Number 18 Lindower Straße in the Wedding district of Berlin is now one of the hottest addresses when it comes to interior design. This is where, in mid-2017, on the third floor of an old brick building, Chris Glass set up aptm (a place to meet). aptm is a loft space that is at the same time homely and flamboyant in design, and functions as a showroom, a venue and a living gallery for design, art, accessories, curiosities and the culinary arts – a unique and secluded hideaway for exhibitions, business events, dinner parties, wine/food tastings, photo shoots and all kinds of other occasions.
The periodically changing themed designs turn the loft space into a kind of creative and lifestyle laboratory. With a hand-picked selection of exhibits, its creator Chris Glass again and again succeeds in devising innovative spaces for living, experience, pleasure and meeting. During the course of the current design based on the topic “German: what does that mean?“, Chris - ever the style-conscious globetrotter - became aware of Rolf Benz, the company which has for decades been at the vanguard of German design history. So there are now selected items of Rolf Benz furniture in Glass‘ apartment which contribute to the general feel-good atmosphere.
We spoke to the creator of aptm, Chris Glass, about his pet project:
What´s your personal history and why are you now based in Berlin?
I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, studied Musical Theatre at The Boston Conservatory, and lived in NYC before moving to Munich in 2001. Those Southern roots always poke out in my love for entertaining, good food, great people and lots of music. I’ve had several different jobs - I ran a restaurant in Manhattan, I worked in a shoe store, I sold erotic accessories, I peddled cosmetics, I sang on stages, I built creative communities and networks, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. The connective tissue has always been relationships – building relationships with customers is essential. I moved to Berlin in 2009. I came to Berlin because I was ready for a change from Munich. My friend Tatjana insisted the city held the promise of possibility and newness and at the time, that was exactly what I was after. Almost immediately, I began working for Soho House to open their first member club in Europe.
What do you like about Berlin?
I often joke that the airport (Tegel) is my favorite part of Berlin – because it gets me out of the jungle and it always welcomes me back home. Beyond that, Berlin creates possibilities – both because the city is financially unaggressive and because there’s a celebration of curiosity. For creative people and those that love creativity, this is really a winning combination.
You are a trained musical actor. Why did you decide to become an “interior decorator”?
I’ve always loved interiors and design. As a kid, I would rearrange my room at least once a month. Today, I can spend hours flipping through interior magazines and I put myself to sleep at night not by counting sheep, but by designing a room. So in a way, I’ve turned a hobby into a job. Last year, my flat was featured in an interiors magazine (Ideat) and people began reaching out to me asking if I could decorate their places. That gave me the confidence to understand that there was something interesting about my take on things. My style is very influenced by my travels and my love for classic design and the stories our homes tell about us. Musical theatre is very much about storytelling, so in some ways it’s been a full circle experience.
How and when did your idea of creating the aptm arise?
I have the fortune of experiencing so many people and places and things in my travels. My suitcase was never big enough. I wanted to create a space - 4 walls where I could always return and share the things that I’d seen on the way. So aptm is a space where people meet, where things meet, where ideas meet, where brands meet, and every combination of those. And because food and design and fellowship are the things I love most, we use these as our medium.
What was/is your intention with the aptm?
aptm is a very personal expression for me – it gives me room to explore and experiment and at the same time share things that I find interesting and relevant. My hope is that aptm inspires people to live a bigger version of their everyday lives. Whatever you do, enjoy the process of doing it.
Why did you chose german design as a topic for aptm?
It is quite literally what I am surrounded by everyday. I’ve lived in Germany for more than 16 years now and in that time I’ve discovered that there’s so much more to the culture and the people than the clichés – there is rigidity, but there’s playfulness as well. I wanted to pause for a few moments and see it all with fresh eyes, to dissect it and question it and come to new conclusions. And I wanted to illuminate how this shows up in culture and design. Beside a strong history of function, craft and craftsmanship, there’s an emerging scene of boutique makers and brands trying new things based on those same principals and I wanted to give them a platform. In a strange way, I think my being a foreigner creates an interesting perspective on what it is that people sometimes take for granted.
Chris Glass, founder aptm
„aptm is a very personal expression for me – it gives me room to explore and experiment and at the same time share things that I find interesting and relevant. My hope is that aptm inspires people to live a bigger version of their everyday lives. Whatever you do, enjoy the process of doing it.“
What inspired you when choosing the interior and deciding about the design?
There are three sides to the process. On one side, I have an idea, a thought that I want to share. In this case it was to show an unexpected side of German design - embracing the clarity of Germany design, but creating texture and softeness within that. Another side is honing in on hero pieces and players I want to include. For instance I was keen to show Rolf Benz in a new context. And because the space needs to be attractive and have a sense of harmony I focus on how to make it all feel like home. Our Partnerships Manager, Tatjana Sprick, connects us with the brands we work with and she is great about taking these ideas (which are sometimes only words and colors) and coming back with great pieces that challenge and confirm my concepts.
What is typical German for you (in everday life, in design..)?
I think there are the clichés of what is typically German – the precision, the punctuality (the bus comes when it’s supposed to come), the reserved nature, and so on. But I’ve also experienced a playfulness and a whimsy and a romanticism that isn’t what most people think of as German. There are parts of the country where time seems to stand still and at the same time, within offices things are happening which are ahead of their time. Nature is a subtle, but present player in Germany. I think brotzeit is genius, summer is not the same without a crisp weissbier, tatü tata is as annoying as it is classic, and I still find myself waiting for the ampelmann to turn green before I cross the street.
Why did you choose the NUVOLA from the Rolf Benz collection what did you personally experience with the brand Rolf Benz when you where in Nagold?
We started by going back to the beginning. I wanted to acknowledge the heritage of Rolf Benz and at the same time celebrate what is current about the brand. Looking at the Addiform – how we could ‘add’ more to the sofa to extend it’s versatility – was the hook. In our case, we extended it as far as the room would allow us. And to challenge tradition, we flipped the placement of the sofa and the coffee tables around by putting the sofas back to back instead of across from each other. Nuvola –with it’s clean lines and simple form - gave us the clarity to tell this story and the versatility (various depths and widths) to make it resonate. Most of my time is spent going from metropolis to metropolis, so Nagold was such a refreshing change. What struck me most was the people. EVERYONE was friendly. They smiled, they made eye contact, they were curious and open… They said mahlzeit. It was like I’d landed in fairytale. There were people that have been with the company for years and years and it’s not only their job, it’s a part of their life. It says so much about a company to see this sort of passion and commitment from employees.
And one last question: What is your next project?
I was in Africa last year and aside from it being a dream come true, it inspired a curiosity about African design. So, we’re in the thick of exploring the far flung corners of the globe and looking at what “Africa” could mean. In the meantime, there’s 1000 other things to do and we’re excited what the future holds.
A place to meet - a place to be
You can meet Rolf Benz at Number 18 Lindower Straße until the end of July 2018: say hello to the Nuvola, the side table Rolf Benz 984 and the barstool Rolf Benz 650.