Archive for the 'Art Deco' Category

stairway to heaven


You may have navigated among my links here on the right hand side, so you know that two of them are dedicated to staircases. One for humans , called Stairporn, and the other for feline friends: Catladder.

I love both blogs and I would like to thank Stairporn for publishing, in his stunningly beautiful new website, also one of my pre-digital era pictures, which means a lot to me…a staircase in Tangier.

I am not a good photographer but the thought of this staircase kept me awake all night back in 1998 and the emotion of it is still vivid. My friend Lys and I had just arrived in Tangier after having hitch-hiked the Rif all the way down from Chefchaouen to the Mediterranean and the atmosphere of this old hotel where we moored was amazing. I could not sleep all night at the thought of this stunning vertigo view. At 5 am, as soon as light started to filter through, I left the room we shared and ventured out in the deserted hotel to take this picture.

As I was returning to the room, I spotted a very elderly waiter, a Philippe Noiret lookalike, retrieving his bow tie from his pocket while keeping the tray on balance…and adjusting it carefully before knocking at our door. He served our breakfast with infinite grace in the once grand, now shabby but dignified hotel room…

love at first light

I had been looking – unsuccessfully so far  – for bauhaus lamps during my latest weekends in Berlin. But this time round I badly needed to get some lamps in the living room. We need enlightment during our berliner weekends…


Unconvinced I went to the IKEA round the corner. I had seen a number of times their lamps offer and nothing really inspired me. Älang looked too late-1990s. Stockholm had nothing to do with the flat and was too shiny. The cone-shaped lamps look too IKEA to feel real. I think IKEA has some great pieces of design, but I don’t want to feel like I’m living in a catalogue.

So I thought to get some cheap paper Noguchi-style lamps, such as Storm, in order to solve the problem with an emergency solution and look for proper lamps with more time on my hands.

But then, I came across a new design, which was not yet on the paper catalogue I had perused on the plane. It was the perfect product! Heavy it was, made of metal, mat finish, and that sounded good…with a”capsized wok” shape which I found very functional and yes, very bauhaus.

The other bauhaus thing is the dimmer. A beautiful, functional, simple steel button very visible and easy to find, not those hideous plastic sliding boxy switches getting in the way on the floor (even classy Artemide makes such mis-bauhaus mistakes), or those very anglo nasty little hard levers hidden too close to the lightbulb.

So these lamps did respond to a few basic bauhaus rules of thumb, and I got the standing and the table versions. In black. Drop-dead gorgeous. Almost broke my back carrying them around in the store but hey I had found the perfect lamps!


The quality of light is golden and warm, which complements the masculine and serious shape of the lamp. The designers A. Nilsson/H. Preutz/T. Eliasson in my opinion wanted definitely to honour the 80th anniversary of bauhaus with this product. And even if this is not true, it shows that sometimes, waiting for the right encounter pays back. Love at first light.


IKEA arbitrageurs: this lamp is more expensive in Germany than in Italy. We discussed on this blog already about price discrepancies at IKEA and so far I had spotted that kitchens and curtains were much more expensive in Italy. Probably for lamps the elasticity of demand is lower in Germany than in Italy?

sleeping in


Last weekend, first night in the flat! The flat needs still a bit of work on the storage units, so there are still tools and paint around the living room. But bathroom, kitchen and bedroom were up and running. And anyway, no hotel or B&B had been booked…so I would have slept in the flat no matter the situation.

Tests were ok and with flying colours…

Opting for a big shower (2m x 1m) rather for a bathtube was definitely a good idea, especially with the rainshower set. The snowy and icy cold weather in Berlin provided the ideal test also for the heating system below the dark anthracite grey tiles of the bathroom. It’s a pleasure to walk barefoot on something very similar to stones warmed by the sun. Our personal zero tolerance for bathroom furniture – except from a built-in small cabinet – also gives to the bathroom a nice mineral feeling, quite warm thank you to the mixed use of mosaic and milky-white tiles on the walls.

The kitchen test was limited to a good cup of tea as I had not bought groceries…in the picture you see a gorgeous constructivist-looking IKEA teapot. I bought the bold zinc letters forming our logo (RC)^2 last summer in NYC at the Anthropology store on Madison. Oh boy, at that time we just had the keys of the flat and the project was just a sketch done on the table of our favorite roman pizzeria while brainstorming with our architect. I can’t believe that sketch is now reality…

The living room hosted still a bit of work in progress, but it’s the only room which retained its original destination, albeit slightly modified by the disguised presence of the kitchen and by a mimetic mezzanine. The Rundbogenfenster – sort of bow window – was refurbished but untouched. A kind neighbor who lived 1945 in this Altbau building said that we are lucky to be on the front side of the building, which was not damaged by bombs and this explains the fact that these windows are only present on one side of the house. As the oak original flooring and ancient bamboo internal ceiling structure.

