When I grow up I want to design a hotel…Yep, same like this one…the citizenM hotel in Bankside London.
I’ve heard about citizenM when I was visiting London on July. I was having a meeting and a portfolio review with WallPaper Magazine and in preparing myself to the meeting, I read the WallPaper Travel section and came across the citizenM post. The hotel happened to be located just across the street from WallPaper offices so I made sure to go and see the hotel with my own eyes.
Yes. I admit. I love Shapes and Colors. (and if you follow my blog for a while now, I’m sure you have probably noticed that) so no wonder I was drawn into the huge lobby of citizenM immediately and wandered its colorful labyrinth. Then I got to the working space area that really made me envy I wasn’t the one sitting there working on my computer.
Wandering the lobby, I’ve noticed the nonchalant atmosphere among the guests, who seemed to feel like it was their own living-room. I loved it!
When I got back to New York, I had the pleasure of meeting Noreen Chadha, who is managing the up and coming citizenM in New York. Noreen was kind enough to share with me the story of the hotel chain and I’m so excited to share it with you.
It all started when Rattan Chadha, back then a textile tycoon and now the founder of citizenM, was always looking for a different kind of hotels while he was traveling for business. During his fashion days, Chadha had about 100 designers traveling all over the world, from London to Milan to Paris to New York, and they were always complaining about their hotels. These were cool creative people, and they wanted to stay in a hotel where they could connect with the brand and with the lifestyle. They wanted to have a drink at the bar and meet likeminded people. But they always ended up in a Holiday Inn or a Marriott, because of budget. This was a common frustration, and it got Rattan thinking about a new opportunity. He got a team of people, all hospitality-connected, all frequent flyers and together they came up with a list of frustrations but also with some creative solutions and suggestions.
citizenM, The New Generation of Traveller
Chadha and team realized the hospitality world is no longer divided into just two segments of travelers; The 5-start traveler or the Budget traveler. No. Nowadays travelers are mix and match and no longer boxed in one category; They might stay at different types of hotels for different trips, fly economy, take public transportation and yet, they want to dine in the hottest restaurant in town. They might wear Zara or Uniqlo but will also have a Rolex on their wrist.
The new generation of traveler is the citizenM (M is for Mobile). The citizenM traveler is a frequent traveler going to the major cities of the world, travels for work or pleasure or both. He is conscious about value, cares about quality, luxury and quite protective of his time. He doesn’t want to waste time, but wants things to be easy, efficient and friendly.
Once the mobile citizen profile was established, it was easier to figure out what does a citizenM traveler want from a hotel; The result was 5 main things:
* Lifestyle- ‘You are where you sleep’. When you walk into a hotel you want to connect with the vibe and the atmosphere. You want it to fit with your lifestyle. You also want to feel comfortable and at home. And when you are at home, you spend most of your time in your living room or your kitchen, and you mainly use your bedroom for sleeping. So this is what hotels should be like. Instead of a small lobby, citizenM Hotels; lobbies are built like oversized living rooms. All hotels are designed by Concrete, Amsterdam, and the furniture are all by the Swiss luxury brand, Vitra. Each hotel has contemporary Art that comes from the chain’s private Art collection and the chain has an in house stylist who travels all over the world, collecting authentic items to put in the hotels’ living rooms, so it really does feel like a home.
* Efficiency. Self check in and check out. You can be checked in within 60 seconds. citizenM likes working paperless, and most communication is via emails. Your room-key is an RFID card, that also doubles as a luggage tag and you can use it any time and at any hotel of citizenM. You can also use the room-key to pay for food and beverage.
* Luxury. Even though rooms are quite small, you will have a luxury sleeping experience thanks to the 2×2 meters beds with the custom made mattresses by Sealy, Italian linen and super fluffy pillows. The shower amenities are all designed by Alessandro Gualtieri who spent months perfecting the citizenAM and PM fragrance for the hotel chain.
* Technology should be simple, user friendly and has to work! All rooms run on a customizable ambient server. Each room has his own mood-pad (designed especially for citizenM by Samsung and Swisscom). The mood-pads are all one-touch, easy to use. You can change the color of the lighting, the intensity of the lights, temperature, different types of alarms (wake up gently by a woman counting down and the lights slowly turning on, or wildly with the lights on bright and the sound of pingpong balls or elephants thrashing through the room). There are no hidden costs in the room. So you can enjoy free WiFi, free movies on demand and free phone calls (run through VOIP).
