The entrance to Stilspiel in Berlin
All photos © Ramtin Zanjani for Pamono
Evelyn Lang & Malte Henkel, owners of Kreuzberg-based Stilspiel
Red rocking chair by Frank Reenskaug for Bramin and Fun Capiz Shell Chandelier by Verner Panton, among other objects, at Stilspiel
An Italian floor lamp stands beside a 1960s Martin Stoll chair for Stoll Giroflex (both 1960s)
Amanta Coffee Table by Mario Bellini for C&B Italia and a Serpente lamp by Elio Martinelli, among others
Lucy, Lang, and Henkel inside the Stilspiel workshop
Henkel talks restoration in the workshop
Inside the Stilspiel workshop
Inside the Stilspiel workshop
Midcentury Danish chair and table, Wilhelm Wagenfeld vase for WMF/Geislingen (1950), Murano ashtray (1960s), midcentury German glasses; painting by Maurizio Rubino & Isabella Balzano
Lucy, Lang, and Henkel chat in Stilspiel’s showroom
Lang and Henkel at Stilspiel
A German double-globe arc lamp sits beside a French "Karate" chair from Airborne (both 1970s)
1960s Danish teak desk and chair (designer unknown)
Danish glass and teak hanging lamps (1960s) beside hand-blown, midcentury German liqueur glasses (designers unknown)
German leather and rosewood plywood chairs (1970s), Contract table by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller (1950), and German brass side table (1950s)
Tulip Stool by Eero Saarinen for Knoll International, 1950s
Stilspiel’s front door
Just a stone’s throw from Kreuzberg’s vibrant and frenzied Oranienstraße, Malte Henkel and Evelyn Lang’s vintage haven, Stilspiel, sits tucked into a laid-back side street with a vibe that’s decidedly local. There’s not a tourist in sight, despite the neighborhood’s current status as the hippest in Berlin. Still, the streetscape is 100% Kreuzberg, reflecting its long history of welcoming workers, immigrants, anarchists, and artists. The 19th-century building that houses the shop—as well as the couple’s home—drips with ivy and welcoming charm, a spirited companion to the hard-nosed, graffiti-tagged, 1960s apartment block directly opposite.
Inside Stilspiel, the layers of history continue. Since 2007, Henkel and Lang have filled the bi-level space with an eclectic mix of 20th-century design classics and curiosities, ranging from the subdued silhouettes of Bauhaus and Scandinavian modernism to the exuberant, Space Age forms of the ’60s and ’70s. They’re self-taught experts, eager to elaborate on the stories behind each piece in their collection. Even more than that, their expertise extends into the details of materials and processes, so they’re able to restore their vintage finds to original condition. It’s a labor of love that we can relate to. So we recently spent an afternoon with the Stilspiel owners to talk craftsmanship, Ikea, and Kreuzberg life.
Matilda Lucy: Take us back to the beginnings of Stilspiel. How did it all begin?
Malte Henkel: After finishing university, we knew one thing for sure: we wanted to be in Berlin. I studied communications, and Evelyn studied art history; we were looking to start a joint venture that combined both of our skills and passions. For me, the most important thing was to have a job that allowed me to use my hands as well as my head. Throughout university I worked as a craftsman for extra cash and after graduating I worked as an assistant for an antiques specialist for almost a year.
We fell in love with the abandoned space on the ground floor of this building and eventually persuaded the landlord to let us take it over. During the first few months, we were actually building our own furniture to sell, but we soon realized there was not enough time to do everything. We decided to concentrate on collecting, restoring, and selling vintage pieces.
ML: You have your shop, flat, and workshop in the same building. Does that get a bit intense?
MH: We really love having everything in the same space. During the shop’s opening hours, we can be working downstairs in the workshop and run back up the stairs when we hear the front door. In our flat, upstairs, we experiment and get to know the furniture. We try new materials and techniques on our own furniture, mixing up styles and seeing what will work well together.
ML: Your collection mixes designs from famous, 20th-century designers with unknown pieces. How do you choose the objects you bring into the shop?
