At work with: Alex Bagner, Guestbook

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Following Easter weekend – the perfect time for mini-breaks to favourite cities – we start the week off by speaking with Alex Bagner, editor of onefinestay’s journal Guestbook. The holiday rental website publishes the free lifestyle magazine for their hosts and guests, and the stories inside are dedicated to making readers feel at home in a new city. We speak with Alex as the magazine’s new, stripped-back redesign for issue eight is published.

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Where are you today?

At the onefinestay London office, by Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell. People are always amazed at quite how many people work here. There’s around 150 people spread over four floors, including a bustling ground floor coffee-shop/meeting space.

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What can you see from the window?
My view from the 1st floor isn’t remarkable, but the light that streams through the large industrial windows on a sunny afternoon is extraordinary. Also, I’m right by a church, and I love hearing the bells chime every hour – it keeps me focussed.

Are you a morning or evening person?
I used to always get up super early to get things done and hit deadlines, but that back-up time has been taken over somewhat by my five and three year old, who also tend to be very busy shortly after sunrise. These days it’s about focusing as much as possible during the working day. I’d say I’m an afternoon person and have honed the art of concentrating and not getting distracted between 11am and 5pm.

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Which magazine do you first remember?
Going way back it was Just Seventeen, moving on to Sky, The Face, Dazed, i-D. I’ve been into magazines for as long as I can remember. I went travelling for 8 months when I was 19, and I met up with my best friend on a beach in Thailand at the end of my trip and asked her what’s been happening while I’d been away. She handed me a copy of Loaded. I devoured every page and thought, they’re having so much fun making this, that’s what I want to do.

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What’s your favourite magazine this morning?

I think The Gourmand has gone from strength to strength – this latest issue is an absolute stand out for me. I also love The Gentlewoman. And, while I admit to them piling up, I do love sitting down with The New Yorker when I have a moment. The Sunday Times Style always travels in my bag every Monday morning.

What’s your favourite city to visit at this time of year?
I was in New York this time last year, staying in a onefinestay home and pretending that I lived in Brooklyn, which was great fun. This year I’ve just booked to go to Marrakech in a few weeks. I love the blend of guaranteed comfort, exotic vibe and the potential to veer off a trodden path – that and a bit of sun.

Guestbook is published by One Fine Stay but is only subtly branded. What role does it perform for One Fine Stay?
Guestbook is sent to onefinestay’s 2000+ homeowners across London, New York, Paris and Los Angeles as well as left for guests as part of a ‘welcome pack’ in the home. Therefore its audience is already familiar to onefinestay. The objective of Guestbook is really to spark up conversation and create a journal beautiful enough to live on our homeowners’ coffee tables, and intriguing and rich enough for guests to pick up and want to take it home.

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We publish another biannual magazine, Homes, which is a more heavily branded marketing tool aimed at selling and explaining the onefinestay message.

How do you differentiate yourself from other independent travel magazines? 
Guestbook may be classed as branded content but unlike many other ‘independent’ travel magazines, its stories are not dictated by advertisers nor is the cover clamouring to be seen on the newsstand, which actually gives it an enormous freedom. It means we can be decadent with eight-page glossy photo essays, at the same time as indulgent with more wordy and high-brow articles like the eight-page LA books feature. As for the cover, it’s such a luxury to be able to keep these clean and work with great illustrators, including Daniel Frost, Ian Bilbey, Guy Billout and Made by Radio.

Tell us about your recent redesign
The redesign was the work of onefinestay’s in-house design team led by art director Thom Bradley, with Sonya Dyakova of Atelier Dyakova, as consultant creative director. Her incredible eye for what works on layout honed from working on art books at Phaidon and stickler for detail was an inspiration. Plus it was her idea to use Eley Kishimoto patterns for the section breaks, which really freshened and livened up the whole book. Guestbook has always enjoyed mixing photography with illustration, and I think the dynamic and intimate portraits this issue taken by Steven Brahms and Erwan Fichou, work well contrasted with the whimsical and more feminine drawings by Maira Kalman and Rebecca Clarke.

What are you most looking forward to this week?
We’ve just had delivery of the latest issue of Guestbook from the printer, so I’m looking forward to getting it out there. In between issues, we publish Homes magazine, so I’m about to kick-off planning and prepping for a lifestyle shoot where we’re capturing some of onefinestay’s guest stories in a considered and artistic way.

What are you least looking forward to this week?
Tackling the Guestbook distribution spreadsheet and making sure the right amount of copies gets sent to the right places.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Narrowing down which three onefinestay homes we’re going to use as locations for our lifestyle shoot for Homes magazine.

onefinestay.com/guestbook

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