* Genuine, human service. This might be one of the most important values of citizenM; Their Staff. The hotel doesn’t believe in segmenting people into functions or positions, and instead, the hotel trains its staff to be multi functional. The staff is citizenM’s brand ambassadors and they embody the typical mobile citizen themselves. Each and every one of them is trained as baristas to make you great coffee, as mixologists to shake you a perfect cocktail, but they can also check you in or out, help you in the room, and they know the city well so they can help with local tips and advice. Therefore, I was so amazed when the bartender who welcomed me also showed me the rooms and gave me a private tour.
Each staff member is purely hired on his/hers personality and those who are going to make you feel at home the moment you walk in the door. (Trust me, I am talking from my own experience). It doesn’t matter if they have tattoos or pink hair, as long as they are great and welcoming people who know their job.
citizenM hotel is all about affordable luxury, comfort and design. As a travel photographer, who is always looking for a great, comfortable and eye-catching design, I am curious and drawn to these kinds of hotels, such as citizenM.
What if a fashion student from Brooklyn, a web developer from San Francisco, a videographer from Zurich, a Brazilian couple from Rio, a Brazilian couple who lives in Toronto and an Israeli photographer who lives in New York, all sit around one table for a Saturday brunch in a cute little apartment in the Lower East Side? It might sound like a beginning of a joke, but at the same time, it is a very possible situation, thanks to EatWith.
If you didn’t hear the latest news, EatWith is definitely IT.
Founded and started in Israel, and now rapidly spreading to Spain, Brazil, Italy and New York, EatWith is like the Airbnb but for food. As their statement says: ‘It is a global community that invites you to dine in homes around the World…connect with amazing hosts, share stories and unforgettable experiences, and enjoy delicious homemade cuisine’
As a travel photographer, I always prefer to walk in the less traveled paths. (This is when and where I get most of my best shots). And I have also been a fond of connecting with locals and experience their city through their eyes and daily habits. As the famous phrase guides me: When in Rome do as the Romans do….
Thanks to EatWith, I know that the next time I visit Barcelona and want to have original Tapas on an open terrace, I can easily book it here, or if I am in Amsterdam and want to have a special dinner cooked by a professional chef, I can book it here. The next time I be in Lisbon for a shoot and feel like having an old school Portuguese lunch, I can book it here. The options and the variety are almost endless…you see what I mean.
Before I tell you more about my recent Middle Eastern Brunch with a Hummus Master in the Lower East Side last Saturday, I have a confession to make; I know the people who run EatWith. And I know how hard they work to make this global community successful, professional and tasty.
Maya, who is a good friend of mine, joined EatWith group as the VP Product Developer right from the start. In fact, as a foodie, Maya used to cook special dinners for her friends and gradually turned these dinners into a networking get-together and raising money for a good cause. In one of her dinners, Guy Michlin and Shemer Schwartz, EatWith founders, were among the guests. They heard about Maya’s dinners and wanted to meet her in person. It took them one cooked meal to ask Maya to join their team.
Through Maya, I was introduced to Guy. I actually met Guy in Rome for the first time. I was there for a shoot and he was in Italy to recruit hosts. I had the opportunity to hear from Guy himself how did it all start. You can read all about Guy’s story here.
In one of my recent visits to Tel Aviv, I had the opportunity to join one of EatWith dinners. It was nice to see how strangers enjoyed sitting around one table and sharing dinner. ‘Well, of course it is going to work’ I thought to myself, ‘Because Israelis are so easy going and open’. But last Saturday I was so happy to discover that this concept of sitting around one table and sharing a meal with strangers, is quite successful even outside the borders of Israel, and in New York as well. I’m quite sure that if the typical New Yorker who can be sometimes skeptical, invites strangers to his home and cook for them lunch or dinner, than this EatWith vision to bring people together one meal at a time is definitely working.
I don’t quite remember how and when exactly did I find Guillaume Gaudet‘s page on facebook, but I remember very well how much I loved what I saw and how I found a close correlation between his images of New York and the images I took. In some pictures, it seemed as we were both at the same location almost at the same time, pointing our cameras. I was quite happy to discover that there was another photographer out there who sees similar things to what I see and vice versa.
