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Black Isle in Berlin: A Bakery with the Soul of a Gallery

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Black Isle in Berlin: A Bakery with the Soul of a Gallery

February 27, 2018

Recently spotted: a Scottish bakery in an unlikely place—Berlin’s central Mitte district (and just around the corner from Dottír, another Remodelista favorite). Expat founder Ruth Barry was working in the world of contemporary art—at the Guggenheim in New York City and with a prints publisher in London—when she switched gears and took on an apprenticeship at Du Pain et des Idées, the famous Paris institution, to learn the art of baking. She opened the original Black Isle Bakery, named for the peninsula in the Scottish Highlands where she grew up, as a catering business in London, baking for high-end galleries and clients, before another change of gear brought her to Germany. Barry packed up the bakery and brought it with her, opening the Berlin iteration of Black Isle Bakery to the public in September 2017.

The space—by Berlin-based architecture studio Atheorem and London based OK-RM for the art direction—feels, fittingly, like a gallery: “I live in the street behind the bakery and would often walk my dog past the space,” Barry says. “At the time it was the showroom for an independent fashion designer, but I so often thought it would make a lovely cafe. It’s on the sunny side of the street so the natural light is absolutely beautiful.” Post-renovation, it is a bright and clean-lined space for a morning pastry. Here’s a look inside.

Photography by Robbie Lawrence, courtesy of Black Isle Bakery, except where noted.

the bright main room of the cafe. photograph by christoph rokitta. 9
Above: The bright main room of the cafe. Photograph by Christoph Rokitta.
when the team began work, &#8\2\20;the general condition of the space was v 10
Above: When the team began work, “the general condition of the space was very good, the building had been recently renovated, but we wanted to create a simpler, more gallery-like atmosphere in there,” Barry says. “I wanted to create a cafe that felt completely new, like nothing else in the city, somewhere where every detail had been considered and created.”

In keeping with the idea of a gallery space, the team removed the existing faux-wood paneling and dark wood floor and opted instead for a muted gray polyurethane floor and walls in washable white paint. A wall of windows at the front brings in plenty of light.

a statement making copper bench runs along one wall. the tables and display cou 11
Above: A statement-making copper bench runs along one wall. The tables and display counters are also made of clean-lined metal, from zinc to brass, all custom-designed by Atheorem and made by metalworker Bernd Euler—Barry’s biggest expense, she says.

“Much of Bernd’s production is for contemporary artists, so his attention to detail is next-level,” Barry says. “We are not polishing the surfaces of these metals, instead we are allowing them to patina naturally, rather like constantly evolving drawings.”

little phrases are written in unexpected places on the cafe walls, in lieu of a 12
Above: Little phrases are written in unexpected places on the cafe walls, in lieu of an About section for the bakery’s website. “Instead I wrote some notes that referenced stories, folklore, people, or places from the Black Isle. The phrases offer a whimsical insight into this mysterious place where I grew up,” Barry says. “For example, ‘From the fields of Mount Eagle search the skies for the Red Kite’ references the highest point on the peninsula, which is also where my childhood home is. It is lovely to stand in the fields on my parents’ farm and watch the birds with their beautiful forked tails hovering and circling the skies.”

Hanging above the lettering is a framed print of one of the images that fashion photographer Lena C. Emery shot for the website.

the zinc topped tables are paired with jasper morrison&#8\2\17;s all plasti 13
Above: The zinc-topped tables are paired with Jasper Morrison’s All Plastic Chairs in white, sourced from Vitra. “We wanted the frames of the benches, tables, and display counters to have crisp, sharp profiles, meaning they had to be made from solid steel,” Barry says. “It took eight very strong men to wrestle the furniture into place, it’s all so heavy.”
pastries on offer. the bakery&#8\2\17;s advice: &#8\2\20;take a bun or  14
Above: Pastries on offer. The bakery’s advice: “Take a bun or two with tea to refresh the mind. For a hootenanny: a savory and sweet selection from the bakery, one bite each.”
at the back of the dining area is the service area, with custom glass display c 15
Above: At the back of the dining area is the service area, with custom glass display cabinets for pastries.
a brass topped counter artfully displays the day&#8\2\17;s offerings. barry 16
Above: A brass-topped counter artfully displays the day’s offerings. Barry stores cookies in  Trendglas jars: “They are so simple and elegant, are suitable for storage in the freezer and heat-resistant, and, importantly, are very affordable,” she says. “I buy them from a wonderful shop in Berlin called Glasklar. The owner is so helpful, and she has a wonderful selection of glassware.”
a simple self serve water and coffee station. the glassware and carafes are als 17
Above: A simple self-serve water and coffee station. The glassware and carafes are also from Glasklar.
barry in the cafe. 18
Above: Barry in the cafe.
an arrangement of berries in a ruutu vase by iitala. &#8\2\20;they aren 19
Above: An arrangement of berries in a Ruutu vase by Iitala. “They aren’t particularly practical for flower arranging, but they are incredibly beautiful,” Barry says.
the front window of the bakery. barry offers whimsical directions, also borrowe 20
Above: The front window of the bakery. Barry offers whimsical directions, also borrowed from the Black Isle: “Follow the road to the top of the hill, pass the tree house and the gorse bushes bumbling with bees. Keep the honeysuckle to your left.”

Before

the space before renovations. 21
Above: The space before renovations.

For more particularly artful bakeries around the world, see:

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