Giulia Pines and Una Kelly round-up the city’s best stationery stores…
Nowadays, it can seem like an act of defiance to pick up pen and paper. What were once the writing haunts of wistful young dreamers and published authors alike have turned somewhat sterile with the constant clack-clack-clack of the laptop brigade.
An activity that used to be languid and leisurely has undoubtedly been transformed, but – as with the revived vogues for analogue photography and vinyl-hunting – the art of scribbling in a journal or writing a postcard have retained a dedicated, if slightly nostalgic, audience.
Indeed, far from dying out like the proverbial dinosaurs, stationery stores and high-end Papeteries are thriving in Berlin. Below are some of the best spots to find that inspirational journal or sketchbook, or simply escape the city buzz and daydream for a while…
The perennial favorite R.S.V.P. sits just north of Hackescher Markt, tucked into a picturesque street full of small designer boutiques and charming restaurants.
The genius of this shop is just how well it fits in with its neighbours, and that is undoubtedly thanks to its sparse design: whereas most paper shops seem to feel the need to lure in customers and their children with colorful racks of postcards outside, R.S.V.P.’s floor-to-ceiling front window and single shelving unit makes it resemble a high-end jewellery showroom much more than a Papeterie, each item displayed with the kind of love usually reserved for an expensive brooch or necklace.
Even with that in mind, the wares hardly disappoint: a single pair of beautifully designed scissors, their handles forming a perfect circle, sits next to rows of metal paperclips in ascending order of size. Gold and silver metal pencil sharpeners are made to appear all the more precious, simply because only one of each kind is displayed.
Cards and journals with printed images comprise an around-the-world sampling of stationery, as if inviting enamored customers to imagine circling the globe in order to accumulate such a collection, and labels next to most products provide origin and price information stylishly and unobtrusively, as if this collection had been curated.
Of course the obligatory Moleskines are lined up on one shelf (and American visitors may find the Mead Composition notebooks a welcome reminder of their schooldays), but next to them stand less ubiquitous objets d’art: a beautifully-rendered alphabet stamp set, or a compact kit for making linoleum block prints. Clearly, R.S.V.P.’s mission is not only to stock up on the goods, but also to inspire those who use them to feats of artistry beyond what they thought possible.
R.S.V.P., Mulackstr. 14, 10119 Mitte, T: 030 28094644, Open: Mon-Thu; 12-19, Fri-Sat; 12-20
While this shop stocks an astonishing array of high-end products, it might compromise its quality level just a bit by reserving too much floor-space for child-friendly gifts. Still, this is not at all surprising on a street just off of Kollwitzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg, and can be easily overlooked when taking into account just how much is on offer here.
Along with lined and graph-paper notebooks in multiple sizes and colors from the German company Semikolon, are impressively hefty journals, semi-hidden on a low shelf, beautifully bound in colored linen and thick enough to contain an entire handwritten novel. No doubt at least a few customers have bought them with exactly that possibility in mind.
Scrapbooks, photo albums, and boxes from Bindewerk, another German favorite, are displayed in order of size on high shelves, their soft colors and delicate flower and tessellation patterns drawing the eye from across the room. The biggest surprise, however, comes from an old-fashioned flourish: feathered quill pens in every color sprout bouquet-like out of a vase, along with a line of La Perle des Encres ink bottles from the 340-year-old Parisian ink company J. Herbin.
Although it is hard to imagine most people wanting to write in anything other than the customary blue or black, just casting a glance over the names of the different inks and their delightful packaging (“Orange Indien” is graced with a petite saddled orange elephant, “Rouge Opéra” has a tiny opera fan) invites a dreamy reverie into times past when products like these were commonplace.
Leporello, Uhlandstr. 19, 13156 Charlottenburg, T: 030-48096127, Open: Mon-Fri: 8-15
The Turkish-owned Ararat has been around since before the Mauerfall (no mean feat in such a rapidly changing neighbourhood), and with a prime corner spot on Kreuzberg 61’s main drag and more floor space than practically any other paper shop in town, it’s easy to see why.
Ararat started out selling postcards in 1982, and even though it now stocks a wide range of high-end paper products, there’s something about its layout and its abundance of kitschy house gifts (Measuring cups in the shape of Russian Matryoshka dolls! Wooden kitchen spoons that double as drumsticks!) that can make first-time visitors a bit skeptical.
But force yourself to take a step further into the shop and you’ll find it well worth your time: unlike many other paper shops, where the pristine product displays can seem intimidating, Ararat is a place that encourages lingering, wandering, and even rummaging. Sure, the shop has an impressive array of Bindewerk, Semikolon, and Moleskine products on display, as well as sturdy leather-bound journals from Italian brand Cartesio, and notecards with pleasing retro graphics from Februar Design, but these will soon be abandoned in favor of far more visual delights.