Even today, few months after I have contacted Guillaume for the first time and met him in some occasions, there are times when I upload a picture on my facebook and Guillaume emails me back and says: ‘Funny, Sivan…but I have a similar picture from that same place…’
When I first saw Guillaume’s pictures, I knew I would love to shoot with him. I love to shoot with my local colleagues. It is fun and inspiring. But Guillaume was super busy and I was away, so the first time we met was only this mid June. I learned that beside shooting the same locations in New York, we might be sharing a similar path: We both left the Corporate world and followed our passion of Photography.
My favorite series of New York is NY Street Noir. It makes me want to shoot more Black and White. …’NY Street Noir is an ongoing series of street photography in New York City. I select photos and convert them in black and white when I feel that there’s a strong contrast of light and shadows or because the subject is better shown in a simpler way rather than in color, which could be a bit distracting. It’s pure street photography, moments of life in the Empire City caught by my eye and camera…’
I’m very excited to share with you more of Guillume’s NY Street Noir.
Where are you from? France. I was almost born in Madrid. Then moved every 2 years until I was 15 years old. I lived in Germany and Argentina. It makes you more open-minded and keen to meet with other people. I just regret not having youth buddies.
Where did you study photography? I’ve never studied photography. I took my first photo class 2 months ago. It was a 2-weekend course about studio lightning. I’ve learned photography through magazines, books and on the web. Everything is out there for free. I just wish I had been able to study it and have more confidence from the beginning. I’ve shot a lot without being sure of myself at first.
What made you want to learn it? I moved to NY and I fell in love with the City. Being jobless at that time gave me a lot of time to shoot. When your hobby is your main occupation, you become more serious about it. I would spend more time editing my pictures, learning new stuff, etc.
If you weren’t a photographer what would you do? I’ve worked in real estate, finance and communications before becoming a photographer. It’s my fourth career. I’m not planning to change again. It’s my last one, for good. I never knew what I wanted to do before becoming a photographer. Now, I know.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Hard to tell. When I’m walking on the street, I look around and sometimes something catches my eye. It can be a person, a light, a shape, etc. I rarely know what I’m going to shoot. Except maybe for portraiture or lifestyle. I look at other photographers’ work, I see how and what they shoot.
What do you mostly love shooting? Environmental portraiture. People in a nice setting. If you have a very nice background and you put a cool or good-looking person in it, that’s the perfect picture.
How do you usually approach a new project? It depends on the project. If I would get assigned by a magazine, for example, I presume that I would do a thorough research to know where I have to go rather than wander and waste my time.
What are you working on right now? A lot of different things. Shooting at a palace hotel in NY, shooting a wedding, shooting fashion/lifestyle portraiture for my portfolio. Diversity is good, you never get bored.
Window or Aisle? Window for a flight during the day with nice views, aisle for a flight at night
I am very excited to be featured for the second time around on one of my favorite Travel sites, Let’s Travel Somewhere, curated and founded by the travel photographer Nisa Mayer. My first story was on Vietnam, and this time it is all about New York.
“As someone who travels for work, I write mostly about places I visit and less about the place where I have been living for the last 11 years; New York. Sometimes, it is hard to look at a place you know so well with different eyes. But New York is so dynamic and surprising that every borough, neighborhood, street or even a door, can be a great opportunity for an interesting shot. Not only does New York never sleep, it barely reclines. (which suits well my personality). That doesn’t mean you can’t kick back and relax; there are plenty places for that. But if you visit New York, here’s a word to the wise: Beside packing your camera gear, pack also your most comfortable shoes; Because Manhattanites may not nap much, but they sure do walk a lot.
As a photographer based in New York, the streets of this city have always been a great inspiration for my photography: whether it’s the architecture, the city reflections on windows, the stream of energy in the streets, the people walking in it, the titanic billboards and advertising ads, the colorful murals and the graffiti on the walls. It all inspires me.”
To see more of my New York images and read more about it, please click on this link.
And as I said in a previous post about ‘Let’s Travel Somewhere’… the size (of the images) DOES matter.
I’ve been writing about Paris quite a lot in the last couple of months since I visited the city three times in one year. I think that in one of my posts I even mentioned that I have this day – dream of living in Paris for few months, indulging in some French boulangeries, pâtisseries, fromageries.
While I continue to day dream about it, Carin Olsson, originally from Stockholm, Sweden, is actually DOING IT.
