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Berlin – Stockholm – Barcelona - Paris

A pop-up bookshop featuring selected literature on food, art and everyday aesthetics touring Berlin, Stockholm, Paris and Barcelona in 2024.

For the launch of the ARKET and Apartamento Bookshop, premiering at the opening of our new store in Mitte Berlin on 15 March, the Apartamento editorial team invited photographer Iris Humm to capture some day-to-day scenes and moments at their head office in Barcelona.

Robbie Whitehead: The Apartamento Bookshop was born last year during Milan’s Design Week, and it’s quickly become one of our most exciting projects. It's a travelling pop-up bookshop that's hosted by Apartamento stockists from all over the world. So it could appear in a concept store, a gallery space, in other bookshops. It's a great way for us to strengthen our relationships with our retail community and for existing readers and those that are new to the publishing house to become immersed in the Apartamento Universe. The next iteration of the Apartamento Bookshop has come together as part of an ongoing collaboration with ARKET, and it will go on a European tour throughout 2024. The first stop is the brand-new ARKET store in Berlin, and from there it will travel to Stockholm, Barcelona, and Paris.

Andrea Servert: We spend a lot of time thinking about how our books will make their way out into the world—the process doesn’t end once they come back from the printer. For instance, we find ourselves working more and more with a community of directors who create short films to accompany our print publications online. We’ve also put several exhibitions together. We host dinners and throw parties. As part of the rollout of his latest cookbook, we’ve even managed to rope Frederik Bille Brahe into a kind of world tour. Reading is a solitary endeavour, so it’s fun to create something communal, and physical spaces are great in that sense—there’s a very tangible interaction with the books and the people around you. Many of our books have a sort of touch me appeal that you simply can’t get online.

How do you explain what an Apartamento book is?

Andrea: This question is hard to answer—every Apartamento title is its own little world. Going back to what Robbie just said, we like to think of our books as spaces where we can dive deeper into a story and find the best way to tell it, so there’s a lot of testing involved. Even if a book is part of one of our ongoing series, we'll try to turn it on its head to see what genuinely works best. As a result, hopefully, you don’t get a sense of repetition if you already have a couple of our books. For instance, the annual Apartamento Cookbook is now in its ninth year, so we have the challenge of making it as surprising as the first one. Our interiors series presents homes that are really works of art by seminal artists or architects, as seen by some of our favourite photographers, like Coco Capitán, who shot Salvador Dalí’s home in Cadaqués, or Estelle Hanania, who we’re working with on a bit of a dream project: The Italian Interiors of Elsa Peretti. These ongoing series give us a certain set of parameters, and we find room to play with them. But we also like to balance this way of working with total experiments, books for which you just don't have any precedent—Anders Frederik Steen’s Poetry is Growing in Our Garden, which was edited by Maddie Willis, is a good example of that.

Putting that book together was a real journey; Maddie had to delve into eight years’ worth of diaries, Anders’ notes on wine-making and wine-drinking written in shorthand in several languages. The work paid off, though. It all came together in a super beautiful book that has been really successful—it was published in Korean just a few weeks ago, which was cool to see. Nicola L.: Life and Art is another good example. We first featured one of Nicola’s Femme Commode sculptures on the cover of issue #10 of the magazine. It belonged to Jim Walrod, a great friend to the magazine who sadly passed away in 2017. If you said to me back then, ‘We're going to make this bright orange, 304-page cushioned hardcover book on Nicola L.’, it would have felt absolutely impossible. But that article on Jim led to an article on Nicola in 2018, and it was probably at some point in 2019 that the first discussions of making a book took place. We finally published the monograph in 2022. We always knew that Nicola’s story was important and deserved to be told, but it had to go through this rather long and winding process before we could actually do it.

What’s the relationship with your contributors like? They seem to be a pivotal part of the publishing house.

Robbie: It’s kind of beautiful how close we’ve become with our network of contributors, especially those who have been here for years and years, or even since day one, in some cases. They’re like a family. So many of these relationships began with an out-of-the-blue Instagram message or an email. I think that’s really part of the DNA of Apartamento: It was never supposed to be a local thing. If you could find the email address, you could pretty much write to anyone. If you were lucky, they’d reply, and from there, you could start to build a rapport. Creating relationships through an initial, disconnected outreach from the other side of the world is a big part of it, and we continue to write those cold-call emails, so the community just keeps growing. Sometimes we get to meet a particular contributor in person after a few years’ worth of email-only correspondence. Those moments are quite emotional.

Andrea: This brings to mind our relationship with photographer Dominique Nabokov. An initial feature on her in issue #5 of the magazine led to us publishing the third instalment of her Living Rooms trilogy, Berlin Living Rooms. After the success of that book, we asked Dominique for permission to republish the first two books in her trilogy, New York Living Rooms and Paris Living Rooms, under the Apartamento imprint. That led to Dominique’s most personal project, Tante Simone, which we published last year. Part of the process of making that book involved going through Dominique’s archives in her very own Paris living room while we ate cookies and drank tea. It’s one of my favourite Apartamento memories. These relationships become true friendships that are based on trust and a mutual belief in Apartamento as a platform. So when a contributor brings us an idea for a book, if we’re in a position to do so, we may just take a leap of faith and go for it. At the same time, they let us go down the rabbit hole with the material at hand, and the final product sometimes ends up being a bit of a surprise for everyone involved—a pleasant one! As a reader, I always thought of Apartamento as a publisher that never failed to surprise me, and now that I see it from the inside as an editor, I realise that’s true for everyone involved. Working in a space that leaves room for the unexpected is a real luxury.

What’s your favourite part of the book-making process?

Robbie: Finishing them!

Andrea: I was going to say the opposite—starting. Right at the beginning of the process, there’s the excitement of the blank canvas, and you can begin to brainstorm: Who could the right photographer be? Which writer would make a good fit? What should the book feel like when you hold it in your hands? And then you set out to make that vision happen.

I really like the end of the process and having cheeky little ideas when I probably shouldn’t. Like, ‘Oh, what if we did this?’, or, ‘We haven’t thought of that’. Of course, that can be a bit stressful, and you really have to know when to wrap things up. But your mind gets completely immersed in the project right at the end of the process.

What stories are you hoping to tell in the future?

Robbie: I feel that our mission is to continue developing the series we’ve already established that explore different creative worlds and, at the same time, let more experimental projects grow organically, all the while keeping an eye out for interesting opportunities that constantly pop up. Of course, we have plenty of Excel spreadsheets full of wishlists; we want to challenge ourselves with bigger, more ambitious projects.

Andrea: As a relatively young venture, I think it’s also about continuing to experiment with what publishing can mean—what a book can mean. We want to keep working on that.