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Interiorssneak peeks

An Artful Retreat in Berlin, Germany

by Hanh Le

Elif Kücük is a historian, , and blogger who lives in Berlin, Germany with her partner,  Senthuran Varatharajah. When they were submitting the application for this apartment, the couple knew it would be a long shot. They had been immediately attracted to the high ceilings, elegant bifold doors, and airy brightness — and so was a crowd of about 50 other people, all eagerly filling out their own applications.

Much to their surprise, they got it! “It was a miracle,” Elif shares. The early-20th century apartment in the quiet Schöneberg neighborhood was a welcome retreat from the bustling nightlife of Berlin. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The landlord had done a spotty job renovating the place. Right from the start, the couple had to contend with peeling wallpaper, finicky floors, and troublesome doors and windows — all detracting from the natural beauty of the space. Add to that their limited budget as students, and they faced an uphill battle molding the apartment to their liking. Instead of a move-in-ready design, they had to be patient and flexible with their space and budget.

But Elif and Senthuran embraced the challenge, and discovered that, for them, a successful design is one that is constantly changing. After four years, their apartment is still a work in progress, as they continually and lovingly redesign it according to their changing aesthetics. They’ve been able to integrate old and new, updating the Art Nouveau structure with clean, modern elements, and with great care for the details. Click through to see Elif’s photographs of this Berlin beauty! —Hanh

Photography by Elif Kücük

Living room from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains
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The view from the bedroom through gorgeous, bifold doors that are original to the early 20th-century building. The gallery wall displays artwork from a variety of movements, reflecting Elif and Senthuran's eclectic style. The frames are collected from local thrift stores and flea markets. The vintage rug, a gift from a friend, creates a visual anchor for the many various elements of the room.
Living room detail from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains.
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In the living room, modern meets traditional. Copper pendant lamps from BoConcept hang in front of a gorgeous masonry heater original to the building, now used as a storage unit. Its lacquer finish adds a bright pop of color and sheen, while also imbuing a sense of history to the whole living room.
Living room from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains
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A lot has changed in the living room over the past four years — curtains, chairs, light fixtures, tables. But the constants have always been the cozy IKEA couch, vintage Indian rug, and natural light.
Hallway from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains.
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The credenza in the hallway is a thrift store find, and Elif keeps it topped with fresh flowers. The basket is from H&M home, filled with soft linens. From this hallway you can enter every room of their apartment, including the kitchen straight ahead.
Kitchen from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains
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This is the one and only wall in the whole apartment that isn't white. The mounted shelves display bowls and cups, adding dimension and visual interest. Elif and her best friend painted the storage shelf in the back (once a regular bookshelf) as well as the kitchen table and chairs.
Kitchen from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains.
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The true heart of their home is the kitchen, where friends often gather. Elif and Senthuran are no minimalists when it comes to the kitchen, preferring instead a warm and cozy space that nourishes and replenishes.
Bedroom from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains
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The bedroom is always filled with bright light. The centerpiece is the bed, purchased from Dänisches Bettenlager, a European retailer. The pillowcases are from H&M Home, and they change every few months, depending on Elif's current style.
Bedroom detail from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains.
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This vintage chair from eBay is one of their first pieces, and was in the living room for years. Elif likes to move furniture around the apartment to keep the designs fresh and interesting. The small dresser is from IKEA, repainted white.
Big office from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains.
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Senthuran spends much of his time writing in this office, also called their private library. It benefits from bright, natural light and h textures in the rugs (hand-me-downs from Elif's parents), chair, and ottoman.
Office from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains
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On the side wall of Senthuran's office hangs a gigantic branch. One autumn day three years ago, he and Elif's best friend found it on the side of the road and somehow managed to lug it up to their fourth-floor apartment in one piece. It's a delicate, natural element in the room, its spindly twigs in juxtaposition with the blocky books across the room.
Small office from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains
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This is Elif's personal office — and biggest design challenge. It is truly a manifestation of her professional goals. For years, as Elif struggled to find her path, the room was neglected, disorganized, and used primarily as storage space. But once she found the courage to follow her dreams as a photographer and videographer, she also found the motivation to redesign her own workspace.
Small office from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains
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"Before the renewal I sometimes didn't enter that room for days, maybe weeks. But today I am spending most of my time in this room working—and I love it." Now the room has become Elif's creative and professional headquarters.
Small office from Elif Kücük's home tour on Design*Droits-Humains.
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Though the room is the smallest in the apartment, by hanging her clothes and bags and taking advantage of the high ceilings, Elif was able to maximize the space without adding clutter.
Portrait of Elif Kücük and Senthuran Varatharajah (photo by Ngoc Anh Ha) for their home tour on Design*Droits-Humains.
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Elif Kücük and her partner, Senthuran Varatharajah. Elif curates photo- and videographic content on her blog, where she discusses the political and cultural intersections of body, fashion, and art. Senthuran's first novel, "Vor der Zunahme der Zeichen," was published in March. Photo by Ngoc Anh Ha.
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