Carin is the persona behind the visually beautiful blog ‘Paris in Four Months’. She moved to Paris January 2012 for four months, mostly to learn French and to eat all the great food that Paris has to offer. She fell in love with the city, and came back to live there again a year later, January 2013. She is still not sure if she will be staying in Paris forever. ’I’ve said to myself that I should stay as long as want to, but there are so many cities and exciting places to explore in this world before settling down. So perhaps I’ll go away for a while and then come back to Paris again, who knows?’
She shares with her readers bits and pieces of her Parisian life. If you follow her long enough (also on facebook and instagram) you will learn that she loves Fashion, Sweets (my favorite category) Store Windows and much more. Especially I am looking forward to her Weekend Reading category. She always finds these gorgeous flowers that she pictures for her Weekend Reading finds. I love looking at her big-sized images that sometimes fill up my computer screen and make me feel as I am right there, with her, in Paris.
If you are planning a trip to Paris soon, I encourage you to check Paris in Four Months. If you want to know more about Carin and how she approaches new projects and what is next for her, read below.
Thanks Carin! Can’t wait to walk with you one day in Paris.
Where are you originally from? I’m originally from Sweden. I grew up in a smaller city outside of Stockholm but during my teens I moved back into the city.
Where did you study photography? I’ve actually never studied anything in this category I’m afraid, although I would absolutely love to study photography and design in the future. Everything I’ve learnt about photography so far I have my dad and my ex-boyfriend to thank for. During many years I just watched them with a camera, in front of editing programs etc. and when I finally picked up my own camera I already had a bit of knowledge and tricks in the back of my head. I also think I taught myself a lot. I’m almost never happy with my photography which pushes me to find new ways and reach better results.
What made you want to learn it? I always had an interest for photography but it wasn’t until I made my first move to Paris that I realized how much I actually loved it. I would often spend my days walking around, exploring the city with the camera in my hand. After staring my blog and finding a way that I could share these photos I just wanted to get better and better.
If you weren’t a photographer what would you do?I unfortunately don’t think I can call myself a full-time photographer just yet but someday I hope to be able to do so. But if I couldn’t be a photographer in the future I would have loved to be an event planner. I looove organizing and planning! Or work at a magazine.
Where do you get your inspiration from? During the last year it’s been Paris. When I walk around the city I get the most inspiration. I love that I never seem to get tired of these beige, white and grey Parisian streets. Although I’m hardly the only one… Paris is extremely photogenic and very beautiful.
How would you describe ‘Your Paris’? Paris has a lot of different sides and they’re not all picture perfect and stunningly gorgeous, I’m aware of that. But I think I choose to see the prettier sides of this city. I love the history, the architecture and the romance of Paris.
What do you mostly love shooting? When I first started taking photos I focused a lot on the city itself but lately, during the last couple of months or so, I’ve really enjoyed shooting people too. I love capturing emotions and different moments, preferably when the person in front of the lens doesn’t notice the camera. Hopefully I’ll get some chance to practice this more in the future as well.
How do you usually approach a new project? It depends on the project but since I love to organize and plan and usually sit down with a pen and a pad and try to sort everything through. Time frames, places, people – everything that is a part of the project needs to be written down. I need to see things in front of me to really be able to grasp them and to organize my thoughts.
What are you working on right now? At the moment I’m working on two different articles for a Swedish magazine, both with Paris as the main subject. Hopefully I can share more once these are in print but right now all I can say is that they both involve two of my biggest passions; Paris and food.
What do you see and want next for yourself? I would love to focus more on the photography part. I feel happy and excited every time I pick up my camera and that’s how I would like to feel every minute of every day. I would also love to go a little bit more towards the fashion side of photography. Right now, that’s the most exciting for me!
Window or Aisle? Aisle for sure. I get kind of claustrophobic if I’m forced to sit in the window seat.
Resource Magazine Summer 2013 edition is out! and my second article in the series ‘Production of the World’ is now focusing on Lisbon, Portugal. (My first one was on Tel Aviv). If you are a photographer who is interested to shoot in Lisbon, than this article will definitely help you plan it. And if you are not a photographer but still, visiting the Portuguese capital, you will find some great tips and recommendations.
Some people might refer to Portugal as the ‘foster kid of Europe’, not necessarily for its southwestern location in the continent, but mostly for its comfortable Mediterranean climate throughout the year and the warm temper of its people. These two make Portugal as a popular destination to visit, explore and travel.
The Portuguese people love to travel. Therefore it is no surprise that Lisbon, their capital, is a sophisticated, global city with endless opportunities to offer visitors and its native residents. Recently the city has started to wake up to tourism and become more alive, more tourist-friendly and a desired destination among the younger crowds.