The bedroom is fully furnished even if curtains are badly needed in order to guarantee some quiet sleep, the 2 windows are indeed big and flood the room with light.

My brother and I bought a small radio-alarm clock in order to have some familiar noises around us. We were surprised by how silent the flat is, good 1900’s isolation, I suppose. We could hear steps on the kerb covered with icy snow during the night.

I hope that on the next trip MeinMann will be able to join me to Berlin, to see the result! He found this flat during our second flat-hunting campaign, back in november 2007, we signed the contract together in december 2007 and since June 2008 – when we finally got the keys – it’s been my task to commute monthly to Berlin.

I am now on first-name terms with a few cafe-keepers and shop assistants, I’ve found out what I can get at Aldi and what deserves a trip to Kaiser, learned the ropes on the comprehensive pillow offer in Germany, become an expert in return Blitztrips to IKEA in under 1 hour…the Kiez is my oyster.


I am looking forward to enjoying together the Gemuetlichkeit* of our flat, after all this busy-bee activity and all the research and big and small decisions. We deserve at last some farniente in Schoeneberg, going to the market in Winterfeldplatz, buying a Bund of flowers or listening to a nice record at home…

*=something more than cozy…warm, intimate, comfortable, good to stay in…something that cats master very well as you can imagine

Neoclassicism, Historicism, Jugendstil…and maybe Art deco?

The Flat was built in 1914…not yet Bauhaus time, not yet Art Deco…still Jugenstil and not far from Neoclassicism.. There is a Jugendstil flavour in the external stuccos, but if the building’s structure is definitely massive Neoclassicism – Historicism without organic indulgence.


Bauhaus hadn’t arrived yet: no flat roof, no big glass windows, no bare shapes, on the contrary…our roof is pretty pointy, very bavarian, I suppose? (Bayerisches Viertel oblige!).

Yet you can perceive it was built during a sort of transition phase, in which organic decoration and redundant shapes left space to purer lines. There were more Modern Times in the air. Skirts were getting shorter, too.

Maybe it is easier to compare our beloved Altbau with sibling buildings born in the same years. Thanks to the fantastic Berlin Architecture Guide we discovered many interesting stories. For instance, the Flat falls in the same generation of the KaDeWe building…(and in the same area, as well).cimg0049

It’s Prussian and massive…at the time of building quite an exploit.


Another masterpiece of the days just before WWI is the U-bahn 4, and its magnificient stations! This one is Rathaus Schoeneberg, the prettiest in town and one of the first…at the time of construction its name was Stadtpark Schoeneberg, you can still see the old name in mosaic letters.


Here we are in 100%  Schoeneberg treasure territory…The U-bahn connecting the Schoeneberg village to Berlin was built for ladies to go to KaDeWe shopping in an Augenblick!

This is the only station in Berlin from which you can admire ducks diving and herons fishing while waiting for the tube inside the cozy french-window tunnel. A tunnel with a view…an U-bahn with windows…that’s Industriekultur…pragmatism plus beauty.


Hum…almost Art Deco-ish, isn’t it?


Yes…the form is definitely following the function…this pillar is beautifully crafted, yet it is definitely a pillar, no useless iron with bolts. We’re definitely in the era of Industriekultur, when technology had still a craftmanship soul and craftsmen and ironsmiths had branding power. Do visit the Museum of Technology and you will dive into railway beauty! But let’s not part from the lane of this post…

The U-bahnlinie 4 was built around 1908, it is just 2,9 km long, and MeinMann and I call it “our own private underground”. Viktoria-Louise Platz station (and square) are also beautiful, and one wonders how nice Bayerisches Platz had to be at the time of construction…sadly now a lot must be left to imagination due to bombings during WWII…it was a beauty in 1935.

Well, let’s get to the terminus station, Nollendorfplatz, the station with a fancy hat! In front of the station there is another Neoclassical-almost Art Deco building, constructed more or less in the same pre-pre-war years, the Goya…I really have to get this book by Susanne Twardawa about Nollendorfplatz…it’s a Kiez full of history and central in the Berlin history.

I try to visualize those building sites, in between 1908 and 1914…a new neighbourhood in the making, modern U-bahn systems, and a brand new cafe’ and shopping district to serve the new citizens…

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