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Tour the Manhattan Office of Graydon Carter’s Airmail

After a career at the zenith of the magazine industry as the editor of Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter has some very specific opinions on what makes a good place of work. “I wanted to finally have an office without a swipe card,” he says bluntly, describing the criteria he laid out for housing his new editorial venture, Air Mail. Billed as “a lively digital weekly for the world citizen,” the online magazine was founded by Carter in 2018 as an antidote to the 24/7 online news cycle. It includes stories that wouldn’t have been out of place in the pages of VF, but in a once-a-week newsletter format. “It is something I could work on from anywhere,” he says of the concept. But despite the project’s peripatetic nature, a brick-and-mortar space in Manhattan was still a priority.

So, when he was presented with the parlor floor of a prewar brownstone in Greenwich Village—complete with precipitous ceilings, original crown moldings, wood floors, ornate stone hearths, and gilded mirrors—Carter signed a lease on the spot. “I like a communal atmosphere,” he notes of the design concept, which feels more like a cozy Manhattan apartment than a publishing headquarters. “I don’t think in my 25 years at Vanity Fair I ever once closed my office door. This space is very collegial,” he adds.

Image may contain Furniture Fireplace Indoors Bookcase Human Person Shelf and Hearth

The office’s primary fireplace.

Photo: Justin M. Weiner

I mention, via Zoom call, an old House & Garden story that featured his previous flat at the Dakota on the Upper West Side and how the similarities between the Air Mail office and his one-time home were easy to spot. “You’ll probably notice it’s a lot of the same stuff,” he says of the resemblance, which channels a similar cluttered-yet-comfortable vibe. “It’s sort of a hodgepodge. But it works.”

Indeed, the space represents an amalgam of various parts of the editor’s life. There are mementos from his days at the helm of Vanity Fair, such as a portrait of himself done up to look like a fictional dictator, which he used as a prop to jovially haze new hires. “I would sometimes have an assistant put it in the office of a newcomer just to make them feel really uncomfortable,” he reminisces. Gleaming atop the carved mantel in the study is an Emmy and a Peabody, both awarded for documentaries he produced. The conference room’s hearth plays host to spindly structures Carter made with a 3D pen, a Christmas present initially destined for his young daughter (“they look like Tim Burton rejects,” he jokes). A model airplane, gifted years ago to longtime design collaborator Basil Walter, was requisitioned for the office and newly wrapped in Air Mail branding; it now hangs above a circular conference table overlooking the garden.

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