A new generation of venues has popped up in the last couple of years, upgrading the night-life and dining scene. More chef-oriented restaurants are being opened, more bars and clubs pay attention to the design scene and more trendy fashion boutiques are spreading around. Combine this with the history, the architecture, the beaches, and the fact it is a compact city and relatively easy to navigate, and you have a great destination to visit and a diverse city to shoot in.
To read the full article, please click here.
I think almost every photographer and writer gets curious to find how their article will come out on print. Speaking for myself, I’m always eager to know how the editor will transfer my thoughts, words and images to the readers. I met Karim Rashid in the beginning of June and interviewed him both for my blog and for Style (Signon) Magazine in Israel. You can read more about how I met Karim or how did he find me here.
This is my interview with Karim, translated to Hebrew and published in Style magazine, Israel.
When I was writing my previous post about the Nhow Hotel in Berlin, I mentioned that I was always curious to know what does Karim Rashid eat for breakfast that fuels his ideas and inspiration. What I didn’t know was that a week after publishing this post, I would be sitting in Karim Rashid’s studio in Chelsea, asking him this question in person (!).
Apparently, I am not the only one who google-search her name. Karim Rashid does the same. He stumbled upon my blog and saw the pictures I took of Nhow Hotel and asked a permission to post them on his fan page. How could I refuse to such a flattering thing?
‘Don’t ask him why he wears Pink most of the time’ his lovely assistant Jessica advised me when I got to the studio. ‘It’s just because almost every journalist asks him that’, she smiled. I made a note to myself not to mention Pink clothes, but eventually, even though Karim was wearing all white, I used the Pink Clothes-thing just to break the ice.
‘Well, I believe that Real Men wear Pink’ Karim said, and in a way, he had a point. He sat on a yellow chair right under a painted portrait of his, while I was standing behind his pink (!) desk and pointed the camera at him.
As a photographer, when I am taking someone’s portrait, I always want to make that person feel comfortable and at ease (because it shows right away in the picture). Therefore, as much as I can sometimes get nervous myself, I always try to start with a small talk or a funny story to share. ‘So I really want to know what do you eat for breakfast’ I asked Karim, ‘Just to know what fuels your brain in the morning for inspiration’
‘Well, my breakfast is quite boring, I eat oatmeal and fruits, nothing special…But I get my inspiration from almost everything. Since I was a little kid I used to observe what was around me and constantly draw. The ability to look at things different than other people…you Sivan, are probably aware of it yourself because you are a photographer’
So this is how the interview started…smooth with a mutual artist bonding and a clear understanding that we both look at things different. (note: part of the interview was done on the spot, some details were added afterwards via emails)
What is your approach when you design a hotel? With hotels I design from micro to macro (from the lamp to the bed to the interior to the architecture). I love the larger experiential impact a hotel can have on people lives. With hospitality design or public space, I know that masses of people have access to my designs, and they aren’t just looking at it, they are physically immersing themselves inside my concepts. As a designer you must learn to collaborate. As you can see, I try to experiment with every project. It is not the form that is primary -It is the idea, the concept. I work with the strengths of the client, with their vision and location.
How do you start a new project? I perpetually observe and analysis and dissect everything around me in our built environments. My discipline is to absorb everything I can about a particular subject, and then I sketch for hours developing ideas and most important I think about the human experience, about the social behavior of that particular scenario. Every project is different and usually the process is also. I fill sketch books weekly, and then I bring my designs back to the studio. My team creates 3D renders of my ideas, does research with me on materials, production processes, and then we refine the concepts based on all the plethora of criteria, be it social, economic, or technological issues until my vision is realized.
Where do you get your inspiration from? I learned from a young age to be highly perceptive of our built environment. I drew constantly as a child and trained myself to see everything and to see what most people may not see. Hence when you see everything around you, then everything is inspiring and I become critical of every aspect of daily life. Also each project stems from its own inspiration. Nhow hotel Berlin was inspired by location, and by music. Berlin embodies the spirit of the underground, the dark school of electronic music, the harsh yet intellectual environment, the massiveness, and the desirous need for artistic pursuit. Semiramis was inspired by the sensual Greek Light – so romantic, so beautiful.