Take, for instance, the tabletop boxes full of postcards, alphabetized by artist, actor, or film, and the entire back wall of the shop, also decorated with some of the best and most famous images of the last century (Robert Doisneau’s immortal “Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville” comes to mind). Racks of legal size postcards by the shop window take customers around the world with stunning color photographs of far-flung destinations like Cambodia and Japan.
Ararat, Bergmannstr. 9, 10961 Kreuzberg, T: 030-6949532 , Open: Mon-Fri; 10-18.30, Sat; 10-16
Papeterie Heinrich Künnemann
This appropriately elegant paper shop sits on one of the ritziest streets in West Berlin (and right off of the Ku’damm, no less) and it is clear upon entry that they take great care to live up to their address. Its dark wood-lined interior provides an appropriate setting for products of high quality and original, classic design, and a visit to the shop can feel slightly daunting until one makes contact with the unfailingly polite and friendly shopkeepers.
A colorful collection of writing instruments (Faber-Castell plays a starring role) covers one wall, along with pencil sharpeners of clever and compact design. (The less eye-catching cases of standard colored pencils and pens are stocked at knee-level on the lower shelves.) Leaves of tissue and wrapping paper with fun and kitschy prints, such as old-fashioned clocks or big bright sunflowers, are laid over wooden arms for easy browsing at the end of a long table stocked with leather- and clothe-bound journals.
The shop has wisely elected to keep its more mundane – and mass-designed – birthday and anniversary cards in a separate and semi-hidden area at the back, so as not to mar the overall aesthetics of the room. Still, that area is worth a peek, if only for the whimsical and original packages of place cards for all occasions (the best by far was a set of hand-coloured cards bordered by tiny ballroom-dancing couples.
The real treat, however, is the collection of old-fashioned desk instruments in gold and silver, such as clocks, paper-clip boxes, paperweights, cardholders, letter openers, and a magnifying glass or two, making up a cabinet of curiosities fit for Sherlock Holmes.
Papeterie Heinrich Künnemann, Uhlandstr. 28, 10719 Charlottenburg, T: 030-8816363, Open: Mon-Fri; 9.30-20, Sat 9.30-18
Scatolina means “little box” in a Italian, and this shop certainly lives up to its name as a treasure chest worth discovering in the midst of über-trendy Mitte. Setting foot inside this shop is like a return to the childhood we all wish we’d had.
Charming paper lanterns hang from the ceiling, and strings of whimsical paper cutouts of animals such as butterflies, parrots, and seahorses decorate most shelves. The typical sets of notebooks (Moleskine, Semikolon, Bindewerk) are of course available here, but so are boxes covered in Victorian era prints and retro stationery sets that instill the determination—if only for a moment—never to use email again.
Scatolina really asserts its individuality and local credibility with its second room, displaying paper crafts by local designers. Origami becomes jewelry in meticulously constructed paper necklaces, photo albums and journals are adorned with hand-made linoleum block prints, and a series of delightfully dark paper cut-outs cluster on one table top, including one in which pulling a string causes a tiny version of the Titanic to sink next to an imposing iceberg.
The genius of these creations is that they are just crafty enough to make us believe we could make them ourselves, just as the very best stationery shops make us believe we could be on the verge of writing a masterpiece…if only we could find the right notebook in which to begin.
Scatolina, Almstadtstr. 3, 10119 Mitte, T: 030-20089393, Mon-Fri 12 – 19, Sat; 12 -16
Santokki has proved to be a delightful addition to Pappelallee since it made its home there in November 2013. Taking its namesake from a Korean mountain rabbit, it stocks products by Korean and European designers, and offers something a little bit different from the classic stationery brands. Notebooks, diaries, sketchbooks and photo albums range from understated to vintage and quirky.
The elegant and beautiful letters sets are a highlight, suddenly instilling an urge to give up email. The friendly owner, who clearly has a good eye for design, has also selected a range of delicately patterned teacups, and there are mermaid note sets, dolphin shaped water guns and owl-shaped caps for the kids. The best part, however, are the travel themed goods – maps and pocketbooks with city transport route designs, Paris and London themed mini postcard sets, all stirring feelings of wanderlust.
Originality is what makes this Papeterie stand out; there are no mass produced postcards, instead there are unique illustrations by artists such as Cristina Mejias Gomez. The owner seems to understand the winning combination of a good cup of coffee and a fresh notebook, for inside this small space is also the Red Bean Bakery, serving hot drinks and Korean baked goods. A charming shop that encourages browsing and return visits.
