Margaret Russell took the helm of Conde Nast's venerable international shelter magazine Architectural Digest in 2010. She started her career at Glamour magazine after graduating from Brown University and worked her way up.

Margaret Russell took the helm of Conde Nast's venerable international shelter magazine Architectural Digest in 2010. She started her career at Glamour magazine after graduating from Brown University and worked her way up.

The former editor-in-chief of Elle Decor also appeared as a judge on Bravo's "Top Design." Architectural Digest recently launched its improved website, www.architecturaldigest.com.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: Have you had the unpleasant task of telling a designer their work won't be in the pages of your magazine?

A: Oh, my gosh. I have to do it all the time. It's my least favorite thing to do, but it's just a fact of life about how we work, and especially at a magazine like Architectural Digest. Unfortunately, for every time I love saying "yes," there are many times that I have to say "no." I have a lot of friends who are designers and architects, and it is often with a friend.

Q: You do not seem like a woman who is easily intimidated. Was that always the case?

A: I'm not a pushover, no. I mean, I might be 5 foot 3 inches and 100 pounds, but I don't know, why navigate your life having people push you around? (Laughs) I think that would be a terrible thing. I am not easily intimidated.

Q: You deal with a lot of healthy egos. What has that experience taught you?

A: You know, at the end of the day, we are all the same. Some people take themselves more seriously than others. Sometimes you need to be very, very serious about something, and other times you don't. I deal with a lot of different personalities. Anybody in a creative position does. If someone is truly difficult or too demanding to me or my staff, we finish our work with you, tie things up, and I find no reason to deal with that person again. In my personal life, I try to stay away from toxic people.

Q: Since you took the helm, how have the criteria changed for choosing a home to profile in Architectural Digest?

A: The criteria have changed. In the past, there were many designers who simply assumed their work would be in the magazine because it had always been showcased in the magazine. There was an expectation of exclusivity from certain people that they would never talk to another magazine. I absolutely want the very, very best projects in this magazine. If I see a terrific project in another magazine from a designer who is sort of a friend of AD or has been featured in AD or they know that we want to feature their work in AD, then that is not a great thing. We don't want to see that. I most likely would say something about that to the designer or architect.

Q: (AD) has always been aspirational, but it seems you've tempered it simply by providing source information to the reader.

A: Well, to be honest, sources weren't listed in the magazine before, so that was one of the first things that I did. Especially now that practically everybody in the world has a website. It's not taking a lot of space, and it is very helpful to people and provides resources and information that weren't available before. We are never going to be a really service-y magazine. The magazine is very much about aspiration and, to a degree, fantasy and in a wonderful way. Not every house is a castle, and we are showing a wide range of places, but always at a certain level. In print, you can't be all things to all people. Online, you can be all things to many, many more people ... The print magazine is always going to be supreme. AD is a beautiful magazine and was long before I got here. People save AD. They collect them. So we don't have that paranoia that people will stop reading the print version.

Q: What about television? You have some experience there. Do you see AD specials in the future?

A: I'd love that. AD has always had exclusive access to a lot of houses, and I think they would make a terrific TV program. Certainly, the idea of AD visits is something that can go across many different platforms, but is very well suited to television.

Q: You are in a position to see all the latest and greatest in home furnishings because of the markets you attend. Does that have you constantly wanting to change your own home?

A: The best thing is seeing everything, and seeing everything that's new, and being able to choose and say, "Oh, gosh, wouldn't that be great? I want to try that fabric." But, in truth, it's not as easy as fashion, where you can get a new handbag or new cashmere sweater. I do change where I live a lot. I tweak things around, but it's really not always about shopping. It's just about taking a fresh look at something.

Q: You've spent a lot of time in this business with Elle Decor and now (Architectural) Digest. So what is the biggest change you've noticed in home interiors in the past decade?

A: There have been so many changes. Part of it is technology, starting with you can find anything online and research anything online. It is very important to know when to call in the experts. I wouldn't dream of trying to figure out curtains on my own. I would call a designer friend to do window treatments or something like that.

Rooms in some houses are not as formal as they once were. The change that has been enormous is focusing on the environment and green design. Without being too     granola about it, I think we need to think about how something is produced and chemicals and waste. Antiques are recycling at its best. So really focusing on what needs to be new, what needs to be redone, what can you replace that makes more sense in terms of technology or heat efficiency.
    
Patricia Sheridan can be reached at psheridan@post-gazette.com.