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Collector's Edition: the Epitome of Mid-Century Modern Design

Like many dedicated shopkeepers, Mid-Century Modern design collector Emmanuel de Bayser lives above his store, The Corner, in Berlin.

Greg Cox/Bureaux, Styling Sven Alberding

Mid-Century Modern | House and Leisure

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 Mid-Century Modern design collector 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 Mid-Century Modern design icons Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand, Danish architect Philip Arctander, Swedish designer Axel Einar Hjorth and master French ceramicist Georges Jouve.

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Mid-Century Modern | House and Leisure

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 the many collectable Mid-Century Modern designers he loves, both on the internet and in brick-and-mortar antiques stores – in short, ‘Wherever I can find them!’

Mid-Century Modern | House and Leisure

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 Mid-Century Modern 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’.

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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.

Mid-Century Modern | House and Leisure

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. 

Mid-Century Modern | House and Leisure