Before and After 2 – Painted Statements

This post continues where the Before left off.

Having come to this country with only the clothes on my back (okay, and two suitcases and four boxes), I also had no furniture. The first night I spent in the place was in a nest of blankets on the floor. While a lack of furniture made everyday living a bit difficult (not to mention uncomfortable), it did make it easy to paint.

And so we painted. And painted. And painted.

Major props to Tim, who, when he gave me a voucher for painting my apartment, had no idea what he was getting into. Just when he thought there was nothing left to paint, I would get another crazy idea. Why not the ceiling? Why not an accent doorway? (Although to be fair, the green arch in the living room has fast become my favorite part of the apartment, not least because it disguises the fact that the doorway itself is a little crooked.)

Paint did wonders for making the apartment feel more homey. It was the first time I’d gotten to paint a place the way I wanted, and though my moodboards (yes, I made moodboards. I work in advertising, ok?) initially prompted a raised eyebrow or two, once the paint was dry, everyone agreed that it looked awesome.

Hallway Paint: Before and After

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Living Room Paint: Before and After

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The green arch proved the most divisive. Reaction ranged from “It looks awesome!” to “It looks like the entrance to a bounce-house.” But once I brought other pieces to the room, it looked less flamboyant.

Bedroom Paint: Before and After

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The bold choices brought some character and personality to the rooms, and made me less itchy for artwork, freeing up funds for furniture. What about you guys? Any bold paint choices on your horizons? Ever paint a new place and wish you hadn’t?

Before and After 1 – First Look

I have moved 25 times in the last ten years. And honestly, I don’t know which I find more staggering—that it’s been ten years since I first moved away from home, or that I’ve been such a nomad. Over those years I spent a lot of time fantasizing about what my ideal place would look like, how I could paint it, decorate it, and make it my own. The U.S. rental market is largely what-you-see-is-what-you-get. A whole subculture of DIY exists just for renters looking for impermanent ways to improve crappy paint jobs or cheapo cabinets. So imagine my surprise when I got the keys to Hamburg place and found out that it was mine for the making.

Let’s back up. To be totally honest: I was pretty unimpressed when I toured. The previous tenants had taken their free rein and painted the walls in garish colors: mustard yellow, forest green. The lights they’d installed were hung too low and made the apartment look small and dark. The trim and doors in all the rooms were an aged beige that looked dirty and unwashed. On the pros side: the location was phenomenal—four doors down from my friends, and in a bustling little hub of bars, cafés, and shops in one of the city’s nicest neighborhoods. And the potential was there: crown molding detail in the main living spaces, huge windows, high ceilings, and rich hardwood floors. With options slim to none and needing an apartment to get started on the visa process, I decided to take it.

Upon moving in, I found that the Hausmeister (or property manager) painted over the crazy color scheme I’d seen in the tour, but left that dirty beige. I quickly took stock of what I wanted to change:

  1. Paint all the trim and doors white
  2. Accent wall in the hallway
  3. Add color in the bedroom
  4. Add color in the living room
  5. Light fixtures throughout (it came with only bare bulbs in the living room and bathroom, a dark lamp in the bedroom)

Without further ado….some of the shots from Before:


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Let’s play a game. As in San Francisco, I’ve found that one of the first questions people ask here in Hamburg is, “What neighborhood do you live in?” There is the hipster neighborhood (Schanze) and the LGBT neighborhood (St. Georg), the party neighborhood (St. Pauli) and the multicultural neighborhood (Altona), the neighborhood for wealthy old people (Winterhude) and the neighborhood of modern-luxury developments where no really lives yet (HafenCity). Where do I fall into that mix? Got your guess?

If you named Winterhude you’re correct.

It’s not really a surprise that I chose Winterhude—but in many ways, it is a surprise. Winterhude has the reputation for being full of wealthy, elderly Germans. While that is shifting to allow for more young families, there’s certainly not a lot of brown faces (immigrant or otherwise) around. And most of the creative types I meet through work live in the hipper, more colorful neighborhoods on the west side of the Alster—Sternschanze or St. Pauli. But Winterhude was the first neighborhood I saw in Hamburg, and I suppose it was love at first sight.

