District Six – South African design in Berlin

Woven Raphia bags at the District Six store in Berlin

 

DISTRICT SIX

South African design in the heart of Berlin

 

December in Berlin can be rather gloomy. It’s rainy and misty and dark – a darkness that is heavy and black and I, for one, need a very good reason to leave the house. The usual way I coax myself outside is through christmas market shopping but recently I found another carrot onto the streets.

In the heart of all this winter grey, tucked away in Graefekiez, is a tiny store that one might easily miss if it wasn’t for the brilliant colours that beckon you inside. Colours that remind me of home; like the blood-orange-red of Pincushion Proteas, or Khaki green and Fynbos yellows or the cobalt hues of the Agulhas. The store is called District Six, and inside is a wonderful display of products designed and made in South Africa.

 

Prints and other curious design items at the District Six store in Berlin
Cool bags and rugsacks at District Six in Berlin

 

The vibrant store is owned by equally lively Caroline Adam, a Berlin-born graphic designer who fell in love with the expressive designs from South Africa and started selling them online back in 2013. Her concept store on Graefestraße 80, is now in it’s second year and stocks a myriad of products from South African brands like Skinny laMinx, Anne Hodgson, Pichulik and Soil Design (to name but a few).

 

Caroline Adam at her District Six store in Berlin
Beautiful botanical tote from Soil & Co at District 6 in Berlin

 

Inside, the store is a visual plethora of patterns, colour and textures; from bright blue raphia clutches and tan leather bags, to decorative woven vases and geometric metal side tables. The Ndebele inspired jewellery by Pichulik is super colourful and chic while the offbeat bucket stools of Pedersen + Lennard really bring home that humorous character and South African spirit.

 

Ndebele-style jewellery and vibrant cushions at District Six

 

Another favourite of mine is the exquisite wallpapers that you can order in-store or online. I really like the Liquorice and Lesotho stripes by Rene Rossouw, but the botanical prints from Soil Designs and Room 13 are just as enchanting. With the opportunity for custom made orders (minimum amount of only 3sqm) the only effort is in choosing between all the great designs.

 

Pedersen & Lennard bucket-stool from the Distirct-Six store in Berlin
Beautiful metal baskets and mohair throws at District Six

 

At District Six you’ll not only find time-less and high quality products but ones with a conscious and sustainable approach to manufacturing; be it socially fair or environmentally friendly.

So if you haven’t done your christmas shopping yet, maybe do it here! I think the woven Itawuli towels (or pretty much everything else in the store) will make excellent gifts. Or just get yourself one of the beautifully woven alpaka or mohair blankets for January, when–let’s face it–the dreary winter weather is sure to be worse. :)

Find it here:

Graefestraße 80
10967 Berlin
U8 UBhf Schönleinstraße
Bus M41

Opening hours (12-23 December):

Monday – Friday: 11:00 – 19:00
Saturday: 11:00 – 18:00
Sunday before christmas: 13:00 – 18:00

Or check out the details on their website here.

As always, thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed the post!

 

STORY + PHOTOS BY BARBARA CILLIERS

 

Monkind

Mondkind kids clothing store in Crellestrasse, Schöneberg

 

MONKIND

 

Berlin is a great city for many reasons. But one of the things I treasure the most, is the fact that it hides so many wonderful gems; so many little streets to explore, so many little shops to stumble onto. I recently made another such a discovery in Schöneberg, at the bottom end of Crellestraße. There, under the shady trees, I found a sign that reads Monkind. And behind that sign, a beautifully styled window with children’s clothes so unique and pretty, that I could not help but to linger and venture inside.

Outside street view of Mondkind clothing store in Berlin
Mondkind childrens-wear store in Berlin

Valeria, the designer and owner of the store, welcomed me in and called to Stewart in the back from where a rhythmic mix of lively music could be heard. “Stewart studied ethnomusicology” she explained and handed me a lovely cappuccino, after I enquired about the unique playlist. Stewart – who’s originally from Chesterfield – promptly appeared along with Yogi, their friendly and inquisitive collie mix, and together the couple proceeded to tell me a little about their store. 