What is the difference in designing a hotel than any other building? I love the larger experiential impact a hotel can have on people lives. With hospitality design or public space, I know that masses of people have access to my designs, and they aren’t just looking at it, they are physically immersing themselves inside my concepts. With hotels I design from micro to macro (from the lamp to the bed to the interior to the architecture). Sometimes I design the name, the logo, and brand identity. Of course I cannot touch every experience with a condo, office, or other building and it is a longer more permeant relationship with the user. Also the interesting phenomena of hotels is that I believe one should have a temporary experience that they would never have anywhere else, so there is an opportunity to create a new inspiring experience, like theatre or entertainment, and to propel people into living in a space that stye would have never experienced at home or other places.
What are the next trends in hotel design? (in general) I prefer design that transcends fashionable trends and to work towards and searching for new vernaculars that echo out Technorganic digital world. Just the five major features of the perfect hotel – a real contemporary well designed room that is seamless (perfect lighting, perfect comfort, etc), A heightened sensory experience, sustainable construction and operations, total seamless technology, nude sunbathing deck, and a really well considered and designed gym and spa.
Do you have a favorite hotel you prefer to stay in? (not necessarily one you designed) I have stayed in so many hotels and few are really memorable. I do like Unique hotel in San Paolo – The round 2 meter porthole windows have this beautiful unconventional way of seeing the city from room view, like looking out of a big telescope, while the façade has of course some bizarre nautical semantic. The upside-down half pie clad in green copper (locally they refer to it as a watermelon slice) is really, well, unique. What is so fabulous is the end rooms have curved floors that ride up to infinity, giving this sense of nirvana. I feel like I am in heaven. The lobby is a phenomenal grandiloquent space, and the landscaping is reductive yet poetic. My friend Ruy Ohtake created a fantastic project. Hotel Unique also has a floating glass framed rooftop pool with breathtaking views of Sao Paulo.
What is your motto in life? Globalove
What is your motto in work? I think my mantra is to inspire people through my design and my words
What drives you forward? (not necessarily work related) I have so many things I want to do like own a fashion clothing line, open an organic café, design a private house, design more buildings, design an electric car, etc.
Who and what inspires you? Is there someone in specific? Everything and everyone inspires me. I see beauty in everything!
What kind of advice will you give a young designer? Talent and hard work is the way to succeed.I learned that design is not about a form or shape, but it is a cultural critique, a cultural shaper, a faction of social, political, and economic life. Design is a lifetime experience so learn to learn, and work for others to get as many experiences as you can. Diligence and perseverance is a necessity.
Looking back at your career, would you do something different? I would have found my true self sooner.
If you weren’t a designer… what would you be? When I was a child I wanted to be a mathematician if I was not a designer, but now I would consider being a musician or a motivational speaker or a stand up comic – haha
What do you wish for yourself for the future? I have so much I want to do. I want to design an electric car, low-income housing, a museum, more hotels, art galleries, a fashion line under my name, an eyeglass line, a shoe line, etc. I think every artist, designer, always wants to contribute something to culture and make an original mark.
The first time I’ve been to Berlin was six years ago. I was going through a rough time in my life (a breakup, to be more precise) and needed a place to escape to from New York. I have always wanted to go to Berlin and that was the right opportunity. I’ve stayed with some good friends and walked a lot around East Berlin. The only thing that bothered me (beside my broken heart) was the cold European winter. Back then I was not a photographer yet (I was walking around with a pocket camera) and was quite in distress. Therefore, this recent visit was sort of a redeeming experience.
Presently, there is a buzz going on about Berlin. I know some Israelis who are investing in Real Estate and some International Artists who find an inspiration in this city.
If I have to describe Berlin in one word, it will be Urbanism. As I was staying mostly in East Berlin, navigating back and forth from Mitte to Kreuzberg, the architecture I was exposed to was a combination of Stalinist architecture, a refurbished 18th-19th century apartment buildings (buildings look like they came out of the same assembly line), Bauhaus style and some nice surprises in the shape of contemporary architecture (lots of big windows and glass) and new modern buildings and condominiums, which are mostly occupied by International residents and young families. I think May is the best time to visit Berlin. Weather is nice and the Berliners are getting quite loose and relaxed right after May Day, the official day that welcomes Spring. If you have an option to choose, than prefer the Spring and Summer days to the Winter ones.
Here is my Berlin’s intake and my express guide to East Berlin; Where to Stay, Shop, Sip and Eat.
