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April 30th, 2009
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 10:23 am

Shortly after blogging yesterday about shanty towns, I went out to my post box and found issue 3 of Apartamento magazine, the post-materialist interiors magazine I've talked about before in Click Opera. It's one of the few magazines I get really excited to see, and I think that's because it's the one mag that really gets the idea that designy-design (design that looks showroomy and aspirational) is over. This is an interiors magazine for the rest of us; the apartments illustrated in its pages are understated, poor, sometimes shabby and casual, but with subtle touches which reveal their occupants to be originals, aesthetes. Sure, to juxtapose an interiors magazine with shanty towns might sound obscene, but if there's any non-obscene way these different worlds might be seen to co-exist, the crossover point would be the attractively scaled-down visions of a magazine like Apartamento.



Interiors magazines traditionally represent untouchable people in unattainable environments, but this one feels -- to me, anyway -- uncannily close to home; I seem to know half the people in it. There's Ezra Koenig on the front cover -- a man who still writes me interesting letters, despite my nuanced article about his band Vampire Weekend. The first big feature is about Alex Singh, in whose "Tudor village in a warehouse" in Bushwick I actually lived for three months while appearing, in 2006, as the Unreliable Tour Guide at the Whitney.



The inside back area of the magazine features Audrey Fondecave showing the magazine around exactly the same Nakameguro house I mentioned yesterday as the "honourable exception" to the appallingly designy-design interiors featured in a french documentary about Tokyo life. Then there's a piece about Bless here in Berlin, and one about a plyboard-tastic nursery school designed by Jean Touitou, the founder of APC, who once showed me around his music studio in Paris.



So what recurs in this issue of Apartamento, other than the fact that I vaguely know a lot of the people featured? Well (and here we return to the aesthetic appeal of shanty towns), lots of casual construction in untreated chipboard and plyboard is happening. Some art students in Basel are using chipboard box shelves for their books about the Bauhaus. Touitou's Ateliers de la Petite Enfance uses raw screwed-together plywood throughout. Then there's a whole piece about the plants in a Stockholm apartment -- perfectly ordinary houseplants. The third buzzword, if we're glomming onto Apartamento's style, would be patina.



I suppose the main thing is that although you see nothing in Apartamento that looks like designy-design (that looks, in other words, like it's in an overpriced design furniture store in some yuppie docklands development), there are little touches of modest magic in amongst eccentric juxtapositions of quirky tat and humble junk. There's the Bless-Apartamento collaboration Windowgarden, a perspex box that fits your window frame and brings the outside space -- in a gesture worthy of Vito Acconci -- further into your interior, including any plants and animals that care to come. Or there are the undramatic custom shelf-covers and doors Audrey and Yoshi have made for their condemned Tokyo house "Ma Mere" -- like all Tokyo houses it's worth less than the land it stands on, so any improvements made to it are provisional, and will only last until it's pulled down.

I'll probably take a royal beating from some of the Anons for saying this, but the obscene gap between the haves (pricey designy-design, celebrity, resource-hogging, anal levels of perfection) and the have-nots (shabby cheap materials, self-build, impermanence, plants and children everywhere) just got -- thanks to this magazine, and the new attitude it represents -- a bit less obscene. For better or for worse, these two vastly separate worlds are coming into the same frame.

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