Rachel's Harmonious Home in Berlin

Rachel's Harmonious Home in Berlin

Lydia Brotherton
Oct 22, 2012

Name: Rachel
Location: Berlin, Germany
Size: 1,237 square feet (115 square meters)
Years lived in: 8 months; owned

When Rachel landed her dream job in Berlin — a tenured position as a cellist in a world-class orchestra — it only made sense that she would land her dream apartment, as well. With the news of her contract settling in, and eager to leave her cramped rental situated above a restaurant, Rachel began her search for a permanent home in Berlin, one that would reflect her style and taste, and would have the space to grow with her. After a long search and an even longer renovation period, Rachel's pristinely renovated and freshly furnished Altbau has all the trimmings of a dream come true.

Although she had lived in Berlin for eight years prior, nearly all the furnishings in her previous rental had been temporary solutions (and unfortunately retained the smells of the restaurant below), so Rachel decided to start entirely afresh in the new space. In the intervening year between purchase and move in, while waiting for renovations in her new home to finish, she pondered and plotted her every decorating decision, collecting inspiration from her family, friends, and travels. And slowly, she started making the big purchases both online and in local Berlin shops.

While her furniture buying process wasn't without an impulse buy or two, Rachel made practicality and proportion her priorities, taking time to find the items that would fit both the space and her aesthetic. In addition to stocking up on modern design classics, she also came up with a couple creative solutions to tricky spaces, such as putting several smaller rugs together to form a perfectly sized rug in her narrow and long practice room.

The end result of her work and all this practicality is a calm collection of well-coordinated pieces that lie beneath clouds of beautiful original stucco and ballooning white pendant lamps. Her penchant for clean lines and soft textures gives her home a spare but tactile and cozy quality, and the jolts of burnt orange warm up any inherent coolness in the furniture. Historical details, such as the refurbished (and original to the house) wood-burning stove in the corner of the living room and the hardware on the doors, leap out against bright, white walls and refinished wooden floors; the deep sofa, high-pile rugs, and sheepskin chair are favorite spots for her recently adopted cats, Louis and Maisy.

Visiting Rachel's home a few months after her move, I found her space to reflect the careful consideration that went into her decorating process: every element feels thoughtful, considered. As she continues to settle into her job and home, she has definite plans to further develop and embellish the space, starting with adding curtains and art — and no doubt bringing the entire composition into even greater harmony.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Clean neutral modernism with a dash of color (and Orla Kiely).

Inspiration: Scandinavian interiors and mid-century modern furniture are things that I'm drawn to; I love walnut wood, birch, and white walls. In the flat itself, the natural light and the wood of the floors were a huge inspiration for the direction I wanted the look to take. But overall, I was mostly super practical: I went first for measurements and finding the best fit for the space.

Favorite Element: The incredible amount of space and light in the flat, and the fact that I face a park — being able to see greenery all the way down the whole length of the flat is a wonderful thing.

Biggest Challenge: In planning all of my furniture purchases in advance, finding things that would work both proportionally and with the layout was difficult. The floorplan is quite open — you can see through the entire apartment — so I wanted everything to be very cohesive. And it's actually quite hard here to find furniture that works with high ceilings, and doesn't sit too low to the ground.

What Friends Say: I'm a bit jealous right now.

Biggest Embarrassment: Honestly, it's only so clean and cold because I'm new here! I'm not someone who chooses to have no curtains or artwork! Also, I wish I were able to afford entirely design originals.

Proudest DIY: Well, I'm pretty hopeless, but in the process of moving into this place, I bought a drill and learned how to use it to install the Eames Hang-It-All! I am also quite proud that I built the IKEA Billy bookshelves in the office. The rug in the practice room is in fact several smaller IKEA rugs put together — I couldn't find anything else to fit the space, so this mini-DIY solution works for now.

Biggest Indulgence: Both the orange chair in the music room and the sheepskin chair in the office were equally big indulgences. The sheepskin chair in particular was beyond my budget, but I just couldn't resist!

Best Advice: Buy things you love, but also be practical and buy for specific spaces and uses and measurements. Ideally find the perfect combination of love and practicality.

Dream Sources: Stilwerk in Berlin

Resources of Note:


    • Eames Hang-It-All: Minimum


    • Dining table: Bo Concept
    • Eames reproduction of Eames DSW chair, from Chair Concept
    • Bookshelf: Muuto "Stack-it" from Ruby DesignLiving in Berlin
    • Coffee table: reproduction of Eames plywood coffee table in Walnut; SwivelUK
    • Pillows, mugs and placemats: Orla Kiely
    • Standing lamp: Bo Concept
    • Ceiling fixture: Ruby DesignLiving in Berlin
    • Rug: Traumteppich.com


    • Cabinets: Nova from Möbel Hübner in Berlin
    • All appliances: Siemens
    • Chairs: Vitra Basel chairs from Minimum
    • Table: La Palma Bistro Table from Ambiente Direct


    • Sheepskin Chair: Lamino Sheepskin Chair, designer Yngve Ekström;
    purchased at Green Living (in the Kulturbrauerei, Berlin)
    • Desk: Designer Nils Holger Moorman from design at home
    • Foldout leather couch: Kraemer from Stilwerk in Berlin
    • Bookshelves: IKEA Billy
    • Acrylic table: Muji (next to desk)


    • Practice stool: IKEA
    • Sideboard: Danish, 50s-60s, found at a vintage furniture store in Berlin
    • Orange chair: Benchmark
    • Rugs: IKEA


    • Dressing table: "Trollhus" from Stilwerk
    • Chair: Vitra HAL chair from Minimum
    • Bed: Who's Perfect, Wedding (Berlin)
    • Shoe shelving: Muutu "Stack-It"
    • Ceiling fixture: Ruby DesignLiving, Berlin
    • Coat stand: IKEA

Thanks, Rachel!

(Images: Amy Walker)

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