Continuing in my series about relocating to Berlin with a focus on interior design and the Berlin lifestyle.
If you’re buying a new apartment from a builder or thinking about it, you probably already have lots of ideas about the design of your interiors and how you would like it to look. Maybe you’re thinking of having a mid century modern vibe or more of an industrial chic mix of old and new. Whether you plan to do it yourself or hire an interior designer, there are some things you should consider as early as possible.
“But the place isn’t even built or finished yet, there’s plenty of time to think about a bit of paint or some pillows,” I can hear you say. Well, let’s put it another way. If you hired an architect to custom build an apartment or house for you, she would need to know early on in the design brief how you wanted the place to look including where you would be putting all of your furniture.
“Why is the furniture layout important early on? Because the lighting and electrical plan is greatly influenced by the placement of your furniture. The earlier you have this figured out, the more flexibility you have in getting the lighting and electricals the way you want them.”
When you are buying from a builder, they will offer you a basic electrical plan and the later you realise you want changes made, the more expensive the upgrades become if they are even still possible. Often I’ve been hired to design the interiors of a new build when it’s almost finished only to have the builder say that it’s too late for certain changes to be implemented.
Getting the lighting right requires some thought about how you want to use your space. As the best lighting comes from a variety of sources, you want to consider early on having some or all of the following: ceiling, wall, floor, table and indirect lighting.
Furniture layout and placement of the TV is an interesting subject. I’m always amused when discussing where best to put the TV which invariably leads to a discussion about how it’s not really used or when, just for movies and it shouldn’t be the centre of attention, etc. TVs and interior design are not mutually exclusive or reflect some lack of sophistication – we pretty much all have one and there’s nothing wrong with actually seeing it in your space. I for one love Netflix. There, I said it.
But the electrical and lighting plans are just one aspect of the planning. Details like moving walls, flooring, custom interior doors, bathroom tiles, fixtures and recessed niches are all things to consider asking about when looking at the plans with the builder or real estate agent.
Most builders will just offer a cable sticking out of the wall over the bathroom mirror but what if you’d like suspended or wall mounted lights? Due to the nature of construction planning, this would have to be discussed before construction begins. When it comes to the bathroom fixtures, would you be happy with the standard sink mounted variety or do you want to kick it up a notch with wall mounted faucets and taps?
I recently met with clients at the site of their beautiful new apartment which is currently under construction. Although the builder was offering some great details, the clients were interested in some changes. Instead of the standard, small 6 cm high baseboards, I suggested elegant and modern 16 cm Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) or Bauhaus style profile baseboards but because the contruction was already 60% finished, this would incur extra costs.
It’s not always possible but getting in at the planning stage will give you far more flexibility and makes it more feasible for the architect, planner or builder to incorporate your wishes into the plans. Also consider that a smaller or boutique building firm might be more flexible than a builder with a large scale project of over 100 units.
In a previous post about relocating to Berlin (Relocating to Berlin – what to expect (and not expect) in your new space I wrote about how german windows are unique in that they open inwards as opposed to outwards or sliding. What this means for you is that you should consider if, and or what kind of window coverings you would like to have for the simple reason of the installation hardware. With many modern apartments having floor to ceiling windows, the obvious answer is ceiling mounted hardware. But for other types of windows you should think about if you need anything for privacy, sound insulation, black out lining or blinds for light control or just something decorative and how it could be installed.
Many people just want to let in the light or don’t want to block the view. Fair enough, but consider that in June, the sun rises around 4:30 in the morning in Berlin so if you’re not an early riser, you might want to give it some thought.
The best thing is to ask the builder as soon as possible about any changes and building deadlines. At the end of the day there are always ways to achieve the look that you want but the earlier you define your style and needs, the more successful the end result will be.