COLLECTOR’S EDITION Emmanuel de Bayser’s Berlin apartment is a Mid-Century Modern treasure trove
Like many dedicated shopkeepers, Emmanuel de Bayser lives above his store. But The Corner Berlin is not your average shop – and its owner is a connoisseur of Mid-Century Modern design
Situated in Berlin’s bustling Mitte neighbourhood in the old East of the city, you’ll find The Corner Berlin, an exclusive lifestyle store that was started 12 years ago by Emmanuel de Bayser and his partner Josef Voelk. Intended to be ‘a platform in Berlin for the best international design’, as Emmanuel puts it, The Corner Berlin is one of the city’s top destinations for those looking for something well made and out of the ordinary. Four years ago, Emmanuel bought an apartment in the same building in which the shop is situated. It’s a grand, imposing edifice dating back to the early 20th century, with period features such as a vintage lift clad in intricate cast ironwork that softens the neoclassical lines of the architecture surrounding it.
That balance of the linear and structural with curvaceous and playful elements continues once inside the front door. To the left of the entrance hall is the library-cum-study, which boasts a bank of windows on one side of the room and a selection of breathtakingly chic items by French Modernist icons Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand, Danish architect Philip Arctander, Swedish designer Axel Einar Hjorth and master French ceramicist Georges Jouve. A mere glance at this sliver of a space instantly assures any visitor to Emmanuel’s apartment that its owner is a Mid-Century Modern design connoisseur.
Move through to the polished open-plan living and dining area, and that impression gets a further boost. Here, wall-mounted and standing lamps by Prouvé and French industrial designer Serge Mouille hint at Emmanuel’s dislike of direct lighting, and illuminate a pair of sheep ‘art furniture’ creations by French sculptor François-Xavier Lalanne that ‘wander’ amid a field of designs by French sculptor Jean Royère, Art Deco designer Paul Frankl and Perriand.
During the day, the space is flooded with natural light thanks to the presence of numerous windows, and high ceilings add to the airy feel. This light makes the area perfectly suited to showcasing all of Emmanuel’s seriously covetable pieces of 20th century design and art, such as a colourful artwork by French-German artist Jean Arp, wooden vessels by French sculptor Alexandre Noll, a wall-mounted bookshelf and a sideboard by Perriand, several sunburst mirrors by French artist Line Vautrin, and ceramics by French painter André Borderie.
Emmanuel confesses to being continuously in pursuit of pieces by designers he loves, both on the internet and in brick-and-mortar antiques stores – in short, ‘ Wherever I can find them!’ And having collected for 20 years, he tends to need new points of focus every now and then. His accumulation of Jouve ceramics was begun, in part, because ‘I had no room for any more furniture,’ he says.
As with all connoisseur-collectors, Emmanuel’s relationship with his pieces is a highly personal and
considered one. Speaking of the ceramics, for example, he says that he finds them ‘meditative… I love to look at them, to make new groupings based on colour or shape’ and adds that they ‘give another layer of life to the furniture’. And when asked why his collection is focused predominantly – although not exclusively – on French design, furniture and collectibles from the middle of the 20th century, he reveals, ‘This genre of design is timeless and also mixes so well with the architecture from older periods. It has a lively character that somehow both contrasts and fits with other styles.’
When he bought the apartment four years ago, Emmanuel gave the 160m2 space a sensitive renovation. This included retaining the basic layout of the rooms as well as keeping some of the finishes intact: the Mid-Century kitchen was upgraded, while the flooring, built-in cupboards and ceiling detail were all restored rather than replaced.
In the bedroom, Emmanuel added wood cladding to the walls, a detail that ‘warms up’ the spacious room and feels as if it should have been part of its original design. The bedroom is perhaps even more fanciful and engaging than the more public areas of the apartment, and features lots of bold hues and collectibles, as seen in the vibrant Jouve ceramics, several white pieces by Borderie and a quirky sidetable by US fashion designer Rick Owens that incorporates a deer antler.
After the pops of colour in the bedroom, the en suite bathroom is cool and calm. Although it has been completely redone – apart from the flooring, which was kept intact – it retains its alluring Modernist spirit. The double vanity and storage unit was designed by Emmanuel, and it has a similar feel as the functional ‘space age’ designs of the ’50s, as well as a touch of the angular, clean-lined aesthetic of the ’30s about it.
In spite of the fact that Emmanuel’s apartment and store are situated in the centre of one of the busiest historical districts of Berlin, it must be very easy to find an excuse to regularly pop upstairs to enjoy his private design wonderland. Which just goes to show that living above the shop has some very obvious advantages. thecornerberlin.de
Interest has been added to a corner of the bedroom with an artwork by Arp and a Senate Committee chair upholstered in coral fabric by Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret. A wooden table by Perriand and Jeanneret is topped with a white ceramic by Borderie and just one of many books from Emmanuel’s extensive collection, 500 of which can be found in the library-cum-study’s built-in shelving that he designed.
OPPOSITE PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP
In the dining area, another work by Arp crowns a sideboard by Perriand that is adorned with curvaceous wooden pieces by French sculptor Alexandre Noll as well as colourful ceramics and a table lamp, all by Jouve. Sunburst mirrors by French designer and jeweller Line Vautrin reflect Emmanuel’s love of the whimsical; the original kitchen was carefully restored and updated rather than simply replaced, giving it an authentic vintage feel; throughout the apartment, not an inch of space has been neglected, as seen in this small seating area with its Standard chair by Prouvé, lamp by Jouve and artwork by US artist Scott Reeder.
The bedroom is perhaps even more fanciful and engaging than the more public areas of the apartment, and features lots of bold hues and collectibles.
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‘Primary colours are timeless, I find,’ says Emmanuel – and as his bedroom shows, he’s right. Here, a vintage 1950s lamp in blue, yellow and red by Italian designer Gino Sarfatti merges seamlessly with a further selection of Jouve ceramics in primary hues that have been placed on a round wooden Guéridon Bas table by Prouvé, while a graphic artwork entitled ‘Wonderbread’ by Mid-Century US artist, Roman Catholic nun and educator Corita Kent adds to the space’s sense of fun. The bench at the base of the bed and another Senate Committee chair (this one covered in green material) are both by Jeanneret, and the Perriand stool matches those that have been used in the living-cum-dining area. Offsetting the vibrant colours are monochrome additions that are no less striking than their lively counterparts: the white Clam chair is by Danish architect Philip Arctander, the white ceramic vessels are by Chambost and Jouve, and the black wall sconce alongside the bed is by Mouille.