Zehlendorf and the 60s

In the New York Times, an article with a nice slide-show about a refurbishing done by an american couple. Excerpt…

Within Berlin, a Modern Suburban Home

Richard L. Harbus for The New York TimesA Taste of the ’60s

Harvey Friedman and Cynthia Barcomi-Friedman live in a modern, two-story building in the Zehlendorf district of Berlin.

It isn’t every day that you find a wild boar and its 10 babies wandering around a city neighborhood.

But for Harvey Friedman, a Pittsburgh-born actor, life in Berlin has included a series of such encounters. And when he describes them, his theatrical background comes in handy. (Mr. Friedman will soon be seen in American theaters as Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist, in “Valkyrie,” starring Tom Cruise, which is scheduled for release Dec. 26.) Mr. Friedman stands and flaps his arms to re-enact the flight of a giant crane, which recently descended from the roof of his house in the Zehlendorf district. He has also seen foxes rummaging through the trash.

Mr. Friedman has been a resident of this upscale neighborhood — and an acquaintance of its wild inhabitants — since 2005, when he bought a home here with his wife, Cynthia Barcomi Friedman, a Seattle native who owns two popular Berlin coffee houses, both called Barcomi’s.

In stark contrast to the sumptuous villas that line the streets in Zehlendorf, the Friedmans’ home is a modern two-story building in white. A boxy room that juts out from the first floor is in the Bauhaus style, Mr. Friedman said. “Bauhaus only went to 1933,” he added. “However, the influence is completely manifested here. There is nothing ostentatious. Form follows function. This is just a living room with a view,” he said pointing to the herb garden through the window.

Built in the 1960s, the property was only the second place that the family viewed after deciding to buy into Berlin’s bargain-filled housing market. “You couldn’t buy a one-bedroom flat in London for what we paid for this house,” said Mr. Friedman, who declined to disclose the purchase price.

Houses in the neighborhood average around 3,000 euros per square meter ($390 per square foot), according to area real estate agents, who note that redevelopment of a former United States military base in Zehlendorf has attracted foreign investors.

“Prices in Zehlendorf have always been pretty stable,” said Brian O’Connor of the Berlin-based AdHoc Immobilien. “It has always been a middle-class West German neighborhood. But in private home sales, you are more likely to see foreigners invest in more central areas like Mitte or Prenzlauerberg.”

The 250-square-meter (2,690-square-foot) home sits on 1,400 square meters (a third of an acre) of land, along with 13 pine trees.

The Friedmans have retained the house’s ’60s-style décor, with Mrs. Barcomi Friedman bringing period artwork and furniture from her late mother’s home in Seattle to fill the living room.

Outdoors, in addition to the herb garden, there is a pond, and a garage that houses Mr. Friedman’s 1979 MG Midget. There also is a long stone structure that the family uses to hold firewood and other odds and ends. Mr. Friedman suggested, over a cigar on the patio, that it must have been built as a bomb shelter. “It is so solid,” he said. “I’m sure that is what the original owner had in mind.”

The neighborhood is close to the Schlachtensee and Krumme Lanke lakes and sprawling local forests, where Berliners often come to swim and hike. The Friedmans say the large houses in the district and its slow pace of life remind them of American suburbs.

But there are differences. “It is not as hectic here as in the U.S.,” Mrs. Barcomi Friedman said. “I feel the kids are really safe, and you don’t have the fear factor you have over there.”

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