Lars Triesch has always had his head in the past. Born in the West German town of Koblenz in 1979, the vintage furniture collector spent his teenage years immersed in American culture from the 1950s and 60s. While his peers welcomed electronic music, he read Beat literature and listened to Elvis on the record player. By the age of 18, he’d convinced his dad to lend him the money to buy his first vintage car, a 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air. By 20, he’d started collecting furniture and design objects.
“Besides listening to the music and watching all the movies, eventually I wanted to have the lifestyle. I started finding furniture at the side of the street and buying books on architecture and design,” explains the 41-year-old, sat among the towering shelves of Original in Berlin, his mid-century modern furniture store in Friedrichshain, the culmination of this lifelong fascination with vintage objects. “The more I dug, the more specialised I got.”
What began as a passion only became his profession out of necessity. Triesch never went to university. He rejected “classic ways of making a living” and spent his twenties drumming in an indie-rock band, Profession Reporter. After the group split, he moved to Berlin with his wife in 2009. “I had no idea what I wanted to do, which is usually okay in Berlin, but my wife got pregnant a couple of weeks after we moved here, and I knew I had to do something.”
My favourite design era is the late 1940s, early 50s. After the Second World War, there wasn’t so much money for materials, so designers had to be inventive.
In 2010, he set up a small store on Karl-Marx-Allee and began sourcing, reviving and distributing furniture. Original in Berlin has since transformed into a 10,000-square-foot showroom, complete with a workshop, a team of local craftspeople and an extensive network of experts abroad. Triesch’s carefully curated, 2,000-strong collection has boasted pieces from renowned European designers like Charlotte Perriand, Gio Ponti and Hans J Wegner. His most lucrative sell was a Jean Prouvé credenza for €100,000.
But it’s still the Americans he’s most excited by, the likes of George Nakashima, Jens Risom, Hans and Florence Knoll and Charles Eames. “My favourite design era is the late 1940s, early 50s,” he says. “After the Second World War, there wasn’t so much money for materials, so the designers had to be inventive. They kept their upholstery simple, not overloaded, just really beautiful.”Expand
The thrill of hunting for objects extends beyond the canon. “For sure, you can go for the big names, but it’s kind of boring. If you’re always thinking, ‘I can buy this for that amount and sell it for that amount.’ It’s like selling insurance.” How does he spot a treasure? “It’s just a gut feeling at the end of the day. I’ve seen so much furniture in my life, I can tell how many hours went into a piece,” he smiles. “With every shipment we get, it’s like Christmas.”
His expertise doesn’t stop at furniture. During trips to Palm Springs and Los Angeles, Triesch became transfixed by the glassy, angular houses of mid-century modern architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and Ray Kappe. “If you go into one of those houses, it does something to you. There’s so much happening, you always have this shadow play and this inside-outside connection to nature.”
With every shipment we get, it’s like Christmas.
In 2017, Triesch reached out to Kappe, who was 89 at the time, and asked him to design a Californian-style home for him and his family in Kleinmachnow on the southwestern outskirts of Berlin. Kappe’s firm were initially hesitant to build outside the US, but Triesch won them over with his enthusiasm. “I was really confident. I said I can handle this, I have a store, craftsmen, an eye for details,” he recalls, his eyes lighting up at the memory of the challenge. “I convinced them I could pull it off.”
Triesch had a hand in every stage of construction. Never one to compromise on quality, he travelled to California himself to collect the 300-year-old redwood for the siding. The Douglas fir for the doors and windows were sourced from Canada. Four years later, the “Triesch Residence” is almost complete. Just as he reveres the longevity of well-designed objects, Triesch has a sense that this “piece of American design history in Germany” will surpass him. Although he’ll be living in it full time, he has plans to share this creation with the public via open-door events: “Ray Kappe’s house was a monument even when he was still alive. At one point, the legacy of the house gets bigger than the person who builds it.”
Original in Berlin Karl-Marx-Allee 83, Friedrichshain
Want more vintage? Peek into the world of artisanal silk kimonos at Neukölln store Aura