elle Decor’s October issue, still on newsstands now, his first for the magazine since he was poached by editor in chief Michael Boodro. Rufino is a personal friend of Architectural Digest editor in chief Margaret Russell, who had also played a key role in her redesign of the shelter title. Shots, officially, had been fired. Russell responded this month by swiping one of Elle’s own, contributing design editor Anita Sarsidi, who is joining as a contributing interiors editor.

Russell enjoyed a celebrated run at Elle Decor and has seen her share of successes at AD since she was named editor in chief in August 2010 — circulation fell only 0.5 percent to about 815,000 in what was a tough first half for magazine publishers, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. The September issue sold more than 90,000 copies at the newsstand, a record for Russell. Ad pages, the responsibility of publisher Giulio Capua, finished 2012 10 percent over the previous year and are up 2 percent through October, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Elle Decor, by comparison, finished the first half with a circulation of about 569,000, up 0.4 percent, partly thanks to digital replicas, and 852 ad pages through October, about 3 percent down.

But Russell’s three-year tenure success hasn’t come without staff turbulence. She is now on her fourth art director since 2011, Ann Marie Mennillo, who was promoted when Andrzej Janerka resigned in September after a little more than a year on the job. The previous art directors — Nora Sheehan and Christy Sheppard — also stayed for about as long.

Rufino declined to comment on his reasons for leaving but described the separation as amicable.

“Margaret Russell and I have been friends for 20 years and we will continue to be friends. I left because I left,” he said when reached at Elle Decor.

Recently at an Elle Decor event, Boodro, who succeeded Russell at Decor, said he asked Rufino to join him at Hearst only after he’d already left Condé Nast.

“It was a question of giving him flexibility and we wanted his talent,” he said at the home of Estée Lauder executive John Demsey, who is featured in the October style issue.

Hearst’s shelter magazines have not been without upheaval of their own. Last October, Decor, Veranda and House Beautiful were consolidated into one group under editorial director Newell Turner, who had been editor in chief of House Beautiful. There were an unspecified number of redundancies as a result. In May, Dara Caponigro resigned as the editor of Veranda and was recently named creative director of the fabric and furnishings company F. Schumacher & Co. Boodro said the reorganization of the group has not shaken his long-term commitment to the magazine.

“I had a few doubts. Have there been a few glitches along the way? Yes. Are we going to make some adjustments? Yes. But overall, it’s worked very well,” Boodro said. He dismissed concerns that with the combination of the magazines’ features, market and photography departments, each brand would lose its identity.

“That’s an editor’s job. There’s no confusion among the three editors about what the personality is of his magazine,” he said.

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