Tour the Chic Berlin Retreat of an American Abroad

An American living in Berlin transforms a small apartment into a gorgeous, global space.

February 07, 2020
By: Jeanine Hays

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

Photo By: Jochen Arndt

All the World’s a Stage

Some jobs become your whole world, and other jobs open the whole world to you. Chris Glass’s job might be a little of both. As Director of European Membership for the renowned Soho House, the Georgia, U.S.-born native has been living around the world for nearly 20 years, after studying theater at the Boston Conservatory. The last seven years have been spent in Berlin, in a 1,200 square foot, 2-bedroom apartment that he has worked extensively to turn into a reflection of his global lifestyle and tastes.

A Diamond in the Rough

"The flat was lackluster and definitely needed a facelift," Chris recalls of his first visit to the space. "It was being shared by three folks — each with a bedroom. It had been split off from a neighboring flat many years ago and had not been renovated since then." Recognizing the potential, however, Chris quickly got to work building his vision, starting with the living room. Describing his style as "Bohemian Chic," the living room is a full display of Chris’s love of eclectic influences. Mid-century seating is surrounded by sculpture, painting and books on fashion and style.

Bohemian Flair

A frequent entertainer, Chris has found that the living room is a favorite among his guests. "This big open space is a bit unexpected," he reveals, "and the combination of the plants against the luxe vintage pieces always draws a reaction." Of his favorite pieces, Chris is quick to confide that, "My coffee table from Maison Jansen is a highlight. It took me ages to find something that suited the space and I ended up with a piece that I absolutely cherish."

Dining Color and Texture

The dining room is a fluid continuation of the living room's aesthetic, mixing warm wood tones with the cooler shades of the walls, art and tabletop. The intriguing interplay of wood, stone and fur that characterizes this space reveals another element of Chris's design aesthetic. "I like to make bold choices in interiors and I'm fond of color and texture," he admits, "but it's still important that the space feels warm and, more than anything, functional."

A Labor of Kitchen Love

During the renovation, the kitchen was one of the major points of focus. Chris opened the wall separating the space from the living room. "The kitchen was a tiny box and the space needed more light," he says. From there, some cabinets were removed, while others had their facades changed; shelves and storage were built, and appliances were added and rearranged. "This was a big chunk of work, but it made a world of difference." The finished space reveals Chris's bohemian aesthetic, with shelves adorned with an eclectic array of objects including clay miniature houses, glasses, plants and food containers.

Moody Passageways

Though Chris's use of color tends towards the subtle in his rooms, the tone changes in the hallway, becoming bold, moody and captivating. "I literally painted everything I could," he says about the redesign, noting that paint was an ideal way to rapidly change the look of the home. "I did the lion's share of the work very early on because it was important to me to create a nest as quickly as possible," he says. Covering the space in deep green — verging on black — the dark tone becomes a perfect, neutral backdrop for the artwork that lines the walls.

Home Art Show

Further on, the hallway becomes a sort of art gallery, showcasing the fruits of a passion that began as a child. "When I was young, my mother collected art and I always thought of it as something beautiful, but unattainable," Chris remembers. "Today I appreciate that the works I have are for me. They are personal mementos."

Warm and Cozy

Chris's home office is open and peaceful, the perfect space for hosting a friend for a few days. The sea foam green wall and sand-colored curtains and rug evoke a vaguely beach-like atmosphere that feels effortless. It's interesting then, that Chris singles this space out as the hardest part of his initial redesign. He explains that, "because the room is so compact, I struggled to create a layout that was functional, but still aesthetically pleasing."

Egalitarian Comforts

Part of the design solution in Chris's office redesign was to fill the space with art. This very vertical gallery wall accents the room's high ceilings while giving additional space to Chris's art collection. "The artwork in my flat all has very personal meaning. Some were gifted to me by artist friends directly or were gifts for friends that I loved so much that I had them made for me too."

Sleep Sanctuary

The bedroom is, without question, Chris's favorite room in his apartment. "I love my bedroom because it's so spacious and it feels very calm," he says. With enough room to fit a loveseat under the window next to a full bedroom set, it still has space left over for a walk-in closet. But size isn't the only attraction in this room. Its main asset is the relaxed feel that comes from the very smart use of a blush pink on the wall that strikes Chris as "both modern and romantic." It's also a great place to relax while getting a view of Chris's neighborhood in Berlin's trendy Mitte district. "If I peek out my window, I get a glimpse of Berlin’s TV tower," he notes.

A Balance of Energies

The bedroom's relaxing feel also comes from its relative minimalism compared with the other rooms. Absent here are the overflowing bookshelves or rows of wall art that give such life and energy to the rest of the home. In this room they're replaced by open spaces, engaging colors and simple pieces like the overlapping circles that hang on the wall next to the bed. The almost zen simplicity of the art contrasts with the intricate design of the table lamp to land the room in a space that isn't too busy or too boring, but just right.

Global Design in Every Room

"I think my flat feels very warm," Chris says of his home and its design. "At least that's the feedback I often get. You come in and you instantly feel 'at home.' I come in and feel instantly wrapped in arms of comfort and tucked away from the commotion below. It gives me reassurance that every book and nook is something I've chosen, and though everything has its place, it doesn't feel stiff or set. There's lots to discover and it has a global spirit."

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