Floral designer Ruby Barber offers an insider’s guide to Berlin

Berlin is such an amazing base. When I first moved from Sydney in 2012, the city allowed you to live cheaply while settling in. I started Mary Lennox – my floristry studio, named after the protagonist of Frances Hodgson Burnett The secret garden – and in 2014 I received my first big commission, from Mercedes-Benz. We built a greenhouse from recycled windows in the lobby of its headquarters on Mühlenstrasse – and this was followed by the opening of our store The Store X in Soho House Berlin.

Andreas Murkudis’s store 81 © Thomas Meyer

Today I live and work in Schöneberg. My home is close to Charlottenburg and Viktoria-Luise-Platz – a peaceful little park with a fountain, surrounded by beautiful Altbau buildings, the classic apartment buildings built between the end of the 19th century and the 1930s. But I work near from Kreuzberg, which has a young side, so I have the best of everything between them. I don’t like Berlin for the usual things people like in the city – I don’t go to nightclubs or bars, for example – so I had to find my own stuff here.

Cafe Frieda:

Café Frieda: “Very sweet, with fabulous pastries,” says Barber © Robert Rieger

Restaurant Lok6, next to Barber's studio

Restaurant Lok6, next to Barbier’s studio © Lea Wormsbach

The city’s green spaces are essential, from manicured parks to wilder options. I love the Tiergarten. I love Treptower Park and its Soviet War Memorial. The city comes alive in spring, when the streets are lined with cherry blossoms. In the summer it becomes overgrown and the corners are overgrown with greenery. I like the way nature interacts with the city.

Barber at Lok6

Barber at Lok6 © Lea Wormsbach

I prefer to walk to work if I have time, enjoying the green spaces but also walking along Potsdamer Strasse, where all the art galleries and sex workers are. Along the way, I’ll stop at Rocket + Basil, a Persian/Australian cafe run by my boyfriend’s sisters, where I can buy lunch for my team. I usually have one of their delicious salads or sandwiches, full of herbs and bright flavors.

Barber in the Tiergarten park with his dog Paco
Barber in the Tiergarten park with his dog Paco © Lea Wormsbach

My studio is in a place called Am Lokdepot, a housing estate right next to the train tracks. It’s a big red building – quite iconic – and next to my studio there’s a restaurant called Lok6, where the food is seasonal and stylish; the chef, Julia, with whom I collaborate on projects, serves inspired creations such as baked apple with cranberry, pecans and vanilla pastry cream.

And I love Kin Dee, just outside Schöneberg. The chef, Dalad, cooks modern Thai cuisine with a seasonal and local approach. The flavors are delicate and refined. It is part of a large hotel group, which also owns Grill Royal, and this spring they are opening a hotel in Mitte, the Chateau Royal, which I am very excited about. It is located in a beautiful building just off Unter den Linden, and I think it will be the resort.

The modern Thai restaurant Kin Dee in Schöneberg
The modern Thai restaurant Kin Dee in Schöneberg © Robert Rieger

If I venture further, I like Café Frieda in Prenzlauer Berg. It’s very soft, with marble tables outside. They have fabulous pastries, such as hand-rolled rye and buckwheat croissants. You can also have a slow lunch: salads, or a whole crab, all with a bit of Asian or French bistro inspiration.

MDC Cosmetics in Prenzlauer Berg

MDC Cosmetics in Prenzlauer Berg

Nearby is MDC Cosmetic, a beautifully designed boutique that offers beautiful perfumes and the entire Buly 1803 range. It’s a real pleasure to shop there and get a facial in one of their rooms of care. Another favorite is Ryoko Senses Salon. She makes all her own cosmetics and oils and does amazing massages. It’s very peaceful. But the best

boutique in Berlin, in my opinion, it’s Andreas Murkudis: it’s magnificent, with a sharp selection of clothing and lifestyle pieces. It matches my style – modern and simple sweaters, dresses and accessories, from brands I love like Loewe and The Row.

If I have time, I love going to galleries. König Galerie presents contemporary art in St Agnes, a brutalist building in Kreuzberg that was once a church. I also saw the Calder exhibition at the reopened Neue Nationalgalerie. It is a Mies van der Rohe building and the renovation is exceptional.

Rocket & Basil Persian-Australian Cafe

Rocket & Basil Persian-Australian Cafe © Rebecca Crawford

Some cinemas in Berlin are very special, like the Kino International, which is a really fabulous building. Going to the Philharmonia is another thing I like to do. And then there is the Dahlem Botanical Garden. In the spring, the display of magnolias and flowers is as spectacular as the greenhouses.

I’m about to have a baby, so this year is going to be interesting! I felt the return to Sydney. I’m chasing the dream of half and half: two summers, one in Germany, one in Australia. It is a beautiful chimera.

About Elizabeth Smith

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