MH: For us, the most important thing is the quality of the piece. We’re not searching for famous names; we search piece by piece for designs that work well and are made to the highest standard. Years of restoring pieces in our workshop have trained us to be able to quickly recognize how well a piece has been designed and produced. Of course, often when you’re looking for the best quality designs, you do tend to stumble across the big names.
ML: As vintage specialists, how do you feel about the less expensive, mass-produced furniture that has prevailed in our “buy-use-throw-away” culture?
MH: Everyone starts with a Billy Bookshelf from Ikea. That’s normal; that’s ok! In recent years, though, we feel there has been a change in the “second-wave” of furniture buyers—people who are in their thirties, who have a bit more money for the first time and are beginning to value their time spent at home more. They don’t want to be contributing to the landfills already overflowing with discarded furniture; they’re more interested in buying quality pieces that will last. People are starting to realize that by building up your interior slowly, you can create a unique and durable living space with character.
ML: Slow and mindful living—with a renewed focus on traditional crafts like carpentry—has had a millennial resurgence. But I understand these traits have run in your family for a few generations. Is that right?
MH: My grandfather was an upholsterer, my father worked as a chief engineer and my mother took me to auctions from a very early age in search of Biedermeier furniture. She loved the style so much that she would pick up pieces in any state and restore them to their original grandeur as a hobby. So I learned a lot just watching my mother and father work at home.
ML: Your restoration techniques focus heavily on returning pieces to their original condition. How do you feel about the current trend of upcycling, or restoring vintage pieces in a way that’s not original to the design?
MH: I think that anything that involves reusing materials that would otherwise be thrown away can only a positive thing. In this sense, it is similar to our own process of preserving furniture but it is not exactly the same. Our work concentrates on retaining the originality of the design and respects the designers construct of ideas.
ML: You are currently exhibiting the works of several artists alongside your furniture. How fluid is the relationship between art and design for you?
MH: Although we concentrate on vintage design ourselves, we think that this is the perfect space to showcase contemporary art; the line between the two is so blurred. Most of the artists are local and have completely varied styles. If we like the work of an artist and think it will fit our collection, we just invite them to exhibit.
Evelyn Lang: Generally nowadays, more artists are designing limited-edition furniture. Certain designs are now as collectible as works of art and are sold for higher and higher prices at auction each year. For example Eileen Gray's Drachensessel was sold for over 20 million euros in Paris in 2009, the highest price ever paid for a piece of 20th century furniture. Design and art are linked more closely than ever before.
ML: How long has Kreuzberg been your home?
MH: Almost 25 years. I came to Berlin at the beginning of the 1990s, when it was still very ’80s. I did what every young person new to Berlin does: I moved from neighborhood to neighborhood until I found one that fit. And for us, that was Kreuzberg.
ML: You are located in the heart of Kreuzberg, arguably Berlin’s most creative neighborhood. How have you seen this area change over the years?
MH: It’s not so ’80s anymore, and the streets are a lot cleaner. Since I arrived, Kreuzberg has always been home to a wide array of people. And today there are more people from more places than ever before, which I think is great. We have countless different cuisines at our doorstep, because people from so many backgrounds now call Kreuzberg home.
Of course, with the positive changes come the negative side effects of rising rent prices, but overall I think that Kreuzbergers are still as politically engaged as they have ever been. We will still unite quickly against any looming political change that we feel is wrong, and I really like that.
ML: Where are your favorite spots in the neighborhood?
MH: As a former part of West Berlin, Kreuzberg is still home to old artisanal specialists, who sell tools and parts for woodworking, upholstery, electrical components, etc. The former Eastern districts, such as Friedrichshain, don’t have so many of these ateliers. This means we can walk to pick up any parts we need for our restoration processes really easily.
After working in the workshop all day, we love to get outside in the evenings and enjoy the nature in the area. We can walk a 10km circuit through only parks and green spaces. That’s really unique to Berlin. There are also a lot of great restaurants and street food in our area!
ML: Do you feel you have a collection that will appeal particularly to Berliners?
MH: Berlin is home to open-minded, international people. So, in this sense, yes. It’s home to so many more vintage furniture boutiques than most other cities in Europe—partly because the demand for vintage designs here is so high. Saying this, we have an eclectic mix of styles in our collection and customers as far flung as New York and Tokyo. So although it’s based in Berlin, it attracts a wide audience.
