John Rouse: Contract’s New Publisher Emeritus

John Rouse has been awarded many honors during his 30+ years in the interiors trade publication industry (see), but some awards are more special than others. One of the greatest achievements of a professional happens when their employer creates a new position to preserve their heritage when it is time for that professional to move on. In this case, Mr. Rouse, who has been the publisher of Contract magazine for the past 15 years, and publisher of the now defunct, but laudable, Interiors magazine before that, was just named Publisher Emeritus of Contract. Mr. Rouse is succeeded as publisher by Karen Donaghy, who for the past year has been the associate publisher of Contract.

John Rouse

For the past 15 years, Mr. Rouse has stood as a stout and singular oak tree promulgating the merits of the commercial interior design industry, design professionals and related manufacturers alike. To place this in context, one must understand that most of the general public does not distinguish between the important, but limited, practice of interior decoration from that of interior design. Secondly, and essentially, is the recognition that, for all the merits and emotional appeal of decorative elements, progress is dependent upon the development and accrual of a body of knowledge that can only be gained through rigorous experimentation and data analysis, something that is beyond the resources of the decorative arts and something that holds a limited grasp on some elements of the architecture profession.

As stated in its mission statement:

Contract magazine…[covers] projects, products, and practice issues that set the standards in the industry. Contract elevates the relevance and value of commercial design by focusing on the power of designers to transform business and institutional environments.

The final concept captures the vital essence of the contract interiors industry: to transform business and institutional environments. Aesthetics and interior architecture are important, but professional interior design must comprise, yet go well beyond, these aspects, addressing the panoply of human factors that lead to a better and healthier life for working people.

Karen Donaghy

Throughout his 15-year tenure, Mr. Rouse and his editors-in-chief, formerly Jennifer Thiele Busch and now, John Czarnecki, have stood firm in the face of the many headwinds that have confronted the publishing business, generally, and commercial interior design, in particular. The publisher’s role has been especially difficult, being responsible for operational profitability in a contracting environment. One can but imagine the pressure on the publisher when Contract was but a small line item on the financials of the behemoth Nielsen and then, in 2013, becoming part of Emerald Expositions, part of a private equity firm, ONEX.

As a publisher, Mr. Rouse was a special presence, always treating others with respect and encouragement. He is a gentleman, in the best sense of the word, with a wry sense of humor and self-effacing manner, who while strongly believing in commercial interior design, was willing to patiently await its due recognition and support by interiors professionals and the general public.

Many of the accomplishments of a publisher are buried in on-going operations; which has many similarities to the work of commercial interior designers. Nonetheless, one of Mr. Rouse’s achievements was the preservation and growth of the Interiors Breakfast, held annually at Cipriani’s 42nd Street. This is one of the major commercial interior design events in the U.S. and does one of the best jobs during any given year of selecting and promoting commercial interior design projects, as well as recognizing blossoming professionals with its Designer of the Year award, and recognizing lifetime contributors to the profession with its Legend award.

I salute you Mr. Rouse, and we at officeinsight recognize and thank you for your contribution to the commercial interiors industry.