Stay: Hotel Gat Point Charlie
My first interaction with GatRooms hotel chain was last year in Lisbon. Since it was a very successful experience, I decided to visit their hotel in Berlin. (If something is working well, I’d better stick with it, right?). One of the best things about GatRooms hotels is their premium locations. In Lisbon it was Rossio Square and in Berlin the location is just around the corner from Check Point Charlie. From there, it is a walking distance to Unter Den Linden, The Jewish Museum, Brandenburger Tor and more. Beside its reasonable prices, the young and hip rooms’ design, the breakfast in GatRooms is great and generous. It is not the typical continental breakfast that offers a toast, jam and coffee. The breakfast is rich and varies from different kinds of breads, cheese, confiture, cereals, eggs and cakes.
The hotel offeres bike rentals (the easiest way to travel around in Berlin like a local) and the staff is extremely helpful.
Hotel Gat Point Charlie, Mauerstrasse 81-82. 10117 Berlin
Shop: Pro Qm
I have been reading about this store even before I booked my trip to Berlin and intended to go there ever since I read about it in my Wallpaper Berlin City Guide. I love visiting book stores wherever I travel, and moreover, when the book store is dedicated to design , graphic design, architecture and pop culture. Needless to say I was in awe when I got in. Mostly because I was planning to visit this store for a while now. I loved the clean, simple white shelves, loaded with books and the blast of shocking pink color in the shape of ladders and some shelvings. If the majority of the books was not in German, I could stay there forever.
Pro Qm, Almstadtstraße 48-50, 10119 Berlin (closed on Sunday)
KM Shop, ThisDas
Just down the road from Rro Qm, I found this nice beautiful shop KM (I love how the shops are called by single letters). The yellow chairs outdoors just called me in. If I need to describe this store in one word, it will be Minimalism. A collection of various artists (locals and internationals) and a variety of Jewelry, stationary, home accessories and personal ones. I love the yellow walls and how everything, as small as they are, just pop up and make you want to buy them.
Km Shop, Almstadtstraße 1, 10119 Berlin
I’m not necessarily a flea market’s fan, but I find flea markets quite captivating from a photographer’s perspective. I think that flea markets are like small melting pots. They can teach you a lot about the culture, the tradition, the custom and the style of the city they are located. As the idiom says: ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, I find my ‘treasure’ in photographing the scene. Flohmarkt is one of the biggest flea markets in Berlin and it is located in Mauer Park. (The name Mauer Park means Wall-Park, named after the former part of the Berlin Wall, which can be found there). Even though my girlfriend dragged me to this market and it was such a hot day, I enjoyed the scene very much. If you are a Vintage junky, this market is for you. Plan it wisely and take a stroll along the Wall.
Flohmarkt, Bernauer Strasse 63-64, 13355 Berlin-Mitte
Sip: Napol Jonska
Nothing can go wrong when the walls of the cafe you have just discovered are colored in pink. I came across this cute cafe while coming back from the Flea Market in Mauer Park on Sunday. When I got in, people were busy having a late brunch which included mostly waffels and crepes. The owner of the cafe was also having a brunch with her family and friends at that time. She was happy to tell me that she was buying most of the products from organic farming and was making the majority of the products herself with her staff. She is using only fresh fruit, fresh milk and organic eggs.
Napol Jonska, Kastanienallee 43, 10119 Berlin
I tend to believe that if my friend Peter hadn’t told me about this place, I would have had to find it by myself. This vintage-look cafe reminded me so much of a place I use to go to in the flea market of Jaffa when I am in Tel Aviv. To ‘try out’ this gorgeous cafe, I scheduled a meeting with Thea and Tony, aka as SisterMag. I loved it when the furniture all looked like taken from a different store or different era, all collected together in one place.
I think there is something going on with waffels in Berlin, as it was also the highlight of the place. (same as in Napol Jonska). The cafe is located in one of the trendiest streets in Prenzlauer Berg in East Berlin. Prenzlauer Berg is one of the most popular districts in Berlin, and one of Berlin’s prettiest neighbourhoods, known mostly for its Art scene. Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich is among the popular places where locals hang out.
Cafe Kauf dich Glücklich, Oderberger Straße 44, 10435 Berlin
Eat: Monsieur Vuong
Not sure about German food and German dishes, as I didn’t have the chance to try them out. But one evening, while I was strolling in the streets of Mitte, I have noticed a hectic scene and a young crowd outside a buzzing restaurant. It was Monsieur Vuong, a hype Vietnamese restaurant with Pink and Red colored walls, great cocktails and a fresh Vietnamese food. It was actually my last night in Berlin and I wish I would have found Monsieur Vuong earlier. Great variety of food, refreshing cocktails, reasonable price and fun, live atmosphere.
