In the mid eighties in Ghent, the first – and sadly also the only – Chambre d’Amis took place. An exhibition curated by Jan Hoet that was hosted in 72 private homes of the Belgian city. The term Chambre d’amis literally means guest-room, and what the exhibition did was to invite artists to place their work within the context of an assigned home. The artists were encouraged to use any of the given information related to the space they were invited to. Artist Gordon Matta-Clark used this opportunity to make one of his “cuts” in an existing old building. While Joseph Kosuth chose to clad the entire house of a psychiatrist with quotes by Freud. What Chambre d’Amis broke with was the traditional setting of the museum and gallery. Letting artists work within the given context of a private space, meant that a lot of this private information got intertwined with the work and it encouraged visitors to step over a completely different threshold. The gallery setting was that of anonymity, the home however was an inescapably private world.
This interaction between private and public has become an even bigger notion in recent years. The internet, and specifically Social Media platforms, have become a fruitful medium for creative initiatives that aim to showcase an ideology or lifestyle that holds a close connection to the notions of home or community – it has brought forth major platforms like Freunde von Freunden or Kinfolk. This open door policy has found its way to retail, catering, fashion and has even created new economic models. Just think about Airbnb.
In this light, the fashion label BLESS decided that, instead of having a traditional runway fashion show, it would host its own at a friend’s apartment. Next to the fashion shows, the brand also owns a BLESS-home. This showroom and shop is located in an apartment, which is actually inhabited by the ‘sales’ person. The apartment is furnished with all sorts of objects: clothing, jewellery, accessories and other artefacts made by the brand as well as all the private belongings of its tenant.
Another example is the Sammlung Boros collection in Berlin. Albeit the old massive bunker might not really look all too homey from the outside, it was bought by Christian and Karen Boros to be turned into their home annex gallery. The upper floor is their penthouse-apartment, you can think of the massive art gallery as their cellar.
Amidst of all these initiatives, there is one magazine that aims to show as many of these out of the ordinary interiors as possible:
” Open-House Magazine is a twice yearly publication, that looks to bright, creative people from around the world, that open their homes or their private spaces to the public, to make different activities about gastronomy, art and design.”
The magazine started out as a project by Andrew Trotter and Mari Luz Vidal: an interior designer from the Yorkshire Dales and a photographer from Spain. Their home in Barcelona functions partly as a gallery, partly as a dinner venue and partly as a meeting space. In an interview for Freunde von Freunden, they explain the origins of the Openhouse project:
Andrew: I met Mari because I stayed in her house in Bilbao for a week. Then we moved into a tiny flat in Barcelona and I started Openhouse, my design shop that I wanted to feel like a house. Just before we found this flat, Mari had an idea…
Mari: Yep, I wanted to invite our friends so that they could help me prepare an exhibition. The idea was to serve some drinks on the terrace and then people could look at all the photos and help with the editing – so basically choose the direction and the relationship between the photographs for the exhibition. Then, when I found this house, I thought: Wow, I have to wait! This is the place for my exhibition! The house is like a gallery with four meter high ceilings – it’s amazing. And then our next thought was: Hey, once we have this house, we could do exhibitions with all kinds of people, not just my own projects.
Andrew: When we moved we said: This is the real open house. So we called it the Openhouse Project. The idea just grew organically with us. Nobu came four months later. He did the catering for the first exhibition and then he decided to move in. One day I got home and they were all sitting on the sofa, they turned to me and said: “We’re going to start making dinners, too!”
Their personal approach and the laid back setting created the perfect place for encounter. Visitors would sit on the beds, wander through the rooms and stay for a drink or two. Soon, people were not just ringing the doorbell but also contacting them for interesting and similar places to visit. They decided it would be great to unite all like-minded projects in a special publication. In this way, Openhouse would also function as a guide to their secret loved places, recipes and anything that came to mind.
The first issue was brought to life with a crowdfunding campaign, and ever since the magazine has stayed true to its roots. Inside, the reader will find a welcoming bundle of stories and beautiful shots of not-so everyday homes.
Words by Sara Martín Mazorra.