In a new series of interviews, we catch up with Expats In Wonderland relocation clients to talk about their experience of moving to Berlin, and the life they have built here since.
Our first interview is with Agi Kuczynska, the designer behind jewellery brand TAKK, and a freelance interior architect and design consultant.
Agi is originally from Warsaw, eventually resettling in Berlin after living for some time in Milan and Stockholm. We met in the apartment that Expats In Wonderland relocated her to with her husband and daughter in 2017. She is an inspiring entrepreneur, creative designer and mother whose story we feel privileged to share.
In addition to her beautiful TAKK collections available online, you can book Agi via her website for private or corporate interior design and architecture projects. Visit her contact page.
How long have you been living in Berlin and what attracted you to the city in the first place?
I have been living here for 2 years now, but I was coming over regularly since 2010. I loved the feeling of a big city with strong district identities. It felt familiar because of the socialist heritage but at the same time new vibrant and growing, a bit like Warsaw on steroids!
Did you arrive with the idea of setting up your own business or was it a happy accident?
I already had a studio and my jewellery brand TAKK back in Warsaw, which I could operate from Berlin too. So it is more a continuity of what I was doing before, working as an interior architect and a jewellery designer.
Tell us about your different businesses and how you tie them together.
I am an architect and designer, I create spaces and objects. I have a design studio, and a jewellery brand.
In my projects I try to achieve the visible dichotomy between simplicity and complexity, luxury and minimalism, with a focus on sustainability and promotion of local arts and crafts, be it in Warsaw or Berlin.
I have lived and worked in Milan and Stockholm before, and that experience has provided important inspiration in my approach to design. The clash of Scandinavian severity and Italian passion, the cultural differences, so strongly felt between the two countries, were a big incentive to me. Berlin seems like a perfect place where those two aesthetics meet.
Do you collaborate with others?
Very often! I really like collaborations, it brings an extra dimension to your work, and very often can produce unexpected exciting results.
In my interior design projects I try to work with local designers, that give the space a sense of belonging. I collaborate with graphic designers, industrial designers and other creatives in order to create the holistic result.
For TAKK, we celebrate the Polish tradition of craftsmanship, by supporting local producers and crafts. Our production and studio premises are based in Warsaw, all pieces from each line are handmade from Polish mined and partly recycled sterling silver by renowned local jewellers. I also have a small local team that helps me with the studio.
Other than incorporating the Polish craft tradition, how have you defined TAKK?
Simplicity and clarity in design are the most desirable and at the same time the most difficult things to achieve for me. As I believe in their unquestionable value and want to integrate them in my everyday life, that was a reason why I have decided to set up our own jewellery line.
It responds to my need to have beautiful, meaningful and unostentatious pieces. The concept lies somewhere in between nature and engineering understood as employing physical forces for human goals. I observe the material world and try to abstract the essence of it in the form of necklaces, rings and earrings.
Our aim is to reduce anything that is a surplus and stay with the clear, graphic and evocative lines. The appeal of these pieces come from the aesthetic poetry of form and careful reflection in the design process.
I try to apply the same philosophy to interior design, which is sometimes more difficult, but more satisfying in the end.
What neighbourhood of Berlin are you based in for living or work? Did you choose to setup there for any specific reason?
I live in Mitte, from the very first time we came to Berlin we liked this area, mostly because of its continuous change, it reminded us of Warsaw, still so much space to repurpose, and adapt! I love the local designer shops, new places opening up all the time. We try to live within our neighbourhood. My husbands office is two streets away from our home, also my daughters Kindergarten is close by.
Tell us a bit about your home. What do you love about it and what do you wish was different?
I love that it's so bright, and spacious! I like to have a lot of free room so I didn’t put much furniture in. I really enjoy living and working there. The big windows help you survive the winters better!
It was very important for me to have the terrace, where I try to grow herbs and other plants, not always successfully, since we are away quite a lot. As an architect I would change a lot of course. I like to have total control over the space, which is hard when you move in to a rented apartment.
I have this automatic habit of upgrading in my mind each space that I enter into, and there are few that I can be in without thinking I would move this or repaint that- thats part of the profession. I have managed to make it my own and I enjoy the time I spend there.
There are different levels of designing the space. You can start by choosing the right furniture, art, fabrics, and colours which works really well for rental apartments, but I am always concerned with functionality of the space. That you can only really achieve by creating your own layout, floor finishings and fixed furniture. I will definitely do that when I buy one of my own.
Did you move here with friends in the city, or have you met people here? How do you find personal and professional networking in the city?
We already had few friends that lived here, and then we met more gradually. I think it is relatively easy to meet new people here. There are a lot of creatives and startups based in Berlin, after two years of living here I start to feel more at home.
What are your favourite places in and around Berlin to…
Cookies Cream, Baldon, Chipperfield Kantine, Smart Deli, Sasaya, Kin Dee, Local, Ms Robinson, Early Bird and Ms Jones ice cream, Bonanza coffee, Arabica Coffee, Standard pizza.
Cordobar, Buck and Breck, Bar Milano,
Art and nature. Sounds cliché but thats what i love best about Berlin! There is a lot of freedom, a lot of guerrilla interventions both on the artist side as well as nature, the untended meadows and the street art. That is what makes Berlin so special to me.
The lakes! I didn’t realise that there are more than 140 around Berlin! I missed that a lot after moving back to Warsaw from Stockholm, and now I can be swimming in a lake in 30 minutes.
Another thing that you appreciate a lot when you have a child are amazing playgrounds around Berlin, each one custom made, with natural materials leaving a lot of room for imagination.
Do you have any tips that you would share with a new expat moving to Berlin now?
Visit different districts before settling for a specific one, each one is so different it’s worth checking them out first. Also trying to learn some German comes in handy even if so many people speak English.