The two-bedroom apartment was finished in yellow pine, with cheap chrome bath fittings and absolutely zero storage—not even closets—but you wouldn’t know it from the building’s landmarked exterior. Luckily, the architecture that first drew the young family to the property, situated in the heart of Berlin, was an indicator of what those bad design choices obscured: High ceilings, original plaster, and ornate doors. All it really needed was a facelift. They tapped New York design firm White Arrow and got to planning.
“We wanted to bring back the home’s drama and luxuriousness, while also creating ample discreet storage that conceals the clutter of parenthood,” explain the homeowners. Deep autumnal colors, like crimson bedding in the master bedroom and an ochre throw pillow on the living room sofa, kicked things off, but it’s the details—sculptural glassware inspired by the work of Carlo Nason, irregular Moroccan tile, Dinesen fir flooring—that made their vision a reality. And those are just the decorative bits.
“We shifted the entire layout!” says designer Keren Richter, who spearheaded the reno with her husband, Thomas. They carved out storage where there was none, hid all the electrical behind millwork, and completely knocked out the galley kitchen, moving it to the front of the house where there was more light. Even more impressive: The entire process took six months—and it was almost all done remotely. “Luckily, Thomas speaks German,” says Keren with a laugh.
The hallmark of any good historic renovation is having the new additions look like they were there all along, and the family’s ridiculously cool collection of decor—the bulk of which was sourced at European auctions and on eBay—mixed in effortlessly with the traditional backdrop. Since the couple was building their arsenal of home goods practically from scratch, each purchase was carefully considered and absolutely everything had a story. “We often customized pieces that were in rough shape; plus, we weren’t shy about painting and reupholstering,” says Keren.
We asked Keren and the homeowners to share a few of those favorite finds. Who knows? It might just inspire a weekend trip to the flea market.
The Coffee Table
Designed by Italian photographer—“and bon vivant!” add the homeowners—Willy Rizzo, it features an unusual brass center originally meant to house a dry bar. “His pieces are so fun and sexy—they fit right in with the disco era.” They had their eye on Rizzo’s white version of the table but lost it at auction; instead, they found the brown colorway on eBay and tapped Keren to repaint it in a bright white lacquer.
They’re the undeniable draw of almost every room: Architectural lamps and shimmering chandeliers that prove even the most utilitarian items can have some glitz. “They feel like pieces of playful jewelry,” explain the homeowners. The light over the island is a bespoke creation by Allied Maker, inspired by the pale green glass found in much of late Italian designer Pietro Chiesa’s work (the couple are huge fans). Keren suggested the hue to complement the brass kitchen shelving. “The color feels so refreshing,” she says. In the hallway, rose-colored pendants from one of the homeowners’ favorite design studios, Douglas and Bec, hang over a 1940s Fontana Arte mirror—which they scored on eBay.
The Barovier et Toso feather sconces and blue Carlo Nason table lamp in the bedroom were also happy discoveries on the website. Ultimately, they may not be the most budget-friendly buys, but “eBay and auctions are always the cheapest if you know how to bid,” Keren points out.
The Nursery Details
With a muted pastel palette and a Hans-Agne Jakobsson fringe light, the kids’ space is in no danger of veering into cliché territory. Keren made sure to include a few furniture pieces that will last as the little ones grow up, too, like the fold-up secretary desk designed by Florence Watine for French studio Hartô. The homeowners’ favorite part: “When tucked away, it allows the room to transition into a play space easily.”
In the living room, Pierre Frey mohair gave two vintage Vladimir Kagan armchairs an eye-popping update, but that’s not the only plush moment: A 1950s Italian sofa (also in mohair) provides ample room to stretch out. You’d never guess, but it was another eBay find. Keren filtered by price and style on the site, using keywords that reflected the mid-century European era the family loved. If there were ever a reason to give the shopping platform a chance, this pastry-shaped piece is it.
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