 

Beautiful and stylish kids clothes at Mondkind in BerlinGretas Schwester paper-goods at Mondkind

 

Valeria, who was born in the Ukraine, moved to Germany with her parents and studied fashion design before running her own women’s wear label here in Berlin. After the birth of their first child she felt dissatisfied with the inelegance and archetypal blues and pinks of children’s clothes and started making her own. This inspired her to develop the Monkind label and soon the couple opened up their first store down in Grunewaldstraße. Stewart was to take on the business side of things and left his job at the coffee manufacturer where he had picked up much of his business prowess (and subsequent penchant for good coffee as I learned through each sip of my cappuccino). 

 

Water color tigers and prickly cacti at Monkind Berlin

Elegant childrens-wear at Monkind

Not long after opening their store, they met Sarah Neuendorf, the illustrator and graphic designer who now has the adjacent studio, Gretas Schwester. Sarah produces the amazing illustrated paper goods, enamel cups and illustrations that you can find in the shop. Many of the fabrics used in the Monkind label also feature her stunning water-color artworks, like prickly cacti or my favourite, a blood red tiger.

 

The beautiful Monkind line of children's-wearAdorable baby-grow. Monkind Children's wear Berlin.

 

As the label’s popularity grew, the team quickly needed a larger space and in January they moved their shop to Crellestraße 3 & 4. Monkind and Gretas Schwester have a strong emphasis on sustainability, from locally-sourced organic materials to recycled paper and organic cotton. Valeria, who used to make all the clothes by hand, now has a carefully selected network of small, family-run production sites in Poland and Lithuania.

 

Gretas Schwester and Monkind goodies Berlin

Details of Monkind products

 

To me this space is a marvellous culmination of pure talents. I simply love the playful sophistication of the Monkind children’s clothes. The beautiful watercolour artwork of Gretas Schwester adds a whimsical charm to an already magical place. If you’re looking for something cheerful and unique, this is where you will find it. I certainly cannot wait to go back for another visit. 

 

Monkind children's wear store in Crellestraße Berlin

Stewart & Valeria from Monkind
Owners of Monkind, Stewart & Valeria.

 

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Abandoned buildings

abandoned buildings in Berlin

 

THE BEAUTY OF ABANDONED PLACES

 

My fascination with atmospheric spaces is mostly due to the emotional affect they can bring about. How strange that a few walls and a roof, a simple structure, can make you feel a certain way; cold or cozy, sombre or happy, safe or unsettled…

This affecting nature becomes even more pronounced when you venture into abandoned places. Perhaps because the predefined notions of public and private are skewed upon your trespass, as you become a voyeur in someone else’s forgotten world.

 

abandoned ballroom building in Berlin

 

Berlin has so many of these deserted spaces. Hidden away, forsaken though not forgotten. Barred (unsuccessfully) from intruders and vandals, from explorers… Like portals into bygone worlds they become great story tellers of the ones who might have lived there. Offering the outlines, so we can fill in the blanks; a perfect canvas for the imagination.

 

An abandoned ballroom near Berlin

Exploring abandoned buildings in Berlin

 

A once unassuming structure, becomes a place of fantasy, where memories–imagined or real–are captured in the walls, each layer of peeling paint exposing an era that once was; each colour another step back in time.

 

An abandoned ballroom in Berlin

 

These delicate worlds are perhaps so etherial not because they might give way underfoot, but because with each passing day, nature takes back what man has made there. Earth and her elements reclaiming their territory, re-entering where it was once banished from.

 

The beauty of abandoned buildings

 

Suddenly exposed, are our disconnected relationship with the world. These creeping vines and rotting timbers attest to our disparity with nature. Cause with each brick being laid, each floor board secured our manmade shelters slowly take us out of nature, and nature out of us, so that we no longer feel the beating heart of the earth below our feet. 

