Meet the couple behind Berlin’s Stilraum vintage shop


Tried and True

By Emma Lucek

I popped over to visit Meike and Genja Fehr at their Friedrichshain showroom on a rainy, autumnal morning. We met outside, where they were observing the roadworks underway on their street and wondering aloud how anyone could enjoy the day with all that ruckus. Once inside though, I realised how easy it is to let the outside world slip away while exploring their vintage wonderland. 

Meike and Genja's vintage design story beings on a holiday trip to Denmark in 2007. At the time, they were pursuing unrelated professions but had a budding interest in furniture picking—browsing, buying, and selling—at Berlin flea markets. While in Denmark, they encountered the loppis, a.k.a the Scandinavian flea market culture and fell in love with the clean lines and solid craftsmanship of Danish midcentury modern design. To boot, the pricing was surprisingly accessible. Most of the world agrees that the work of postwar Scandinavian architect-designers never really goes out of fashion, but around the time when Meike and Genja chanced upon these pieces, Danish vendors were keen to get rid of them in favour of a more "trendy" assortment. In short order, Meike and Genja become connoisseurs of the hidden modernist gems from Denmark. 

With the birth of their son in 2009, Meike took a year of maternity leave, and the idea of running a business in the vintage design field began to crystalize. At first, the operation was run through an e-shop and was quite contained; they’d source small pieces from Denmark, mostly lamps at first, and store, photograph, and ship them from their home. Later, when their apartment became a design-labyrinth, they used the dry basement in their building to store and photograph the pieces. Finally, the duo decided to make room for growth and began searching for a dedicated showroom and workshop.

In an unusually-lucky-for-today’s-Berlin-housing-market kind of way, the space they found—where I met them on the rainy afternoon—was in the neighbouring building. For around a hundred years before, it had been a classic Berlin eckkneipe (corner bar); it was also large and bright and showing its age with grace. One of its most characteristic elements is a tattered, textured wall in the first large room where the bar used to stand. When I asked Mieke about it, she told me that during the year-long refurbishing process, the painters finished their job before the bar was removed. As the the bar came out later, the characteristic, weathered wall was revealed, and they decided to keep it. It is now a staple backdrop for their styled photoshoots and product images. 

The vintage Danish treasures inside Stilraum The vintage Danish treasures inside Stilraum Photo © Ramtin Zanjani for Pamono Since the big move, Meike and Genja's business has blossomed. They've continued their frequent sourcing trips to Denmark, driving in an ever-larger van each trip, while cultivating a dedicated client base at home. "That’s the beauty of having a physical space as well as an online presence on Pamono," Genja expains. "You get to build personal relationships with clients while also having a worldwide visibility."

A big part of Meike and Genja's success comes from their unique focus. They’ve found a segment of the Danish furniture market that suits them, one that does not get the attention it deserves. In 1950s and '60s Denmark, certain designers and makers—under the influence of the Bauhaus movement in Germany—wholeheartedly embraced new industrial technologies over traditional artisanal processes, while maintaining a commitment to what we now think of as the classic Danish modern style. That means that, beyond the most legendary Danes like Hans Wegner, Poul Kjærholm, and Kaare Klint, there's this whole other uncharted world of Danish talents who created more accessible design objects in greater quantities. Genja tells me that in almost every village that he’s encountered there was once some kind of furniture manufacturing company—less famous perhaps than say E. Kold Christensen, yet still adhering all the cornerstones of Danish modern furniture design. Think craftsmanship, meticulous materials, and clean, rational forms. This is where Meike and Genja’s main market lies: well-crafted, beautiful pieces that are not always iconic but are also much more reasonably priced; pieces from brands like Getama, Glostrup , Jason Møbler , Niels Eilersen , Ørum Møbelfabrik , Omann JunKomfort, among many more.

Because Meike and Genja often discover pieces that haven’t been loved to the extent that they deserve, Stilraum includes a restoration workshop in the back of the showroom, where the faded Danish beauties are given a full makeover. Genja says that it’s an easy process when the skeleton that you’re working with is so beautifully designed and structurally sound. They’ve hired two experts who sand and treat the wood, varnish and then upholster any piece that needs it. On occasion, the storage pieces are customized and painted; usually not more than a panel in a nod to contemporary palettes and tastes. I didn’t get a chance to see one such piece in person; Mieke says that they sell like hotcakes. From the sound of it, I’m not surprised.

It's clear that Meike and Genja enjoy running this curiosity-turned-business together, and we’re very happy to have them in the Pamono community. We love that we get to share knowledge and passion with like-minded design lovers! Keep your eyes peeled for more beautifully crafted and cared for sturdy, steadfast Scandinavian pieces from Stilraum.

  • Photos by

    • Ramtin Zanjani

      Ramtin Zanjani

      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. 

  • Text by

    • Emma Lucek

      Emma Lucek

      A British-born Pole currently based in Berlin, Emma has a background in research and design. In addition to helping Pamono source amazing vendors, lately she's been working on critical writing in the fields of art, architecture, and cultural theory, as well as design journalism.

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