An opinionated interior design column: Berlin

In the first of an occasional series, interior designer David Bentheim casts his critical eye over the boutique hotels of Berlin.

I thought that the following quote from had similar idea to mine. Whilst I might not be so sure about hotels as performance spaces there always should be a feeling of escape into another world – or an amplification and improvement on one’s own world.
“Hotels aren’t as simple as they used to be. No longer just places to sleep, the best have evolved into works of art – performance spaces that allow guests to star in their own sort of theatrical production. And nothing sets this scene like exceptional interior design, where every inch is carefully considered and each element works toward a theme that offers a thorough departure from the outside world.”

I am writing this from Berlin, which is currently jockeying with the rest of the globe to be at the front of cutting-edge design. It is a city pushing towards new freedoms and experimental thinking. Berlin is the favourite of the young hipster traveller but at the same time, in design terms, it is crowded with examples of the good, the bad and the goddam ugly.

I started my visit at a terrific hotel networking conference, Hostys. We were put up at the “ugly” end of life at nhow hotels‘ misplaced attempt to combine boutique and hip with conference sized amenities. Somebody somewhere has been busily trending on PINK – you either like PINK or you don’t, and in my case not by the gallon. Idea upon idea crowds on each other in a sea of cloying harsh colour madness – branding run riot. Everything is bathed in pink: reception, seating, chairs, cushions and on to thin patterned nightmare salmon sheets. Instead of carefully designed comfort and style, harshly contoured discomfort is sold as a dream of the future. However, if you are after a “Barbiemoon” this could well be the place.

To get over the pink I switched to the real Berlin where I was joined by my wife. We stayed at the clever and budget conscious Luxe11 – an essay in humane minimalism designed by Claudio Silvestrin. Yes, there was a worrying fuschia glowing illumination on the building (maybe the pink is infectious) but fortunately the roseate stopped there! Like the best boutique hotels, this is to be found in a friendly street on the edge of a very cool quartier – and this hotel works with a cheerful welcome, tea and sweet things to grab, a cool bar, a cool design boutique and great coffee and pastries. Attached to the hotel is Typo Hype boutique, which offers breakfast, jazz and a glass of wine plus a great range of typographically designed ceramics, paperware and gifts.

The bedroom, an upgrade, is spacious and well-planned, using interesting textures: a wooden planked floor set into resin; a stone feature wall and minimalist but well thought out furnishings. There are a few on-line gripes about the screened open plan shower, which did not worry us as we happen to be OK about semi in-room showers and which are now de rigeur in such establishments. The loo, thankfully, does have a door.

The bed was comfortable, the room warm and pillows deep. The well-planned white kitchenette has everything you might need and more – the right smart teas and Nespresso are in place. I really do like a Nespresso and welcome the death of instant coffee and kettle on a tray!

The entire interior furnishing could be ordered and delivered home, though I wonder what the take up is on this. Having one’s bedroom furnishings up for grabs adds a touch of insecurity – could it all be whisked off in the night? Also I never like restaurants with the “art for sale” gallery vibe which leads to a lack of commitment by the establishment and, as we all well know, is cheapskate. Oddly, I am rather attracted by monogrammed cups and saucers for sale and lust after monogrammed Ritz Paris tea services.

Lux 11’s plethora of badly placed light switches are confusing. Playing hunt the switch is never fun. I am on a mission to simplify lighting controls and amongst my networking discoveries in Berlin was the French company Meljac. They have just “done” The Ritz Paris and are the business! Switches should have a comforting click, be placed sensibly and should be purpose engraved – lecture over.

It had taken me ages to make up my mind where to stay in Berlin and was guided by my ever-travelling daughter who insisted the Mitte neighbourhood was the place to be, and that Soho House the young persons’ first choice! Amongst other front runners for my trip was Circuswhich looked colourful and fun. Linien was entrancingly rustic chic but was full but and Das Stue, (which only had a suite left due to my dithering) which has been designed by Milan’s dazzling Patrizia Urquiola and is perched overlooking the famous Berlin Zoo should you wish to be woken up by a chimp.

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