Santokki, Pappelallee 82, 10437 Prenzlauer Berg, Open: Mo-Sa 11am-7pm
Schoene Schreibwaren is one for the truly stylish writer. The interior of this Friedrichshain store is hushed and minimalist, with white walls and plain black shelving that allow the products to speak for themselves. Indeed, it feels less like a shop and more like a gallery space for fine stationery.
The leather-bound notebooks, wallets, photo albums and laptop cases are clearly designed with ‘clean and classic’ in mind. Pens and pencils, including the high-end Koh-I-Noor brand, are of the highest quality, set out on a table in the middle of room with fresh blank pages available to doodle on.
The bookbinding and leather workshop that is also part of the premises creates a small selection of notebooks, laptop cases and photo albums. The company is locally minded, often stocking independent designers such as Wolfgang Philippi, and brings their wares to markets including Mauerpark and festivals throughout Germany.
Schoene Schreibwaren, Niederbarnimstr. 6, 10247 Friedrichshain. T: 0176.628.93.430 Open: Mo-Sa 12-7pm and Weinbergsweg 21, 10119 Mitte. T: 030.884. 97.908 Mo-Sa 10.30-7pm
Sieben Wünsche sits on the corner of Tucholskystraβe and Linienstraβe, in a peaceful part of Mitte – a colourful kaleidoscope of a Papeterie and gift shop that has an upmarket jumble sale vibe. Much floor space is given over to a kids’ section, including high quality schoolbags, cushions, and soft toys by manufacturers such as Room Seven and Sigikind, and after an eyeful of this cuteness, the solid wooden and glass display cabinet to the left wall is somewhat jarring.
This, it seems to declare, is strictly ‘gift for him’ territory. Letter openers, leather bound notebooks, clocks and radios all evoke a distinguished air. Take a few steps further and the back of the shop gets down to some proper Papeterie business. A wide range of the stalwarts of the stationery world are available: Paperblanks, Moleskine, Semikolon, Cartesio and CIAK notebooks and photo albums, all neatly stacked and shelved, as well as some retro floral designs.
Tasteful patterned gift wrapping paper from Carta Varese in Florence draws the eye, and shoppers can also discover crockery, ranging from plain and rustic to floral and kitschy. Somewhat bizarrely, there is also a selection of bright plastic colanders, bowls and spatulas. While the general mishmash results in no cohesive design or theme, it does make an ideal shop to rummage in for a last minute gift.
Sieben Wünsche, Tucholskystr. 45, 10117 Mitte. T: 030.486.38.111 Mo-Fr 10am-8pm, Sa 11am-8pm
Located at the end of quiet Greifenhagener Straβe, it is quite easy to miss the unassuming Small Caps. Owner and designer Sabrina Sundermann herself says that it is “not a real shop, rather a workshop with display windows.” She is enthusiastic about handwritten post – to the extent that it led her to buy an old printing press five years ago, and she has been creating charming greeting cards and other paper products ever since.
The space is truly a labour of love, but with unique and beautiful results. The workshop is only open to customers on Tuesdays and Thursdays or by appointment, although the products are for sale in shops around Berlin, including R.S.V.P. and Dussmann. Visitors can also attend workshop appointments and print their own postcards: a perfectly stylish and thoughtful message to send to a faraway friend.
Small Caps, Greifenhagener Str. 9, 10437 Berlin. The workshop is currently closed until the end of April 2015, the online shop will also be closed until mid February 2015.
Thissparse and functional 1,500 sqm space near Moritzplatz is a supply store for artists, designers and architects that fulfils more or less every need they could think of, and likely a good deal more. The mention of its name draws glowing recommendations from the creative-minded, who describe it as their wonderland, yet even those who have never put paintbrush to canvas will find inspiration here.
A whole afternoon can be lost wandering between the various floors. The eye is drawn to shiny precision compasses and pencils, colourful beads and mosaic tiles, while the sweet smell of sawdust drifts up from the woodwork section downstairs.
There are long rolls of materials from the familiar to the unusual, cut as requested by helpful staff, rows upon rows of different papers, oil paints, watercolours, palettes, easels, desks, chairs, lighting, origami, brushes, spray paints, sketch books, printed wrapping paper, glues and tapes…even the humble pencil sharpener has an overwhelming range.
Modulor, Prinzenstr. 85, 10969 Kreuzberg. T: 030.690.360 Open: Mo-Fr 9am-8pm, Sa 10am-6pm