Posts Tagged 'Kiez'

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.

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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?!)

the haberdashery factor

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“The ideal neighborhood” is the most visited page of this blog, since ever. I guess this has to do with the fact that we all long for finding some sort of village-like harmony (but not flatness). Among the points of the ideal place there is the sense of community, call it “no big retail chains around” or “feeling safe in your whereabouts”.

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I quite liked Mr Brule’ s article comparing Lisbon, with its ancient haberdashery and grocery-style beauty stores, with Notting Hill no man’s land in the making. Continue reading ‘the haberdashery factor’

Urban farming: Li Edelkoort was late

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After Naomi Klein’s “No logo”, are we heading for a “No guru” era?

Since the 90s we’ve been reading more and more about these so-called “cool-hunters” or “trend-gurus”. Those who stitch up trend books and if we buy a lime-green pullover next week it is because 3 years ago they found out that lime evocates purity and freshness and we would crave that at some point in the distant future.

On the Elle Decoration – and other magazines I browsed through in the trains and planes of the last few days – the trend-guru Edelkoort goes about saying that now people want countryside in the cities. Crise oblige.

I’m sorry but this has always been the case in “provincial and poor Berlin”. Berliners understood ages ago how important is to have real countryside in town.

As the italian writer Alessandra Montrucchio wrote nicely in her book “Berlin”, especially West Berlin after WWII had to recreate within the boundaries of the encircled town the seaside, the woods, the countryside, even the “mountains”.

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Now countryside in town seem to be the must-have for milanese penthouses, Primrose Hill windowboxes, Chelsea faux-accessible squares. For Berliners, it’s the reality in many Kiez. It is not the ultimate expression of elitism, only for the few,  but the democratic accessible green shore of the Spree in the Regierungsviertel, the summer Tiergarten grill or the tai-chi lesson in the Volkspark across the street.

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So, Li Edelkoort was late.

Berlin, trend-resistant, is above trends.  It literally bathes in sound, Birkenstock-sturdy common sense…

PS
on this topic also check Metapolis

photos: StripedCat

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

Bohemian Berlin’s coolest landmark to be sold off to the highest bidder

Hello! Buona Befana! (how do you say that in english…?)

Today on the Independent an interesting article on Tacheles…another building of Historicismus era (1908), more famous for its “between-ruin-and-a-squat” cultural centre. Let’s hope that Tacheles survives without becoming another hub of trendy (sic) boutiques…Mitte is becoming toooooo mainstream!!

Our marvellous Berlin Architecture Guide says that the building initially hosted a department store, in 1928 AEG moved in, only after WWII it became a a cinema and an art school and the Fall of the Wall marked the start of the artists’ association.

Berlin’s coolest landmark to be sold off to the highest bidder

Artists’ collective fights to stay in Tacheles building visited by thousandstacheles-berlin-2_109544a

Continue reading ‘Bohemian Berlin’s coolest landmark to be sold off to the highest bidder’

Renovierung, ristrutturazione, refurbishing!

Today there is an interesting article on Deutsche Welle, about an italo-german pair refurbishing flats in Prenzl’berg on a big scale. It’s all about mixing Prussia and italian style, affordable prices in Berlin and entrepreneurial flair. It’s also about a lot of money, and a lot of property.

On a much smaller scale over the next weeks Mein Mann and I will start working on the refurbishment of The Flat. We now have The Project, we need to understand exactly the operational details, order the materials in Berlin (shop locally!) and off we go.

We did our share of number crunching, magazine-reading, scenario-building now we’ve got to start. Also because…the Wohngeld is running! So, we’re reassured of the fact that:

– YES, it was a good idea to buy a flat in Berlin, the price was right and the value was great;

– YES, with the present market turmoil it is even a better idea to invest a bit of extra money in refurbishing The Flat and bringing it to extert its full potential, in the beautiful Kiez;

– YES, in these uncertain times, with such negative newsflow, it is nice to be working on a HARDWARE project, in parallel with those daily worries (inflation, bad news, economic meltdown und so weiter).

One year ago we were emotionally in the no-man’s-land in between our August enthousiastic scouting trip to Berlin (cum-badly-failed-attempt to buy a flat), and the November trip to the Hauptstadt, when Mein Mann found the hidden gem, The Flat.

So we were floating in that lukewarmish atmosphere. We had invested all our holidays on the project. We were disappointed by the first unsuccessful attempt. But we were determined to get over it and be proud owners of our flat by Christmas. We signed our contract on December 20th!

Sometimes in between signing the contact and paying the price/getting the ownership of the flat a few MONTHS can elapse, rather than a few weeks, and that was indeed the case for us. A bit frustrating but worth waiting. After getting the possession of the keys and of The Flat, we’ve been paying taxes to the Finanzamt, opened a bank account, set up utility accounts, have the project prepared and now we’ve just to sign an insurance contract, then the refurbishing can start.

Needless to say we’ve seen many many other flats in the meantime. That is always a lateral and nosy way of visiting the town, plus it’s a very useful exercise. Each time we were reassured on the price-quality relationship of what we had bought. That is a nice feeling indeed. Especially when you’re still facing costs and no revenues yet are flowing in your hands.

We think we “prüften die Angebote sehr genau und pickten uns aus den vielen Objekten am Markt die Rosinen heraus“, we had done our homework, carefully analyzed the market, and cherry-picked successfully.

If you are interested in buying a flat in Berlin, go and see as many flats and as many Kiez as you can. This is the best way to find really what you are looking for. Exercise your personal Guts Feeling, endure a few disappointments, get a feel for the Sense of Place and stick with your list of criteria. Be they sultanas or cherries, you will find the ones you are looking for.

That said, we’re no real estate magnates like the Stoffel or fashion heirs like the Stefanel, but we have an idea or two about refurbishing without destroying. Leveraging hidden beauty without arm-twisting the sense of place.

We want to make the prussian linear beauty of the The Flat blossom, it’s concealed behind a few post-war thin postiche walls, hideous wallpapers and plastic flooring but you can feel it’s definitely there. Yet The Flat must also feel contemporary, and user-friendly too. And the costs must remain down to earth.

Coherence is our guiding muse: with the Altbau, the Kiez, the history of the Bayerisches Viertel, our own taste…and our budget.


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