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Making over our Berlin apartment

October 11, 2022

When I was younger, my dad used to tease my mom for being the kind of person to remake a dress because of a button that needs to be replaced, or to buy an entirely new dinnerware set because of one broken plate. Well, I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, because our current apartment remodeling is exactly like that. It started with a desperate need for a desk and became a total makeover for three rooms - the living room, the bedroom and the children's room. In the past, maybe I would see it as exploiting one tiny "flaw" as an excuse to make a bigger change, but today I see it more as an opportunity. And even more so, I can understand and relate to that feeling you get when you realize that fixing just one little thing isn't going to be enough. That it actually emphasizes all of the other flaws or problems that you could ignore up to this point, but can't anymore.

Our family in the nursery
Photo by: Alana Range

We have all lived through over two years of this Covid situation, so I probably don't need to explain why the need for a proper desk was so pressing. Rafael continues to work most days from home, and during those lonely lockdown days he was working from our dining table, and with two young kids, it was far from ideal. To be honest, I liked looking up from across the room and seeing him there, even if he was busy, but for the most part, it was messy, uncomfortable, noisy, and quite an inconvenience for us all.

Standing-desk in the living room

This apartment has been our home for 3 years now, and while we have been thinking about buying a flat here in the city, we came to terms with the fact that we will probably stay here for at least 2-3 years until the kids are older. In Berlin, the majority of the population is renting their homes, and buying is not really the standard. There are laws that protect the tenants and make it possible for long-term renting, therefore it is common for tenants to put in the work (and the money) to make it their own.

Our family in our new bedroom
Photo by: Alana Range

While we like this place and the neighborhood, it’s not our dream flat, it doesn’t have the amazing features that some of the apartments in the older buildings (known as Altbau) have, and it’s not newly renovated either. It is somewhat ordinary, and I assume that many of you are in the same situation - living in an okay flat with okay furniture, and wishing to make it better, nicer, prettier and more comfortable. We definitely get a little jealous sometimes of other homes that we see, the type of spaces that are so easily made beautiful. But I knew that it had great potential and that with a little bit of love and care it could look and feel elevated.

That was the "why" here is the what

The first thing that I had to figure out was where to place the desk. One option was to design a custom-made wall unit in the living room, which would include storage, a TV, and a desk. But after experiencing first-hand working while the kids are at home, we preferred to separate the work area from the living room. In addition, we wanted to use the budget for furniture that could be later repurposed if we move or need to rearrange the flat again.

Bedroom details

The second option was to place the desk in our bedroom. I know, it's not ideal, and experts could argue that welcoming work vibes into the sleeping area is a mistake, but in small apartments, there are only so many options, and that felt like the right thing for us at this time. There are two bedrooms in the apartment, both are large enough to fit the bed along with a desk, but the room that was used as the nursery is slightly bigger and positioned right next to the living room. Initially, we liked the fact that while the kids are playing, the two spaces are used as one. However, when they are asleep we have to tiptoe around so we won't wake them up. The other bedroom is slightly more separated, and could allow Rafael to work in a quieter environment during the day and for us to be more comfortable in the living room at night. For those reasons, we decided to flip the rooms and dive into a bigger transformation.

Robin and me
Photo by: Alana Range

The bedroom

I played around quite a bit with this room's layout in order to make sure that the existing furniture fit, that there is enough room for the desk that Rafael needed and that he would enjoy the large window and the natural light without it reflecting on the screen too much. The majority of the furniture was moved from one room to the other, and because it was mostly basic and white Ikea furniture, I knew that I wanted to add color, texture and character to the room somehow. I was set on wallpaper from Room Blush, I had my eye on their designs for a while now, and got three samples to see the pattern and color up close. Their service was impeccable and we wound up choosing a warm-toned geometric pattern that gives a wall-art vibe. People visiting actually think it was painted. Two small shelves that were previously in the living room got a new location, as well as the white wireframes that I styled with family photos and artwork from society6, and hung above the new desk.

Bedroom makeover
Desk in the bedroom

The nursery

I wrote a little bit about Robin's room in an earlier post, and disclosed the fact that this room has been "a work in progress" for over two years. I kept waiting for the next milestone and never got there. Now I decided that I'm done waiting, and designing the room as I would like it to be now. Thus while having a plan for changing it up a little bit again, when we can replace the changing table with taller wardrobes. I already created a design for the next phase in order to make sure that the layout as I planned it would work out well in the future.

Robin's bed and craft table

The two main issues that I was concerned with were color and toy organization. We already had some decorative elements, such as a trio of paintings made by my talented mom, so I based the color palette on them, using bright green and deep blue colors. I tried a few different ways to incorporate the colors on the walls and fell in love with the arches motif, which creates a playful vibe and adds fluidity and flow to the room. Regarding storage, I looked for open shelves that would allow the kids to see and reach everything. We have additional toys and craft materials stored away and we rotate between them every once in a while. On the opposite wall, I created a craft area using Ikea SKÅDIS with extra accessories that I found on Etsy, and matched two stools from SKLUM to the small table that we already had.

Our new nursery
Toy organisation
Nursery colors and details
Exploring the new craft table

The living room

"It would be really cool to have a standing desk" Rafael said to me, while we were discussing his exact expectations and requirements for his new workspace. I have had the same idea a while back, while trying to get some things done and wearing Libby in the baby carrier. We know that there are modular desks with adjustable height, but with another workstation we could both work comfortably at the same time and also have more flexibility. After much thought and concedirations, I found a standing desk that I liked and found the perfect place for it in the living room, it only meant that we needed to change the entire layout of the room, even though we had no such plans initially. A little help from our parents allowed us to replace some of our least favorite furniture (yes uncomfortable sofa, I'm talking about you).

The new living room furniture
Mixing existing objects with new purchases
Louie enjoying the new layout
Our new round dining table

Let's get practical - how did we do it?

Our family situation with a toddler and a baby made it clear that we needed to minimize the shopping trips and do as much as possible online. I used free online tools to decide on the layout, share my thoughts with Rafael and create a shopping list.

Online tools for interior design

Having a very clear vision and budget allowed us to be quick and efficient while shopping and get everything that we needed before the kids lost it. Other than the sofa, dining table and cabinet for the living room that we got from Höffner, all items were ordered online, including the colored wall paint and wallpaper.