That lived-in look
Apartamento ... links homes to those who live in them rather than focusing on designer products. Photo: Tierney Gearon
It sells out in days, is read in 45 countries and has been called the world's hippest interiors magazine. Media news might be dominated by the decline of print but Apartamento is quietly bucking the trend.
In April, its founders, Nacho Alegre and Omar Sosa, celebrated as they sold all 25,000 copies of its ninth issue. The biannual, English-language publication started in Barcelona in a tiny room in Alegre's house, yet it now hits news stands in China, Lebanon and Kenya, as well as recording big sales in Berlin, London and New York. One London shop reported selling 140 copies, compared with the 15 or so copies it usually sells of each of the other magazines it stocks.
Unlike many traditional interiors magazines, which feature cold, minimalist rooms full of unaffordable designer gadgets, the living spaces in Apartamento are often small, cluttered and have a lived-in feel. The people covered are largely creative types - photographers, artists, musicians - who are invited to talk about their living spaces.
"More like a diary" ... a picture from the magazine. Photo: Jem Goulding
These spaces are often rented, with family members, dirty laundry and used crockery all starring in photo shoots. Past features have included everything from tips for rooftop gardens and salad recipes to stories of nightmare room-mates and a love letter from Chloe Sevigny to her New York apartment.
''It's not about design and products. We're not design fetishists,'' Alegre says. ''The idea is about how people live in their homes and being able to tell their amazing stories. It's more like a diary.''
Alegre and Sosa based the idea partly on Alegre's experiences sleeping on friends' couches as he travelled across Europe as a photographer. It was originally planned to be a book before the pair hit upon the idea of an interiors magazine with a twist. The first issue, in April 2008, was funded entirely by the pair and quickly sold out its print run of 5000.
Omar Sosa ... one of the founders of the magazine.
The money meant they could scale up in time for the third issue and recruit more people, such as Milan journalist Marco Velardi. There are currently seven full-time staff, aged between 24 and 32, and it has started to expand into a creative agency with footholds in New York and Milan, as well as its headquarters in Barcelona.
Apartamento's first issue featured cult filmmaker Mike Mills and indie band Mystery Jets, sourced through the publishers' network of work contacts and friends. Since then, names as diverse as Swedish artist Carl Johan De Geer and former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe have featured, although even these are rarely contacted through traditional press avenues. ''We're friends with Michael Stipe's boyfriend, who is a really good photographer,'' Alegre says. ''You get a nice result that way but it's not possible with everyone. We'd like to feature David Hockney but it's hard when you don't know anyone.''
This naive approach gives the magazine much of its charm. Yet there are other factors that account for its impressive sales figures. Apartamento does not run trade news and refuses to run articles that promote products for fear it will corrupt the spirit of the magazine. It charges a high cover price upwards of $30, bucking the trend to go free and rely on advertising, which is minimal. Apartamento is also distributed directly to shops - concept stores and bookshops, as well as news stands - giving more control and a bigger slice of the profits. Its chief operations officer, Victor Abellan, says the distribution network is in keeping with the magazine's ethos. ''Speaking directly to stores gives us an emotional link between the reader, the retailer and the magazine,'' he says.
Apartamento ... the cult interiors magazine now draws a global following.
The whole thing has a strong human aspect, linking homes to the people who live in them, rather than the items within. As designer Andy Beach says in issue seven: ''A real living space is made from living, not decorating. A bored materialist can't understand that a house has to become a home.''
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