A sun-seeking Mancunian with a passion for all things French, Matilda taught English to sommeliers in the south of France and lobbied for international publishing rights in Brussels before moving to Berlin. Though she’s yet to win the Tour de France, Matilda can often be found cycling round Berlin, discovering the city’s endless hidden treasures.
Beyond his role as Pamono’s Head of Photography, Ramtin has honed his keen eye through years of product shoots, art direction, advertising, and documentary work. He doesn’t like to talk about it, but he has some searing photographs available at SaatchiArt.com.
More to Love
3-Seater Cherry Framed Sofa from Joseph Kreuzburg, 1930s
Art Deco Table Lamps, 1930s, Set of 2
Wall Light with 3 Glass Cubes, 1970s
Mid-Century German Sideboard by Franz Ehrlich for Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau, 1960s
Ceiling Light with Bi-Colored Plastic Shade, 1970s
Teak Wall Unit with Cabinet by Nisse Strinning for String, 1950s
German Light-Gray Metal Industrial Pendant, 1950s
Swedish Wall Unit with Four Teak Shelves by Nisse Strinning for String, 1950s
Swedish Teak Wall Unit by Nisse Strinning for String, 1950s
German Architect's Lamps, 1970s, Set of 2
Freeform Teak Desk by Hans Hartl for WK Möbel, 1950s
Hammer Teak Children's Chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen, 1968
Automatic 2 Speed Table Fan from Philips, 1960s
German Plexiglas Wall Clock, 1960s
French Lamella Lamp by Henri Mathieu for Mathieu Lighting, 1970s
Gray Model Penguin Armchair by Carl Sasse for Casala, 1950s
Vintage German Tulip Base Floor Lamp from Staff, 1960s
Gray Workshop Light from SIS, 1950s
German Vintage Floor Lamp from Staff, 1960s
Dining Set with 4 Penguin Chairs by Carl Sasse for Casala, 1950s
Adjustable Yellow Table Light by Hustadt-leuchten, 1960s
Teak Wall Shelf with Drawers by Nisse Strinning for String Design AB, 1950s
Adjustable Spotlight from Swisslamps, 1970s
Wind Light from Kristallglaswerk Hirschberg, 1960s
Green Model Penguin Armchair by Carl Sasse for Casala, 1950s
Daybed GS-195 by Gianni Songia for Luigi Sormani, 1963
Pendant Lights from Staff, 1970s, Set of 3
Teak Highboard by Henning Kjaernulf for Vejle Mobelfabrik, 1960s
Mid-Century Teak Rocking Chair by Frank Reenskaug for Bramin
Tulip Stool by Eero Saarinen for Knoll International, 1950s
Italian Sculptural Glass & Brass Coffee Table, 1950s
Danish Teak Desk with Rear Bookshelf, 1960s
Italian Chromed Swing-Arm Ceiling Lamp by Franco Albini for Sirrah, 1969
German Brass Side Table, 1950s
German Round Double-Tiered Coffee Table, 1950s
German Boomerang Chairs by Hans Mitzlaff for Eugen Schmidt, 1950s, Set of 2
Danish Teak Sideboard from Fredericia, 1950s
Rosewood Sideboard by Gunni Omann for Omann Jun. Mobelfabrik, 1960s
German Rotatable Teal Leather Stool, 1970s
German Garden Chairs from Mauser Werke, 1950s, Set of 2
Model 660 Flex Table Lamp by Elio Martinelli for Martinelli Luce, 1970s
German Ceiling Lamp with Five Slotted Yellow Shades, 1950s
Vintage Translucent Glass Table Lamp
Eva Dining Chairs by Niels Koefoed for Koefoeds Hornslet, 1960s, Set of 4
Pallade Pendant Lamp by Studio Tetrarch for Artemide, 1960s
Mid-Century Danish Folding Safari-Style Chair, 1960s
