Posts Tagged 'home'

ivory-towel attitude

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I admit, I am fond of haberdashery, DYI and papeterie. These were my favorite shops when I was a kid. In the 70s bricolage was all the rage and these were the shops I would visit together with mum or dad. Looking for the right tools to scrap paint from a wall, or for a new elastic textile-rubber waist band for the pajamas.

At that time you would repair things. So as a kid and teenager I helped in all sort of manual work in the house, except electric stuff and car maintenance where my job was limited to “hold this and don’t move”. This does not mean I was good at it or that I enjoyed all chores. I loved knitting but I hated embroidering. I loved gardening and I hated sand-papering wood planks.

It seems now that the only thing people need to “repair” is the skin (from our stressful lives, from the sun…). You buy buy buy and never do maintenance to objects or simply repair them.

Living in a flat is not so conducive to manual work (where do you store all the tools?) but there are some things that help us in focusing on MAKING things rather than buying them. The obvious one is cooking. Another one could be recycling.

So my latest recycling has something to do with haberdashery. When you merge two “homes” – MeinMann’s and mine, 10 years ago – you suffer from an overflow of stuff. Kilometers of excess white fluffy towels were stored away in boxes with cedar wood. So when it came to buying the stock of towels for The Flat in Berlin I resisted the temptation to grab the towels at IKEA, which was the easiest option, and rather trans-shipped our pristine excess inventory from Rome, courtesy of easyjet. More space in the wardrobe in Rome!

In order to make things easier when there will be friends staying at The Flat in Berlin and in order to have some fun, I popped down to one of the last haberdasheries of our Quartiere in Rome and bought the fantastic fettuccia. Yes, like fettuccine. It’s bias banding, a colored textile tape. Washing-machine safe.

Like glasses in a party, each couple of towels has been color-coded. It’s a fresher look, it costs 1,90 eur and it is practical, especially if you don’t like color towels, you have one bathroom to share and you don’t want it to look like a souk.

But the nice feeling is, you buy the tape by the 10cm, not by the meter or in a plastic conditioning. It’s fantastic to be able to buy as much stuff as you need, not an inch more. And to have your tapes wrapped in a tiny piece of paper. I love this feeling.

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worm, chrysalis and butterfly…

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This is the butterfly…a bedroom full of light, the bed facing an enormous double window overlooking the chestnut trees, new oak floor and travertino paint for the walls.

cimg0127…the necessary chrysalis…

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And this was the ugly worm we bought…poor thing it was ugly but with lots of potential! This is the same room as above, here as a post-war kitchen.

Before the war each floor of this Altbau had just 2 enormous buergerlich flats, with chambres de bonne and the like. Each flat was then divided in 3 flats. Our worm – pardon, our Flat – didn’t have any bedroom, just a big living room with a bow-window, a kitchen and bath both with windows, and a roomy dark corridor for a total of 54sqm.

We torn the wall down (even if we never liked Reagan, we did as he said 😀 ) and transformed the neighbouring bath and kitchen into a nice bedroom with a superb double window.

So now The Flat has a double bedroom and, thanks to our architect, the living room goes back to its pre-war destination. (Er…what about kitchen and bathroom then?!)

Goldbären and Golia

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Goldbären and Golia side by side. Goldbären for gemßtlichkeit, Golia for simplicity. Goldbären because in Berlin the house is a shelter from the cold and the rain, like a cavern for the fatty bear. cimg0346

Golia because we need to remind ourselves that every object needs to have a precise function, and the only decorative items must be transient and lightweight, like a bunch of flowers, a colourful pillowcase, but furniture and walls need to remain plain and quite neutral, without constraints.

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Goldbären because it’s süß, Golia because it’s strong…and both because I wanted to put something in the budget IKEA jars I had bought months ago!

sleeping in

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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.

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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

Sense and sensibility

Verkauf dich nicht,
Berlin,
Jung bist du nicht,
Du alterst so schnell

It’s not just about investing. The Herald Tribune article did trigger our curiosity and investigation on the prices of property in Berlin. But there are countless places which seemed “undervalued” and full of potential, especially looking east. Yet, we would not buy our flat anywhere.

Berlin means something to us. It’s a town who shows the scars of history.

Like Triest, on the hedge of history and on the border between two words for decades. Places where the word “across” meant so much. Gorizia and its wall.

It’s simple. We feel gemuetlich, like in Caffe’ San Marco.

In Berlin we feel at home.


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