Interiors magazines live in a world of their own - gorgeous but inaccessible. Until now, says Cayte Williams
UNTIL RECENTLY, a quick flick through interiors magazines would reveal a world of expensively-decorated mansions, impossibly rich and beautiful people - or decorating tips that would take the greatest DIY enthusiast a month of Sundays to complete. You had a choice: it was either lovely house, shame you can't afford it, or how to stencil hideous fish shapes all over your bathroom in 200 easy steps.

Luckily, publishing houses have now realised that there is a yawning gap in the market. This month, three interiors magazines are launched on a monthly basis which cater for a different reader. Beautiful Living is a sort of homes version of Good Housekeeping, Beautiful Homes is a kind of middle-market World of Interiors (really more for the voyeur than the doer), but it is Living etc that really wipes the slate clean, achieving the hitherto unheard-of: desirable interiors belonging to real people. Not only would you want to emulate them, but you probably could. This is for the kind of reader who like to gawp at Wallpaper* and Elle Decoration, then run down to Habitat and buy toned-down, affordable versions of the things they've seen

This fills a gap in the market that is as long as Ivana Trump's hallway. There are now over two million households of 25-35 year olds with no children and a realistic income, an increase of 55 per cent since 1987. The marketing people call them "pre-family" households and they spent pounds 5.3 billion on the home last year - almost twice as much as they spent on fashion. Living etc is hoping to appeal to this sector.

"We basically felt that there wasn't an interiors magazine which was stylish, accessible, friendly and pacy," says editor Sarah Bravo, who is hoping for a circulation of around 120,000. "What was on the shelves bore no relation to your life, because the homes were so exclusive or they were the type your mother bought."

Living etc seems to be living up to its ideas. The houses featured aren't palatial or teeth-achingly trendy and the people who live in them obviously don't have unlimited amounts of cash. Among the film directors and graphic designers are school teachers and chartered surveyors. The front pages are crammed full of affordable merchandise which is either available on the high street or by mail order. The ethos is that there's no point in featuring it if you can't get hold of it.

Sarah Bravo is under no illusions that her readers are sitting at home all day, wondering how to tart up a lampshade. One of the problems with magazines at the lower end of the market is that they are obsessed with stippling, rag-rolling and stencilling anything with a flat surface. It's that rather quaint idea that women in particular are at home all day, with time on their hands. "We're planning an 'instant decorator' page for the second issue," she explains, "which will tell you what jobs you can do and the jobs you shouldn't even attempt but get someone in to do. Then we'll tell you how much it should cost."

What's interesting about Living etc is that it's not just aimed at women as the home-makers. Among the singles-in-their-flats and Dinkie (Dual Income, No Kids) features, the bachelor pad is up there with the Bridget Jones kitchen. Out of the 12 mini-pictures that feature on the cover, two are of men. "I was in Heals at the weekend," muses Bravo. "I saw these young couples and the men were getting really excited over the chairs, saying things like, 'that's to die for'. The whole interior design area is becoming much more of a male thing, so we didn't want the magazine to be too fluffy and pretty."

Perhaps Bravo's most interesting idea is a regular fly-on-the-wall piece where photographer, journalist and crew turn up at some brave soul's house to chart their weekend. It's a bit cosy and couply but it's fascinating reading. "We wanted to tap into that docu-soap TV thing," says Bravo, "and we don't think it's ever been done in a magazine."

Although Living etc steers clear of that elitist Wallpaper* thang (beautiful models, designer clothes, pristine flats), it has taken the posh mag's lead in closely relating interior design to fashion. Its features tell you to forgo a designer suit for a classic table, or liken Genni, a black leather chair, to a supermodel ("Italian, with long legs and an angular body clad in black leather, she went down a storm at the show..."). The tone is more tongue-in-cheek than clever-clever. "We don't try to inform people in a condescending way," explains Bravo. "People are often left to feel it's presumed that you know, say, who Philippe Starck is, but we're going for a fine line between intelligence and information."

It's this balancing act that is the hardest to achieve. "There is fashion in homes, obviously, but with people on a limited budget, the fashion is in the accessories, like a new blind or a throw," Bravo states. "We're telling our readers that if they want to get expensive things, they shouldn't date. For example, get a Chesterton sofa, buy it in the fabric of the moment, but when it's time has gone, have it re-covered. "

By the time you get to the back pages, you don't feel inadequate, financially destitute or stencilled-out. You just want to rush out and buy everything in it, and under Bravo's guidance, that wouldn't be a bad thing.

Living etc is in newsagents at a special introductory price of pounds 1. The normal cost will be pounds 2.40