 

Old abandoned ballroom in Berlin

 

Perhaps therein lies the beauty of abandoned places. Perhaps these dirty, dusty spaces remind us not only of our forgotten pasts, but of the dualisms we’ve defined–man vs nature, dirty vs clean, past vs present, real vs imagined–and allow us to ever so briefly, collapse them into one...

 

Abandoned ballroom building in Berlin

 

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Pure Pause Berlin

Pure Pause shop on Dudenstrasse in Berlin

 

PURE PAUSE

Where food for thought meets creative thinking

 

You may know Dudenstraße from it’s proximity to the renowned Tempelhofer feld. But just around the corner from Mehringdamm lies a beautiful building by architect Max Taut, called Haus der Buchdrucker. The lego-like appearance with it’s primary coloured frames is enough to make you stop and admire, but it’s the beautifully designed branding of the Pure Pause store, that prompted me to take a closer look.

 

Pure Pause, Products made in Berlin

 

The green pastel and vibrant orange of the Pure Pause space reminds me of a retro 70’s interior, but with beautifully designed shelves and well selected used furniture, the look is refreshingly different from the grandma’s-house-turned-café appearance of so many Berlin establishments.

 

Behind sea blue french doors lies the Pure Pause innovation lab or salon, a space for interactive workshops and events. Custom-made modular furniture allows one to transform and adapt the environment to different needs. Here the furniture becomes a conversation piece along with facilitating interactions between people, like a settee, designed for intimate discussions that converts into stepped seating for a bigger audience.

 

Pure Pause innovation lab

 

The space is intended to encourage innovative ways of thinking and, as the perfect juncture between taste and likes, Pure Pause employs food as a neutral territory to kickstart conversations. The adjacent shop stocks a carefully selected assortment of unusual refreshments created and produced in Berlin. They focus on products and producers with unique characters, things like a caffeinated soda made from sun dried coffee cherries or fruit liquor from natural botanics; interesting stories to jumpstart creative discussions.

 

Made-in-Berlin-refreshments-and-Pure-Pause

 

The shop is open only on Fridays, but you can also order food parcels as gifts or refreshment packages for events or seminars. So even if you don’t intend to host a workshop or kickstart a corporate event, you can still enjoy the wonderful selection of made-in-Berlin sweats and treats. More information around bookings and opening times can be found on their website.

 

Workshop area at Pure Pause in Berlin

workshop-area-at-pure-pause

A rainy day escape to the Berlin Botanical Gardens

A rainy day trip to the Berlin Botanical gardens.

 

THE BERLIN BOTANICAL GARDENS

A rainy day escape

 

On her recent trip to Berlin, my lovely sister Almarie suggested we venture down to Steglitz for a visit to the Berlin botanical gardens. Almarie’s quite the phytophile and so we hopped on our bicycles and headed down south.

 
Tropical Greenhouse at Berlin Botanical Gardens
 

From the entrance on Unter den Eichen the gardens didn’t look like much, but we payed the 6 euro entrance anyway and proceeded into the park. Soon after we set down the first pathway I started feeling a little apprehensive about the outing. Thus far the Berlin botanical garden grounds were rather, er, underwhelming and it had just started to drizzle. With dismay I thought we’d chosen probably the worst day to explore a mildly exciting garden and suggested we headed to the glass houses to escape the rain.

 

Weird and wonderful plants at the Berlin Botanical GardenBotanical-Gardens-Berlin-Tropical-Greenhouse

 

As soon as we entered the huge mechanical structure my disdain swiftly disappeared. The conservatories or Gewächshäuser, as they’re called in german, are huge glass and steel structures that cleverly controls the weather and with its 23m high dome the main tropical greenhouse is one of the largest in the world. Thanks to its size, the Berlin botanical conservatory houses a breathtaking tropical paradise with giant palm trees and towering vines and epiphytes.

