Name: Amy Walker and Ted Newiss
Location: Berlin, Germany
Size: 92 square meters (990 square feet)
Years lived in: 3 years; Rented
Tucked away in the genteel Wilmersdorf district of Berlin, in a classic Altbau (old construction) building, you'll find Amy and Ted's feathered, eclectic nest by walking through the gray light of a hushed, green courtyard and up a ridiculously tiring seven flights of stairs. Up here, in early summer, the double paned windows are opened wide to overlook the quiet pre-war buildings and leafy streets of the neighborhood below, and the swallows swoop past at dusk.
The aviary theme continues through their magpie approach to decorating: it's a home filled with beloved odds and ends, flea market trinkets, hand-made notes, photographs, surprises, and lots of pillows — all held together by a thoughtful use of vibrant color, cozy texture, and inviting comfort.
Amy and Ted arrived in Berlin only three years ago, but their place reflects years of collecting and tinkering and decorating, and several cities' worth of deal hunting. The sober Altbau construction of the apartment building and older neighborhood is tempered by their own youthful playfulness, and loads of natural creativity — Ted is an illustrator and animator, while Amy teaches music in one of Berlin's bilingual schools, and is also a photographer. While a good deal of their furniture hails from one of the three IKEAs in Berlin — an inevitable fact of living in this city — a few of the bigger items, such as the bed, were shipped over from London; much of the pottery, dishware, and accessories comes from their local flea market; and a good dose of the furniture in the flat was found for free, at night, outside the antique store down the street.
Given the number of art projects continually in progress in their house, it's not surprising that DIY has its influence here, as well: chairs have been recovered, lamps rewired, curtains sewn, and tables painted. Musical instruments of all shapes and sizes are scattered about the house, Ted's desk is an explosion of art supplies, travel guides to any place you'd like to go line the bookshelves, a map of Berlin near the door points out which friends live where, and mementos from visits to NYC and Paris and signs of a general pan-European experience are everywhere, jumbled among the books and photographs.
While it's certainly a fun and modern mix, what prevails above all in their place is an irrepressible sense of English coziness: most visits to Amy and Ted's include an expertly mixed gin cocktail, and movies (or slideshows of photos from recent trips, or live broadcasts from Berlin Philharmonic's digital concert hall, or youtube marathons) projected onto the big screen — which is actually a giant IKEA rolling window shade — with optimal viewing in the deep, comfy couches. When I arrived on a sunny morning for photographs and a chat, two recently found chairs were in the hallway, waiting to be reupholstered; flowers, pastries, and coffees had just been brought up from the corner market, and Lotte Lenya singing Kurt Weill songs was on the record player. I was happy to stay a while.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style/Inspiration: To sum it up, I would say our style is English eclecticism, cozy, quirky and modern. To determine if something fits in my aesthetic, I just have to ask, "do I like it?" and "does it make me feel something?" I'm obsessed with Altbau, finding stuff off the street and seeing what I can do with it, Berlin flea markets, and remixing IKEA purchases to be something more personal. I truly believe that your home should be the ultimate expression of who you are, not just a bunch of purchases off the high street. I'm inspired by the decorating magazine LivingEtc, Graham & Green, art gallery shops, Fishs Eddy, big capital cities.
Favorite Element: Besides the south facing front room and being able to watch the birds fly by, I would say the chaise lounge. It is an old family piece, and my parents let me have it. I had it reupholstered in London by a friend (who now renovates furniture for Harvey Nichols), using Designer's Guild velvet. I love it and plan to have it forever — a totally worthwhile investment.
Biggest Challenge: Getting everything across the ocean! Also we have rental woes with the kitchen and bathroom — they're not ideal spaces, and we can't change anything about them.
What Friends Say: We love it! We're overwhelmed with jealousy! Particularly, anyone coming from a tiny London flat seems to mention the sheer amount of space.
Biggest Embarrassment: Clutter, and the fact that there are no closets, and everything is out on show. Also, moths.
Proudest DIY: The big grey, oversized lamp. We wanted an oversized lamp and then we found this one at the flea market near our house for 15 euros. It was totally hideous when we found it: faux bamboo with a yellow plastic shade and dodgy wiring. Ted rewired it, sanded it, painted it a gray matte shade, then we stripped the frame of its plastic cover, and upholstered it in 10 euros worth of IKEA fabric. We wanted a surreal print. The pompoms (a gift from a parent of one of my students at school) were added later.
Biggest Indulgence: The projector!
Best Advice: (per the poster in the front room, from C/O Gallerie in Berlin): SHOW THAT YOU ARE NOT AFRAID! And, follow your desires, regardless of trends.
Dream Sources: Heal's, Liberty in London, Selfridges, flea markets everywhere, Crate & Barrel in the US (it's something amazing and exotic to non-Americans).
Resources of Note:
- • Bed: shipped from England. Originally from Habitat, bought via Ebay
• Wardrobe: PAX from IKEA (discontinued green doors)
• Bedspread/bolster cushions: hand sewn from IKEA fabrics
• Bedstand: from a charity shop in London
• Alarm clock: Habitat
- • Table: IKEA, covered in waxed cotton from OK
• Nearly all the cutlery and dishes and cooking items are from flea markets or
• Big couch: IKEA (discontinued)
• Small white octagonal table: family
• Lamp: vintage
• Carpet: TK MAXX (Euro version of TJ Maxx)
• Pinecones (in bowl on white table): believe it or not, these are from all over the
world, including one from Paris Disneyland.
- • Chaise from family, reupholstered in Designer's Guild velvet
• Floral chair: found outside the antique shop near our flat at, like, 3:00 AM
• Gray couch: Habitat, bought via Ebay
• Bookcase: antique shop
• Desk: IKEA
• Case beneath cameras: from an antique's market in London
• Bread bin: flea market
• Swimmer photo: by Amy
• Grandfather watercolor: by Ted
• Water painting: by Paul Ashurst, Amy's Uncle
• Various posters from around Berlin (Andreas Gursky exhibit; C/O Gallerie)
• Curtains: gray IKEA curtains, layered with African dress fabric
Thanks, Amy & Ted!
(Images: Lydia Brotherton)
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— Lydia Brotherton