During the final dinner of my first trip to Hamburg. I’m literally standing in front of what will become my future apartment.

Located on the north-east side of Hamburg, it shoulders the Außen-Alster (or outer Alster, the larger end of the lake at Hamburg’s core) and plays host to the Stadtpark. Like most of the city, it’s filled with tree-lined streets, white pre-war buildings, small shopping and dining areas, and the classic canals and bridges that interlock each of the neighborhoods.

On days with good weather (aka any day it isn’t pouring), these canals are frequently brimming with paddle-boarders, kayakers, pedal-boats, and the odd solo-rower, accompanied by a coach in a speedboat barking, “Schnell!” into a megaphone.

The canals are ringed with gigantic manses—some of which have been broken into apartments, but many of which are still single-family homes. They tower above the banks, ornamented with gabled roofs, tiny turrets, and multi-story decks. Their backyards, replete with upscale patio furniture, stretch luxuriously to the water’s edge, their private docks bobbing in the wake of passing boats.

When I respond to the neighborhood question with, “Winterhude,” I’m usually greeted with raised eyebrows. It’s a nice area, and therefore regarded as expensive (although any of the areas around the Alster are priced pretty similarly). Those arched brows are a bit of a departure for this Oakland girl, who grew up more accustomed to snorts of derision or gasps of surprise with accompanied, “It’s dangerous there, though.” But to me, it’s less about the cache of the area you live in, and more how it feels. I worried a bit that I might feel like an outsider, hob-nobbing amongst the yuppies and well-to-dos. But it felt like home from my very first visit there, and for a move like this, I’ll trust my gut on what’s right for me.

(And let’s be honest, the views don’t hurt either.)

In-car dance party

I’ve got travel booked for the next six weekends in a row—by trains and planes, but no automobiles. (I was going to insert a Sadface emoji here, but actually, the Autobahn has been so congested lately I don’t know if it’s really a miss.) While I’m not missing out on the Public Works-induced traffic, moments like this (on the way to Sonoma Racetrack with friends Tim and Cherlyn) remind me just how fun it is to road trip. Fans of shenanigans! Check out Tim’s Bad Tim. Fellow Foodies! Check out Cherlyn at The Buttery Existence.


Sometimes an impromptu dance party is the best kind — especially if it’s in your car. Here’s to spreading the joy with my girls Gabrielle and Cherlyn (and Jess Glynne).🙂

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Culture Shock #4: Take Your Own Beverage

“Feierabend,” Tim tells me, “is the most important German word.” Literally translated into, “Party night,” it’s the phrase Germans use to denote the end of the workday—roughly the equivalent of “Happy hour”. And on my commute home, I usually see groups of coworkers standing outside or walking down the street. It’s not a party in the traditional sense—no one is getting rowdy or crazy. But almost everyone’s got a bottle of beer in hand.

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As an American, seeing beer or wine in public is so entirely foreign. I’m so used to chugging my alcoholic beverage before leaving the bar or walking out of the house—here (as in many other countries) you can continue to casually sip it on the sidewalk, kein Problem. It’s awesome to be able to go to the park and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer without the telltale brown paper bag and surreptitious glances around for the cops, or to pregame the party night on the way to the U-Bahn with a cold one from the fridge.

Pro Tip: Visiting Germany in the summertime? Plan an evening in the local park. Bring a pizza or ready-made food, or buy a disposable grill from the nearest Edeka or Rewe. It’s awesome to spend some time just people-watching, enjoying the weather, some music, and a chilled Riesling. It was hands-down the best thing I did on my first trip to Berlin.


Culture Shock #3: A Post About the Post
Culture Shock #2: Those Doors Are Closin’
Culture Shock #1: Your Money’s No Good Here