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Real Living Magazin'e Deb Bibby

Real Living Turns 9: Deb Bibby Looks Back

The country’s interior style bible, Real Living, turns 9 on Monday (and she doesn’t look a day over six). I scored some time with its Editor and leading lady, Deb Bibby, to look back on the mag’s evolution; how it all began, why she came on board, what’s next for the publication and the toughest question of all – which cover is her fave!

Deb Bibby - Real Living Magazine

Happy 9th birthday to Real Living! What does a nine-year-old mag do for its birthday?

“Gosh, haven’t thought about it yet. I think we might gather for a family lunch. This usually involves a theme and everyone bringing their favourite dish. A past family lunch was Italian complete with red-and-white check cloth, orange cordial, quirky place settings and a big bowl of spag bolognaise. It’s our version of the long lunch and usually ends up being a great ideas session – we can’t help ourselves. 

For the 9th birthday we might have to step it up a notch and switch cordial for champers”.

I’ve always wondered how RL came to be… can you fill me in?

“The concept of RL was dreamt up by a few team members of House & Garden magazine (thanks, Annie Friis and Maya Kellet!). 

A gap in the market was identified for women in their 30s looking for style without the huge price tag. They also needed help with all the choices out there. Try renovating – the choices are overwhelming thus a magazine that can curate/edit those choices down to five best buys or, even better, three, was needed. It was all about taking the reader on a journey to discover great pieces for her home and presenting them in a practical but stylish way. The launch was super successful.

Over the past nine years RL has grown up and evolved. Homes are at her core, she is still practical and stylish but a lot more fashionable and aspirational. But don’t get me wrong, she’s still after a bargain, but she spends to save (she’s a smart cookie).  She’s also a bit of a trendsetter, she’s hip but friendly. She’s creative but practical. She’s cashed up but thrifty. RL has a unique voice to other homemaker titles in the market – we don’t tell our readers how to do something, we discover it together. RL is a bit of a club/community and all engagement across social media platforms have helped further strengthen this. Most of all, RL has never strayed from its motto to be fun, inspiring and over-deliver with energetic content helping readers achieve their aspirations”.

Real Living April 2013 front cover

Above: Deb’s fave cover, the April 2013 issue, marked a new direction for the mag.
Below: My fave cover, the October 2013 issue, celebrates colour (my ultimate obsession).

Real Living OCtober 2013 front cover

Why did you want to steer the ship?  

“I have an insatiable appetite for magazines (you should see the stash I have at home – verging on hoarder-like). I live and breathe the business. I love publishing in all its forms – it never leaves me, it’s all-consuming and hey, it’s not every day you get the opportunity to start a magazine from scratch. When it was presented I jumped at it. Imagine dreaming up and creating content 24/7 with the possibility of winning over hearts and minds – it’s so exciting and the experience, invaluable. I am ever grateful to be doing what I love each and every day. I really appreciate my role within an amazing team”.

Here’s a toughie: Which is your fave cover of all time? Mine has to be 92 (October 2013) – the ‘Shake it Up’ Style Clash issue.

“April 13 – it was the first cover in our new direction, risky, scary and it worked – sales soared for us. Runner up would be August 13 and January/February 14 – oh and the current August 14 cover (what is it about August?). Anyway, that question is like asking me if I have a favourite child”.

Was there a definitive moment through RL’s nine years that made you realised it was a major player in the market? 

“I rather like to be under the radar and in all honesty I think if you believe you’ve made it, you’re history. RL still has a long way to go, the team and I love the challenge, its’ what keeps it exciting”.

Have you ever looked back on any pages of the mag and thought “well, that was a bad idea”?

“LOL! Definitely but I’m not going to reveal it here. Think I’m crazy?”. 

I imagine the RL office to be a dreamy sanctuary where staff are surrounded by cushions, candles, plush bedding and art. Care to burst my bubble? 

“No, it’s exactly that 😉 ”.

Finally, the mag has evolved over the years into the modern home style bible it is today. What’s next for Real Living? 

“Watch out for some very cool RL extensions off the brand next year and be prepared to fall madly in love”.


Want to see TLC Interiors in Real Living? CLICK HERE to see my spread!



Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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3 Responses

  1. I know this is really old, but what happened to this magazine? I used to really enjoy it and now there is nothing in it but photos of people’s houses, no teeth and no fun. It’s like a carbon copy of Home Beautiful when it used to be a point of difference. Or is it just me?

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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