Archive for the 'Bauhaus' Category

3 years later…

Three years have gone by since we bought our flat in Berlin (the first one).

What happened in the meantime?

On a parallel street a new building in neo-bauhaus style has just been built. Prices for these new properties vary from 3,500 to 5,000 Eur per square meter. Well, there is so much real estate worth renewing in Berlin that new buildings could be avoided, right…still the prices tells something about the direction the market has taken in Berlin during the crisis.

The construction company who carryed over the refurbishing of our flat is always as busy. Business did not slow down for them, they are excellent craftsmen after all. Refurbishing of existing buildings in the Kiez carries on, both on Wilmersdorf’s side and on Kreuzberg’s side.

The Kiez has not over-gentrified in the meantime, and that is good. Across the townhall I’ve spotted a new patisserie and the smith has gone. But maybe he was not a good smith after all…his store was always closed, the service was a bit patchy.

The Kiez did not become fashionable, there are no fancy boutiques and we still have all our bakeries, delightful independent bookstores and stationery shops.


user friendly?

It is always difficult to figure out the exact ergonomics of a living space, first on the paper with the architect project, then when you do some little changes as work unfolds. Again when you have to furnish the place and imagine how you will move around in the house.

This week A flat in Berlin underwent its user friendliness test. Even more demanding: a”friend friendliness” test!

Friends flocking to the city for the Bread and Butter fashion week stayed at our flat. Rome’s monsoon season was responsible for their adventurous arrival in Berlin at 2am at Schönefeld, but eventually the ladies were able to take a well-deserved night’s sleep in quiet Schöneberg, before tackling their busy schedule of meetings at the fair the next day.

Apparently the user friendliness test was passed with flying colors! They found the right things in the right drawers, they liked the big window and the solutions we adopted. Nutella and Wasa in the pantry were a welcome comfort food after their long hours in the aircraft stuck on the tarmac waiting for takeoff… 😀   I know the feeling!!!

personal bauhaus -1

bauhaus 01

Ok ok, it’s been a bit too flowery around here in the latest posts. So let’s go back to the roots of our own private interpretation of “Prussian Altbau grows bauhaus with a little help from recycling and IKEA”.

In our flat we had excellent raw materials to work with. First of all, a century-old oak herringbone parquet, restored to its glorious beauty. Oh, if you could hear the sound of it!

The flat has indeed great bones, namely its 4-metres-high walls. After lots, lots of research, we chose a warm shade of gray, in order to make the cold North-German winter light seem warmer. I agree with Bruno Taut: even under the strictest bauhaus constraints, white in Germany is treacherous, it can turn to “gray-ish white” very easily. White is abbacinante in Italy (can’t find the proper word in English…light so strong it makes you blind), but we feared it may turn into psychiatric-hospital mood under the Berlin sky…especially on bare walls.

I quite like the way – in Germany, mainly – wood is being refrigerated by adding stainless steel. I don’t know if this is quintessential to bauhaus, but it definitely is for me. This is the rationale for the IKEA table with stainless steel U-shaped legs, and for the cantilevered chairs found at a second-hand store, little Marcel Breuer mongrels with a couple of Wassily genes. You saw them dusty in previous posts.

Talking about stainless steel, MeinMann is still skeptical on this solution, maybe as a character in a novel in the ’30s who described this furniture as “dentists’ style”. We well see how we get along with these objects.

And the french doors? They match our Prussian beautiful bow-window, the stucco on the ceiling, all things which are so un-bauhaus. But even during bauhaus, people didn’t throw in the bin their Jugendstil apartments. The flats transitioned from one style to another. The Altbau was born under Historicismus, was raised under Jugendstil, but I like to imagine that it became adult and independent only with the bauhaus, in the ’30s.

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?

The Ironed Curtain


I hate watching TV in the afternoon, but the Giro d’Italia speeds through Friuli Venezia Giulia,  across the plains, and heads to my Triest! How beautiful to see views of the Adriatic Sea!

I also hate ironing, by the way.

But ironing my new Berlin curtains while watching the ciclisti speeding across the Karst along the Gulf of Triest is a must!

In Berlin there are no blinds. So if you want to sleep you need curtains. I do not particularly love them but I like my 8 hours of sleep.

I went to a professional Gardinen stylists to hear the prices. I was looking for a cotton, mature plum, contemporary fitted heavy curtain. They didn’t have exactly what I was looking for…they were bordering on bordeaux and that’s not my cup of tea. Anyway. Made to measure, consider Eur 810 for our tall and large bedroom window. Argh! More expensive than my sliding-doors white gorgeous IKEA wardrobe!

An emergency solution was needed. I had indeed spotted my favorite color with the nice metal eyelets in the curtain department at IKEA, but the size didn’t fit. But…you just need to buy 2 sets of curtains, and add those missing 30cm by sacrificing one set. The remaining curtain can be used to double up the fabric which hangs in front of the window, in order to make it even darker. The part which hangs in front of the heating does not need to be too thick, in order to let the heat through.

The mature plum color is quite neutral, for summer and winter. It fits very well with white and beige panaches, or with lime green and brown. With pinks and magenta, or with any shade of yellow. So there’s plenty of room for playing around with colors in the bedroom, and little constraints

They metal eyelets are very bauhaus and absolutely not romantic and fluffy. They fit with the very simple stucco on the ceiling. They are linear and practical, the curtain can slide fast on the rails and believe me, when the ceiling is 4-metre high, that helps.

IKEA arbitrage tip: purple Merete curtains are only available in Germany, not in Italy. The price in Italy is Eur 39,95. You will not be surprised to hear that the same product (declined in more colors) in Germany is only Eur 29.90. So, two sets for 60 Euro…and I love purple

just DIY it!

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