Location: Mitte, Berlin, Germany
Size: 1,000 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years; rented
Lofted high above fashionable Torstrasse in Mitte, with views to Berlin's famous Fernsehturm in Alexanderplatz and busy Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, scientist Robert lives in a quietly stylish Dachgeschoss (attic level) one-bedroom apartment. From this mixture of wooden beams and expansive views of sky, vintage classics and locally produced individual pieces, inherited Chinese antiques and utilitarian IKEA storage, caramel-colored leather and steel, he's managed to create a beautiful balance of style and substance.
Despite the careful calibration at work between unexpected elements, every piece in Robert's apartment — from the artwork and the furniture to the lamps and casually displayed Polaroid photos and ticket stubs — contributes to a highly personal narrative of travel, art, music, gifts and treasures, family and friends.
And, like a chemical reaction of the elements of the space, there are accidental, beautiful vignettes everywhere you look; compositions of books and mementos unfold naturally, organically. The neon pink of graffiti above the dining table plays off the silver of low hung lamp; a Smeg fridge stands alongside a mini-library of German and English books. The antique armoire near the balcony door was acquired in Beijing in the 1990s and now holds a home bar and photography equipment; its dignified presence runs an elegant counterpoint to the heaps of LPs scattered around the stereo and the white lacquer of the Vitra coffee tables. And centering the main room like a force field of gorgeous, ruby light is the lamp standing between the dining and kitchen area, commissioned from a local Berlin artist. The shade is made from a 1930s kimono; balanced on a pin leg, its lilac cord trails underneath the dining table. Slipping down into one of the vintage Barcelona chairs under the darkening September sky to listen to some records, with the low-slung room lit by the vintage movie spot, there is a sense that — whether it was intended or not — everything has come together quite perfectly.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Largely contemporary and urban, mixed with Chinese antiques, mid-century modern furniture, and a lot of books.
Inspiration: Raw factory and loft spaces; Berlin and New York City.
Favorite Element: Having a place to turn on the stereo and listen to music.
Biggest Challenge: The ceilings — though being on the top floor of the building is great for views, the low ceiling height can feel a little cave-like.
What Friends Say: Some may have hummed or sung, "Well you know that I'd love to live with you, but you make me forget so very much…"
Biggest Embarrassment: The barren balcony. It needs to be fixed up, or needs a comfortable place to sit, or really just anything. And, though all the Barcelona chairs are great to look at, they're not exactly cozy — I need a comfortable sofa.
Proudest DIY: Assembling the massive wardrobe in the bedroom. I managed to do it myself but since that harrowing experience have vowed to never buy anything pre-assembly from IKEA. And, the photographs hung above the dining table are my own: they're photos of graffiti from the same wall in NYC over a few years; you can see the evolution from Kate Moss to… a deer.
Biggest Indulgence: The stereo. I first saw it in the 1990s in a Düsseldorf bar called "Salon des Amateurs". It was love at first sight (even though I initially mistook it for a radiator). And even though it took a long time to finally acquire it (I only got it a few months ago), it was very much worth the wait.
Best Advice: Follow your instincts over anything else; purchase furniture made by people you can meet and interact with.
Dream Sources: Oswald Mill's house in NYC
Resources of Note:
• Low cabinets: Chinese; 300-400 years old and bought at auction by Robert's father
• Granite bowl: from a store in Ouro Preto, Brazil
• Kissing lions: Beijing, 1993
• Horst Janssen
• Eames Hang It All: a birthday gift from Robert's sister
• Barcelona chairs: all inherited from his father
• White coffee tables: Vitra, bought in Berlin
• Record player table: Thonet, bought in Berlin
• Standing black lamp: Serge Mouille, bought in Berlin
• Large armoire: Beijing, 1990s
• Stereo system: restored and recently purchased in Berlin, 1960s/70s system
• Old movie spot: Objets trouvés
• Table: Dielerei
• Chairs: "Naoko" by designer Stanislaus Kutac, made around 1990, purchased at Appel Gallery on Torstrasse in Berlin
• Graffiti art: Robert's own photography
• CD shelves: Linea 1
• Kimono-Lamp: "Hellebarde" by Tom Kuehne (Berlin)
• Art above refrigerator: Olivier Saudan
• Chrome bookshelf: System 180 (Berlin)
• Chinese figure on shelf: brought over by Robert's grandmother when she moved from China in the 1950s
• Calendar: Morr Music
• Kitchen chairs: Tecta (passed on from a family member)
• Wardrobe: IKEA
• Bed: made by a designer in Düsseldorf, no longer in production
• Bedside lamp: Wagenfeld
• Art above bed: Stefanie Schuster, "Brooklyn Bridge"
(Images: Lydia Brotherton)
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