For years, Berlin has been captivating visitors with its edgy concept stores and ahead-of-the-curve fashion. But the city’s creatives haven’t stopped there; interior design in the city is making waves, too. Thanks to its specialist shops and design department stores, the domestic dream is that little bit glossier in Berlin.
Stilwerk is a one-stop shop of interior design. With 54 brands represented across 20,000 square metres of department store-style space, Stilwerk offers a tight edit of the very best in interiors. The brainchild of businessman Bernhard Garbe, the first outpost opened in 1996 in Hamburg, with the Berlin branch arriving three years later. PR director Nana Tiedtke feels the advent of the first Stilwerk concept store was groundbreaking. ‘The event marked far more than the opening of a new property. It marked the birth of a visionary concept transformed into reality. By presenting many different suppliers, Stilwerk aimed to provide customers with a range of products that was unparalleled in its diversity, quality and expertise.’
These aims remain at the heart of the Stilwerk experience, with cutting-edge German brands including Tobias Grau stocked alongside a growing range of vintage pieces. ‘Customers are looking for retro materials such as marble or copper, which are currently having a revival,’ says Tiedtke. ‘Design classics are still very popular.’
The trend for classic design has stimulated the opening of a raft of vintage-inspired furniture stores in the German capital. 20th Century Interior, for example, specialises in the sale of ‘rare mid-modern objects’. Owner Tobias Fahrein’s love for quality interior pieces began when he bought a Marcel Breuer Wassily chair at the age of 17, and eventually saw him quit his day job as creative director of an advertising agency to open his own interior design store. Fahrein began by selling items from his vast personal collection, but has now expanded his remit. ‘Furniture must be rare, complete and original and in unrestored great condition to complete my collection.’
Recently, Fahrein has seen a shift towards younger collectors investing in the more expensive high-quality items. ‘I sell a lot of Scandinavian furniture from Poul Kjaerholm, Hans J Wegner and Finn Juhl because these items are sustainable, very well crafted and they work perfectly within a more minimalistic interior.’ He also believes that people are flocking to Berlin for classic interior design items for other reasons. ‘Clients buy in Berlin because the dealers have objects that are not so common, or more expensive, in their own country.’
Vintage Galore owner Erik Zimmermann agrees. ‘The Berlin price range is rather moderate compared to many other cosmopolitan cities.’ Zimmermann’s store is also a haven of mid-century interior accessories, with an emphasis on Danish items, many of which he restores by hand. Whereas the locals are increasingly frequenting his shop for ‘Danish low sideboards and teak couches’, among Vintage Galore’s international clientele it is ‘1960s vases and Danish lights’ that are most popular ‘since they often fit in cabin luggage’.
Lars Triesch, owner of the Original in Berlin boutique, believes visitors are drawn to Berlin for the quality of the items on offer. ‘They invest in something beautiful and historical, made by people that loved what they were doing, with the highest expectations in design and quality.’ For Triesch, this means stocking items that retain or even rise in value: he cites American 1940s and French 1950s designs as examples of covetable investment pieces. According to him, designers including Mathieu Matégot, Jens Risom and George Nelson should be on every design newcomer’s radar: ‘they are very minimal, almost industrial and also very decorative,’ Triesch asserts.
Sofa so good
For an array of newly made interior design items, Ligne Roset is another Berlin must-visit. This year the brand celebrates 40 years of its Togo sofa, which has sold more than 1.2m pieces worldwide. Marketing manager Sabine Böhm puts Togo’s success down to its intriguing appearance. ‘Togo is not mainstream,’ she says. ‘It represents a kind of rebellion; 40 years ago it was the first full foam sofa, a 70s cult piece. As the designer Michel Ducaroy said, “It looks like a tube of toothpaste folded over on itself like a stovepipe and closed at both ends.” ’ With four stores in Berlin and a majestic new villa in Potsdam just outside the city, Ligne Roset offers a modern counterpoint to Berlin’s retro interiors boutiques.
In a city that’s such an enthralling mix of old and new, it’s heartening to note that its interiors scene is just as intriguing and just as vibrant.