Mid-century design in Lübeck

The Beckergrube in Lübeck’s Old Town doesn’t make it easy for you to just stroll along at a leisurely pace. It is not a beauty at first glance and is therefore often underestimated. Which is a shame, because a closer look reveals a colourful mix: an antiquarian bookshop, an old-established wine shop, a record shop, a bookstore, a men’s outfitter, the Lübeck Theater, restaurants serving international cuisine and a traditional stationery shop. And a very special but slightly hidden treasure: Andy Czapura ‘s RETROHOUSE in the courtyard of Beckergrube 55.

Andy Czapura has been based there for 15 years. What was an insider’s tip when it opened 15 years ago has now spread throughout northern Germany. Because a store as special as RETROHOUSE is a rarity in Germany: probably the largest collection of retro and vintage design with more than 2,000 items and over 1,000 lamps from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s are on offer – exclusively originals and unique pieces. The opening hours are just as special as the exhibition and sale: the RETROHOUSE is only open on Saturdays from 11 am to 4 pm.

And so, although I had already passed the bright orange signs pointing to RETROHOUSE countless times, it was only now that I managed to meet the design expert for an interview for Lübeck ZWISCHENZEILEN and take a look at the showroom. And a perfectly normal Saturday morning turned into a short journey back in time to the past century and the world of mid-century design.

A love affair on Mallorca

Andy Czapura lived in Spain in the early 2000s. He ran an advertising agency on Mallorca, so he already had an affinity for colours, shapes and patterns.

In 2004, love struck him like a bolt of lightning: love for a vintage lamp, a space-age Tulip lamp to be precise, which unfortunately has since left him. It is broken. Since that memorable purchase, however, Andy Czapura has not let go of his love of cool designs from the mid-century era. His desire to own his own store to sell objects by famous designers or simply original pieces grew.

In 2006, the Lübeck native returned to his home town and started an online retail business. He found beautiful things on the Internet, read up on the subject, immersed himself in the scene and made contacts. His love of design objects, which has now lasted 20 years, has made him an expert in the field of lamps and luminaires in particular.

In 2009, the big day finally arrived: online retailing got a real-life sibling when RETROHOUSE moved into Lübeck’s Old Town.

Let there be light

I suddenly find myself in the light as I enter RETROHOUSE. Bag lamps, globe lamps, table lamps, pendant lamps, chandeliers, wall lamps, floor lamps. Flowing, organic curves and geometric shapes. Design objects from Germany, Europe and even the US. Some very rare pieces by famous designers, but also original items from this period.

Clear glass, frosted glass, stained glass, lead crystal and etched glass. Selected pieces of furniture, high-quality vases and accessories on shelves, sewing tables, flower stands and side tables. I can’t even begin to comprehend the wealth of articles available. A flash of moods and color.

Each piece could tell a story. However, as the objects are mute, Andy acts as interpreter. He introduces me to some special pieces: The mid-century teak floor lamp by Georges Frydman for Temde from the 1960s, standing close to the entrance, in a no-frills design. The very rare vintage floor lamp with 9 frosted glass shades by Kaiser, which conjures up a soft light. And the sculptural luminaire by designer Gaetano Sciolari made of polished brass with 21 lampholders.

And of course a PH5, the classic pendant lamp by Danish designer Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen, which provides completely glare-free light. Andy Czapura compares Henningsen with Stradivari. Like the famous Italian master violin maker, Henningsen also spent years working on the details of his lights.

Andy Czapura only buys what inspires him. If he falls in love with a piece, it’s his, no matter what others might think. He has his heart set on one lamp in particular: an extremely rare white table lamp with a 360° adjustable globe made of frosted glass and a chrome-plated metal frame by Cini Boeri for Dino Gavina from Italy from the 1970s. It is not for sale.

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The details are not the details. They make the design.”

Charles O. Eames

Objects that touch

Very different people come to RETROHOUSE. Those who have modern furnishings and are looking for a centerpiece. Some who spend several hours browsing and looking for a valuable object. Young people for whom sustainability is important. Customers who have seen something in a movie or magazine that they can’t get out of their heads. Demand remains consistently high.

And then there are the visitors who just want to take in the view and let themselves be transported back in time. Whose memories are brought back to life in one fell swoop. “Look, Aunt Anni had this lamp too.”

Andy Czapura usually recognizes quite quickly who is entering his store. With a smile on his face, he tells me that there are often only two types of buyers: those who are looking for a lamp almost like a life partner – in other words, something really special – and those who are basically just in need of light. The latter are rather rare. I’m not quite sure which group I belong to. It’s clear that I’m enjoying the retro trip back to a time when many things in my life were coloured in orange and brown.

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Let me tell you a story

The exchange with the RETROHOUSE owner is simply a great pleasure. He loves this place that he has created. He meticulously researches background information for each article, contacts the designers – if they are still alive – and is very happy to share his knowledge. In recent years, he has discovered his passion for photography. In addition to the salesroom, he photographs every item in his photo studio for the best possible online presentation. The photos I took on site don’t even begin to do the pieces justice. Just take a look at this list and you’ll understand what I mean.

As I leave RETROHOUSE, I take with me the questions that Andy Czapura keeps asking himself: What do you want to surround yourself with in your life? What makes your heart beat faster? That’s all that matters.


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written by:

Barbara Schwartz