Monsieur Vuong, Alte Schönhauser Str. 46, 10119 Berlin-Mitte
I have always wanted to know what does Karim Rashid eat for breakfast, mostly because I am curious what feeds his brain and where does he get all his inspiration and creativity from. Not once did I pass through his office space on 17th street in Meat Packing District in New York, but I never had the courage to get inside and ask. I have seen his website, I read articles about him but nothing prepared me to see his creations in real, moreover, a big one, such as a hotel. I have heard about Nhow Hotel Berlin only three days before my visit to Berlin and I knew I had to see it and shoot its interiors if possible when I’m there.
Nhow Hotel Berlin is known and nicknamed as The Music and Lifestyle Hotel, mostly because it is the only hotel in Europe that offers two professional music studios, well equipped with recording booth, mixing and pre and post-production options. Therefore, among the guests you can find business travelling cosmopolitans, international jetsetters, night owls and the hottest bands who stay at the hotel both for the love of music and for the great experience the hotel can offer. I didn’t have the chance to peep into these studios but for other public spaces I did.
The hotel is located on the banks of the Spree river in between two of Berlin’s coolest districts; Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, and has three towers. The East and West Towers on the side of the building and the upper tower which extends beyond 21 metres out of the building over the Riverbank. This silver colored tower serves as a reminder of the former city harbour area on the bank of the river.
If you have the opportunity to stay at Nhow Hotel when you are visiting Berlin, just grab that opportunity. If not, keep reading my post and enjoy the pictures and the visual tour.
The Breakfast Room:
By the time I got into the breakfast room, the food was already taken from the pink bubbly table display. All I could find were colorful membranes that served as decoration probably. The tables and chairs are funcional grey color and a pop art posters of celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Mother Teresa next to each other are on the dining room’s walls. I’m sure breakfast time is quite interesting there.
Just next to the breakfast dining room on the ground floor, separated by a light white curtain, Fabrics restaurant is a blast of colors and a feast not only to the palate but also to the eyes. The color combination of pink fuchsia and minty – neon green is a winner. The restaurant is situated in a corner with glass exterior walls and offers a magnificent view of the Spree River and the Oberbaum bridge. But not only the color combo is a winner. Also the food and the masterpiece dishes that seem to follow a similar color scheme. The head Chef Patrick Rexhausen is creating a new menu every six weeks, based on German-French cuisine. The restaurant is opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Menu can be found here).
The Envy Bar and Lounge:
Imagine a giant golden face hanging over the barman, and matching the golden chairs…Imagine drinking a colorful cocktail, based on sake and tequila, developed by one of Germany’s best bartender, Christina Schneider. Imagine 100 gold, pink, purple and black seats that allow you to dive into comfort, while overlooking the Spree river and sipping a ginger lemonade. This, and more, one can find at the Envy Bar. (No wonder they called it ‘Envy’).
The lounge is just right after you pass the reception. On a blue rug with pink strips, you can either have a drink, rest a bit or just lounge on colorful psychedelic cushions. The big windows are over looking the river and wash the lounge with bright light. The ceiling is dotted with pink plastic tubes.
Taking the elevators has never been so enjoyable and fascinating. Each elevator is in a different color and when you look up, there is always an interesting painting to look at. It reminded me a bit a scene of Pedro Almodóvar‘s movie, probably for the a-symmetric figure.
and once I took the elevator to the rooms and the door was opened, all I could see was that!
I wish I could see most of the rooms in the hotel as I have no doubt they don’t look the same. However, the 304 rooms are divided into three -room categories; Standard rooms, superior rooms and junior suites. What makes the rooms unique is the option to choose between three color schemes; Pink, Blue, Pink/Black or Blue/Black all depends on the rooms’ location. Rashid thought about every little detail and it seems that everything is synchronized and working perfectly; The wall papers go along with the floor papers that work well with the beddings and the curtains. All look like a great visual symphony. Every room has wireless connection and well equipped for PC, Mac, and iPads. The bathroom is separated from the bedroom with a shocking pink glass and I’m sure it offers a great experience.
Karim Rashid is, by far, one of the most creative designers in the world. The short visit in Nhow Hotel definitely left me curious to see more of the other locations he designed and created. Stay tuned for more.