Berlin apartment progress: Inching forward

April 7, 2014

berlin apartment_living room view new eames chairs Bailey dog and balcony Over the past couple of months since I last gave an update on the status of our apartment, progress has all but stagnated. Some unforeseen circumstances, including an unfortunate mix-up with our tax status after registering in a new city, meant apartment updates had to take a back seat while we wait for some things to get sorted out. Even with some snags, we have managed to make some small changes that have gone a long way in helping us to feel more settled and this apartment to be closer to the home I had envisioned.

berlin apartment_entryway vintage painted console ikea stockholm mirror A streamlined, functional entryway space

While the boxes piled against the far wall in the entryway still remain, putting my Salvation Army-scored vintage console - for $35, mind you - I lovingly refurbished with paint and new handles years ago in a more prominent and appropriate location has made the perfect place for dropping our keys when we get home and keeping all of Bailey's dog-walking needs (leashes, bags and treats) tucked away, but ready to grab as we're headed out the door. The Ikea Stockholm mirror that I have been in love with since it debuted added just the right vibe, matching the mid-century style of the console and bouncing some much-needed natural light that streams in from the living room around the space. I still glare at that pile of boxes, mocking me every time I open the front door, but this wall makes me so happy, I can almost put it out of my mind for a while longer. Almost.

berlin apartment_modern white artichoke light fixture in entryway A light fixture I actually love

We originally bought three of these cool artichoke light fixtures from OBI when we saw they had been marked down from 200€ to 10€, quickly clearing the shelf of all they had before someone else realized deal that was to be had. Light fixtures are huge point of contention with me here in Germany: everything affordable is so incredibly ugly and dated, everything stylish is outrageously expensive... which leaves Ikea. Don't get me wrong, Ikea has some great lighting, but sometimes, you know, you just want to have something you don't see every time you peek in the windows of someone else's apartment. (note to West Elm: When the heck are you going to start offering your lighting wired for and shipped to the EU? Seriously.)

So we ended up with three of these babies sitting in our spare room in Wiesbaden for the better part of three years, never prioritizing hiring someone to install them (as they weigh a ton and I didn't want to be responsible for making our ceiling come crashing down in our already-crumbling previous apartment). Two of them ended up coming with us to Berlin and after much prodding on my part about the dark, cavernous space that was our entryway, my husband did some research on how to install it properly. After weeks of hitting challenge after challenge with the thing, he successfully got up the fixture I had been waiting years to see in our entry, making me smile every time I come home.

berlin apartment_bathroom ikea molger mirror towel hook and shallow storage berlin apartment_patterned bathroom rug_handm
A small, Zen-like bathroom

For some reason, I got it in my head that the bathroom was the place to get the most massive overhaul in terms of decor. I think going from a bathroom so big it hosted our washer, dryer and a possible yoga space, to something less than half the size meant some major streamlining was in order. Additionally, the bright colors and busy pattern in our previous bathroom just added to the clutter of this already small space, and so I was vehement that all the color goes. White and dark wood with a modern flair and neutral bath linens help make the space feel almost spa-like, instead of the cramped, windowless box it had the potential to be. Next up: lights above the mirror and some better storage solutions.

berlin apartment_ikea ps 2012 table knockoff eames vitra chairs My Eames knock-off dining chairs (finally)

I swear, I thought we were destined never to have these chairs. Originally, we ordered a pair priced too-good-to-be-true off Amazon, only to have them delivered a month early, before we even lived here, then returned to the sender back in the UK, only to be promised to be resent on the quoted delivery schedule... and then we never heard from them again. They fell of the face of the earth, or at least off of Amazon and any online search engines completely. Nice. So after we recouped the money we had spent on those with Amazon's warranty claim service (thank goodness for that), I found a more reputable-looking, and therefore, of course, more expensive, company selling my desired Eames knock-offs. I don't know who has 450€ to spend on one chair, but it sure isn't me! So after many more weeks of waiting, still sitting on our 8€ Ikea stools, we finally had our dining/my work chairs. No longer did I have a permanent indentation in my thighs from the unforgiving edge of those stools. Now this space, even though I sit at it all day, has become one of my favorite spots in the apartment.

berlin apartment_ikea kallax bookcase side table office storage Versatile dining/living/office storage piece

Almost as important as a comfortable place for me to sit and work all day, was a place to keep all my work-related materials. Seeing as the dining room essentially doubles as my office, figuring out where to stash all kinds of books, notebooks, pens, electronics cords, snacks, etc. that would work seamlessly in a dining/living room space seemed like quite the challenge. With space in the dining 'nook' at a premium, I figured some sort of side table next to the couch but within reach of my work space that also had a miraculous amount of storage space was the way to go. After stressing about where this unicorn of a piece of furniture could be, I realized the solution was right in front of me: the ubiquitous Ikea Kallax bookcase. From the side, it would just look like a tall, modern table, but from where I work, the open space can host all my dictionaries and notebooks, while the baskets can hide all the small, desk-drawer-type items, cleanly tucked away. Another bonus: the height of the piece is perfectly matched for our absurdly high sofa arms. Ikea for the win, yet again.

berlin apartment_living room update_anthropologie leather sofa_pottery barn manhattan chair_bar_ikea stockholm rug A clean, box-free living room

One of the most impactful changes that cost the least amount of money (none, in fact), was getting the last of the boxes that were still piled in the corner of the living room moved out. Granted, they are now added to cardboard tower in the entry, but what is a few more boxes in an area already dedicated to storage? Their absence in the living room creates a better flow of space and less clutter in the place we use primarily for relaxation and I use for work, so I figure it was a change worth making. The main seating is now better situated in the room and the wine rack/bar is in a better spot for its function. Once we get big storage pieces for movies, games and books and a light fixture here I actually love, this room will be nearly finished.

berlin apartment_fresh flowers pink and orange roses Fresh flowers

I've always considered fresh flowers to be a frivolous extra that I rarely indulged in, but these last few months, I have found myself picking up a bunch or two on a fairly regular basis. There's something about a bouquet beautifying a space I still find frustrating due to it's continuing in-progress state that helps increase my sense of calm about the whole thing. An added bonus: they also help brighten up those dreary grey Berlin days.

With a ways to go before I would call us completely settled (um, hello, finally finished kitchen...?), making changes that help the space and life within it run smoother and happier are making this transitional time feel a little less uncertain. Plus, the more amazing parts of Berlin we discover outside of our apartment makes a slow-to-materialize interior seem that much less important. Here's to more greatness from this new home of ours, both inside and outside our home.


  1. You read my mind: only yesterday was I thinking, I want to see some updated photos :D You've got the place looking lovely - and I looked at the first picture and yelled SHE'S GOT EAMES! ;) Also... I'll always be envious of your happy green console...

    1. Well, thank you, friend! I must say, I'm usually opposed to knock-offs - artists and designers should be compensated when they create something wonderful! - but I wanted this style so desperately and there was no way in the world we were affording the real deal. Also, since Eames originally designed these as 'affordable' pieces for people's homes, I take serious issue with being charged upwards of 400€ for one of them today.


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