Contract Table by Charles & Ray Eames for Herman Miller, 1970s
Danish Model 71 Teak Dining Chairs by Niels Otto Moller for J.L. Møllers, 1960s, Set of 6
Teak Floor Lamp from Temde, 1960s
German Pendant Lamps with Structured Glass and Brass Cylinder, 1960s, Set of 2
Czech Art Deco Pendant Lamp with Three Glass Globes from Zukov, 1940s
Swiss Office Swivel Chair from Stoll Giroflex, 1970s
Danish Large Blue Tulip Ceiling Lamp, 1960s
German Green & White Garden Set, 1960s
Glass Cylinder Pendant Lamp from Peill & Putzler, 1970s
Wave Ceiling Lamp by Koch & Lowy for Peill & Putzler, 1970s
Swiss Fun 0 DM Chandelier by Verner Panton for J. Luber AG, 1964
Drop Light Ceiling Lamp by Helena Tynell for Glashütte Limburg, Germany, 1960s
Square Danish Dining Table by Piet Hein for Fritz Hansen, 1970s
Large Illuminated Mirror by Ernest Igl for Hillebrand Leuchten
German 4 Lamped Chromed Spotlight from Erco, 1970s
German Adjustable Chrome Spot Lamps by Sische, 1970s
Danish Teak Nesting Tables by Arne Hovmand-Olsen for Mogens Kold, 1960s, Set of 3
Long Teak Shelf by Walter Wirtz for Wilhelm Renz, 1960s
Danish Dolly by Poul Norreklit for Georg Petersen, 1970
GP 160 Desk by Poul Norreklit for Georg Petersen, 1970
German Green Handblown Glass Pendant Lamp from Staff, 1960s
Flexible German Z-Lite Desk Lamp from Brilliant Leuchten, 1970s
German Garden Set from Mauser, 1950s
German White Cascade Lamp from Kaiser Leuchten, 1960s
Asymmetrical Birchwood Desk with Baby Blue Top, 1950s
Rosewood Dining Table with Leather by Kristian Solmer Vedel for Soren Willadsen
Danish Fruitbowl Table by Kistian Solmer Vedel for Soren Willadsen
Vintage Molecule Shaped Pendant from Gebrüder Cosack
Vintage Space Age Wall Lamp from Cosack
ML1 Table Lamp by Ingo Maurer, 1967
Danish Teak Dining Chairs with Papercord Seats, Set of 5
Vintage Brass Yacht Light
Vintage Plant-Shaped Floor Lamp
Vintage Gold-Leaf Flower Wall Lamp
French Sunburst Mirror with Curved Leaves, 1950s
Dutch Multicolored Metal Rack by Adrian Dekker for Tomado, 1950s
German Round Illuminated Wall Mirror from Hillebrand Leuchten, 1970s
Italian Orange Children's Rocking Chair
Danish Teak Sideboard with Sliding Doors and Drawers from Dyrlund, 1960s
Minimalist Daybed by Rob Parry for Gelderland, 1960s
Danish Square Rosewood Coffee Table by Severin Hansen for Haslev, 1960s
Mid-Century Italian Chromed Floor Lamp, 1960s
Danish Teak Cubic Nesting Tables, 1960s
German Glass Pendant Lamp from Peill & Putzler, 1970s
Italian Beige Planta Coat Rack by Giancarlo Piretti for Castelli, 1970s
German Sculptural Coffee Table by Knut Hesterberg for Ronald Schmitt, 1960s
Austrian Independence Sofa Group with Bed Function from Karl Wittmann, 1968, Set of 3
Amanta Coffee Table by Mario Bellini for C&B Italia, 1966
Czechoslovak Bauhaus Steel Tube Sofa Bed from Mücke & Melder, 1930s
Take Five Extractable German Ceiling Lamp by Ginbande for Serien, 1993
German Easy Chair by Selman Selmanagic for DW Hellerau, 1950s
Black Planta Coat Rack by Giancarlo Piretti for Castelli, 1970s
Italian Huge Chrome Arc Lamp, 1960s
German Apollo Table Lamp with Glass Globe, 1970s
Square Aluminium Coffee Table with Tinted Glass, 1970s
German Cascade Drop Light with Opal Glass from Peill & Putzler, 1960s