Lessons in Real Life Decorating
Five months after moving into a new home our new haus is finally starting to feel like home. Trautes Heim, Glück allein. Located in a warehouse conversion in Berlin, Germany the 3 level loft in the former Malt House of the Shultsheiss Brewery is uber-cool and a radical change from the historically listed alt bau in Mitte where we lived before our lives were radically changed when we woke to our home filled with smoke and lost everything we owned in a fire.
Beyond gorgeous, our new home has a modern sensibility and design that is a striking contrast to my house full of antiques. Here I’ve married some modern pieces with antiques, proving once again that opposites attract and juxtapose beautifully. Post fire, I often joke that my new style is minimalist when I’ve often been called a maximalist in the past, but paring back after losing everything has given me room to breathe, taking away traditional trappings and making my home feel positively contemporary.
My new style of contemporary décor meets vintage and antiques is summed up perfectly in a vignette in the corner of my living room. I found a 1980’s acrylic desk for 350E at Objekthandel in Berlin at # 26 Marienburgerstrasse. I paired this vintage desk (innovatively designed with a glass top that minimizes scratches) with a 1930’s Italian Chair I bought on a buying tour for another 350E at RaMa, an architectural salvage shop outside of Florence, Italy. On to the desk goes everything from my fuchsia decorating folio to the 18th C French barometer I bought in Sweden for 150E alongside an early 18th C Indo-Portuguese statue of Joseph, a relic bought at the Thieves Market in Mumbai originating from a Catholic church in the small state of Goa. I’m fortunate that with my job leading antiques buying tours I travel frequently around the world so have been able to decorate my house with pieces picked up on recent travels.
These antique pieces on this desk are paired alongside my collection of Eiffel Towers. This collection was one of the few items I was able to salvage from our home post-fire and they have great sentimental value. Originally from Oklahoma, moving to Europe by way of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Ohio, my husband and I lived in Paris for 5 years. When we moved from Paris to Amsterdam for 4 years before moving to Berlin in 2009 our friends threw a going away party with each guest bringing an Eiffel Tower to the party to remind us of all our friends in Paris who were “leaving a light on for us”.
As Americans who have lived in Europe over a dozen years, we’re old hat at moving countries – but I must confess moving into a new home in Europe is never easy. For me, as owner of Europe’s largest antique shopping company The Antiques Diva & Co European Tours, sourcing vintage and antiques for my home is second nature as it’s my job to know those out-of-the-way places no one knows about to score antiques at unbelievable bargains (did you see the price on that Barometer!? Usually you find those with an extra 0 added to the price!). For me what complicates my moves are those little European nuances that makes life never easy. Whether it’s paying cash for my new washing machine, dryer and refrigerator (the store doesn’t accept credit cards) or having to put in my own kitchen cabinets when moving into a new flat, I had an experience recently that just made me laugh out loud as a perfect illustration of what it means to be an American living in Europe. My husband and I went bed shopping and found quite possibly the world’s most comfortable memory foam mattress at Möbel Höffner only to be nearly thwarted at the point of purchase because I’d forgotten to bring my passport. As foreigners, the cashier couldn’t complete our bed buying transaction without a copy of our passports! “Eureka!” The key phrase here was “copy” – my husband always carries a folded up copy of his passport in his wallet, so the bed crisis was averted and we’re now sleeping comfortably in Posturepedic perfection. Nevertheless, times like these remind me… I’m not in Kansas anymore, Toto!
Bio: Toma Clark Haines is The Antiques Diva® – Chief Executive Dive of The Antiques Diva® & Co European Tours, leading antiques buying tours in 10 countries – France, Belgium, Italy, England, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden. To book your 1-14 day tour email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.antiquesdiva.com for more details.
For more on Toma’s Road to Rebuilding her Home