 

Berlin Botanical Garden Conservatory Detail

Beutiful-and-strange-specimens-at-Berlin-Botanical-Garden

 

Next we found ourselves in the desserts of the south with a marvellous welwitschia enchanting us with its beautiful inelegance. More succulents and cacti awaited in the adjacent chambers with long furry characters and their spiky friends. To our amazement the botanical greenhouses held an incredibly rich collection of specimens; from China, New Zealand and Japan, to Africa, North America and the Canaries. In fact they have 15 different chambers, each designated to a specific biosphere. 

 

Cacti and succulents from the Berlin Botanical Gardens
 
We spent so much time in every hall that we had to break for coffee – and off course on account of the weather – for some cake. I can highly recommend the chocolate one. It was delicious. The cappuccino wasn’t bad either.

With full bellies we went on to explore the carnivorous plants and gawked at the almost florescent flowers in the rainforest. Later we felt proud and a little nostalgic to discover the beautiful South African biosphere with it’s massive species of Aloes, crassulas and euphorbias.

 

Greenhouse at the Botanical Gardens in Berlin

 

Finally, our trip around the world ended in the Mediterranean, but not before we got a short introduction to the different uses of plants; things like cocoa and bulbs and poisons I do not remember the name of.

What I thought was going to be a drab and dreary day turned out to be a spectacular journey around the world – an absolutely sensory rich experience. So if you love plants as much as I do and you feel like taking a trip abroad but can’t afford the plane ticket, just pop into the greenhouses at the Berlin botanical gardens. It’ll be a mind-blowing treat.

 

 

When to go: Open all year but perfect for rainy days

Where is it: Entrances are on Unter den Eichen 5-10, 12203 Berlin (Metrobus M48) or Königin-Luise-Platz, 14195 Berlin (ExpressBus X83, Bus 101)

Price per person: €6.00 (Cash only – they do not take credit, debit cards or EC Karte)

 

Coffee & cozy at FreiRaum cafe

Freiraum cafe on Katzbachstraße

 

Coffee & cozy at FreiRaum cafe

 

Without the anticipation of Christmas and thrill of Sylvester, Berlin can be pretty grey and gloomy in January. So if you need some motivation to leave the house, head over to FreiRaum on Katzbachstraße. With their two wood burning stoves and logs to last all winter you’ll be hard pressed to find a cafe more cozy. Owners Oguz and his wife Nihal, have done an amazing job at creating an atmosphere so inviting that you just won’t want to leave.

 

Lovely fireplace at FreiRaum Cafe

 

But if you can’t be coaxed on looks alone, come for their amazing coffee and delectable edibles. Everything is home-made and freshly baked by Nihal and Oguz, whom you’re certain to meet on your visit. Originally from Turkey, Oguz moved to Berlin 6 years ago. He studied economy and was a diving instructor before practising gastronomy here in Berlin. Nihal, who grew up in Berlin, is an art therapist, and initially used the space as her studio.

 

cookies-in-a-jar

 

The idea for FreiRaum came about when Nihal fell pregant. The family found an apartment above her studio, and because she was about to stop working they decided the turn it into a coffee shop. Oguz and Nihal did the interiors themselves, with an effort to maintain an eco friendly approach. It took 8 months.

The resulting design is simple and understated with a focus on earthy colours and natural materials like bare clay walls and wood panelling. Coupled with old wooden floors, wild flowers and woolly throws, the space is reminiscent of a mountain cabin in Scandinavia. It’s down-to-earth aura is even more enhanced by the child friendly elements like tiny chairs and wooden horse. It’s no surprise that the owners themselves have two kids, Eftalya, now two and a half and her 15 year old brother, Tanyel.

 

pillows

Outside

 

For me FreiRaum makes the best coffee in Kreuzberg and I simply love hanging out here. For Oguz and Nihal it’s become a true Kiezcafe. A place where families gather, wonderful exchanges occur and friendships begin. Do come and have a look for yourself, on Katzbachstraße 24, Kreuzberg.

 

 

 

STORY + PHOTOS BY BARBARA CILLIERS