We visit Molly Morgan McDonnell in her apartment in Prenzlauerberg, on a brisk Sunday afternoon in October. Feelings of warmth and peacefulness wash over us the moment we pass through the door and into her calm, zen-like oasis.

Fashion designer and seamstress, Molly moved to Berlin from California in 2007 and has since then worked steadfastly to perfect her skills and master her craft. Through years of working with various designers, and offering her services as a custom tailor, Miss Morgan has gained tons of experience and soaked up inspiration which has all led towards what is soon to launch; her very own fashion label (founded just a couple of months ago with her business partner Kathrin Kaiser, name soon to be announced. *Update: Ade Velkon

Molly guides us into her kitchen, the heart of her apartment, and serves us tea with fresh sage and water with mint leaves — both from her balcony garden.

I renovated the kitchen about a year after I moved in. It was already a really nice apartment and the person who lived here did a lot of work himself, but the kitchen was a little outdated. Since I spend a lot of time in here, I thought it would be nice to make it more “my own”.

Molly tells us that the entire project cost just over 200€ and was done with a lot of help from friends. Everything from the sink and faucet, the wood, the cabinet doors, and the flooring was salvaged and reused — only the counter top was a new purchase.

The Coffee Mug

I spend a lot of time here in the morning, with my laptop, drinking coffee. When I work from home, it’s out of the living room, but I hardly use my computer in there. That’s where I go to use my hands. The kitchen is more “cozy time” where I go on the computer to catch up on emails and geek out on blogs while I have my morning coffee.

Speaking of, the first object I wanted to show you is my coffee cup.

Molly pulls out a large, blue-speckled, enameled coffee mug and passes it around. We are all in awe of its weightiness as it is about three times heavier than what you’d expect looking at it. Molly cups the mug in her hands and holds it up to her mouth.

I think it’s really beautiful — it looks like the stars at night — and it sits really nicely in my hands. I also love that it fits almost an entire pot of coffee! And what is really great is that if I get distracted in computer land and my coffee gets cold, because it’s metal, I can just put it back on the stove and re-heat it.

I found it at the Mauerpark flea market which is just around the corner. Its a super touristy market, way overpriced and definitely not my favorite, but you can still find pretty good deals there. I got this cup for 50 cents!

We ask if she ever lets other people use it.

Yes of course, but not in the mornings [laughter] then its my cup. My boyfriend, Ira, loves this cup too, but since I’m more of an early riser, he doesn’t stand a chance. The cup is almost always already in my hands as he walks through the kitchen door.

My boyfriend, Ira, loves this cup too, but since I’m more of an early riser, he doesn’t stand a chance. The cup is almost always already in my hands as he walks through the kitchen door.

The Citrus Press

Molly proceeds to showing us her citrus press; another flea market find that she uses almost daily.

Before this press, I was only familiar with the electric plastic ones, and they’re fine, but this one is just so simple and much more efficient. There’s no need for electricity. The press is actually Ira’s but I always steal it from him. And then he steals it back and so on… I think it’s going to stay here for a while though.

Molly demonstrates by cutting up same lemons and make a glass of juice, which she actually drinks daily for health benefits

I really like the ritual part of preparing things, like grinding the coffee, cutting and squeezing the lemons. These repetitive daily activities help me clear my thoughts and get ready for the day.

We make our way into the living room, which is also where Molly is working part time these days.

Currently I’m working out of my house as a tailor, but soon Kathrin will be working here as well, as we start working on our first collection for our fashion label. So you’re catching me right before this place changes from a combined live/work space, into a full on fashion house; A bit like the quiet before the storm.

I’ll take down the art and decorative stuff to create a clean palette, and then when I move back into Ira’s studio, Kathrin and I we will have more space here to spread out as we expand our label. I look forward to hosting events here celebrating collections. For example in the beginning of December we will have a pre-debut sample sale here, where we will have a very small collection of garments for sale giving our friends a sneak peek at what’s to come with the label.

I really like the ritual part of preparing things, like grinding the coffee, cutting and squeezing the lemons. These repetitive daily activities help me clear my thoughts and get ready for the day.

The Fashion Catalog / Computer Mat

Molly walks over to her desk and picks up a colorful fashion book and holds it up to show us.

I didn’t even realize until now that everything I have picked to show you are somehow related to ritual.

This is a fashion magazine from the 80’s, but it’s also what my commuter “lives on”. Whether I watch TV in bed or read emails etc, it’s there to keep the computer from over-heating. I just love it, even if I hardly ever look inside it. Yet, every now and then I remember to open it up and take a peek, and it’s quite an amazing book.

I found it on the street while riding my bike, in a pile of ‘give away’ stuff. It instantly stood out and made me stop to check out what it was. It was published in 1982 and tries to predict what fashion will look like in 2001, so it’s about futuristic fashion. Apparently they couldn’t quite escape their own era, because all of the styles shown are still very much from the 80s, so even if the authors probably didn’t realize it at the time, it’s as if they predicted an 80s comeback.

They couldn’t quite escape their own era, because all of the styles shown are still very much from the 80s, so even if the authors probably didn’t realize it at the time, it’s as if they predicted an 80s comeback.

The Sewing Machine

The other end of the room houses Molly’s sewing machine and table combination; A beautiful vintage 60s machine attached to a simple, utilitarian table made from raw pine wood. The textural contrast is somewhat odd, yet very compelling.

When Ira and I first bought our cabin in Grünau, this was the only object that was in the house. First I didn’t even realize that it was a sewing machine, because it was one of those fold out tables that packs into a box. The whole thing was really beat up on the outside and I thought it was just a piece of garbage. It wasn’t until later, that I discovered a sewing machine inside. I didn’t need one at the time and doubted it even worked, but still, I thought it was so synchronous that the only thing in the cabin was something sewing related, seeing that I’m a tailor. About a year and a half ago I decided to really investigate it. It had been sitting in this box forever and I took it out and realized that it was a really gorgeous machine. The old table was no longer usable, so with the help of my good friend Noah, we built a new table for it. Noah was living with Ira at the time in the Wedding studio, and we used some scrap wood lying around to build the table, it was pretty perfect. Noah had wanted to learn how to sew, but didn’t have a machine, so I told him that if he helped me build this table, I’d teach him how to sew on it. It was the first piece of furniture I built from scratch.

I guess this place is just really pieced together from flea market finds, art from friends, and treasures discovered from the streets of Berlin.

Noah had wanted to learn how to sew, but didn’t have a machine, so I told him that if he helped me build this table, I’d teach him how to sew on it. It was the first piece of furniture I built from scratch.

The Drawings

Making our way into the bedroom, your eyes instantly go to two pictures on the wall showing abstract three-dimensional shapes drawn in blue pencil on white paper.

These were given to me by a really close friend Kathy Kwon. She is an amazing artist, and had just started a new series of sketches, and I had just found these two frames on the street. She was also interested in improving her sewing skills at the time, so again I offered a trade, this time art for lessons.

I’m also just realizing that all my stories have something to do with finding stuff on the streets and trading things in return for sewing lessons. [laughter].

I never asked her what exactly inspired these, but I felt a connection to them right away. They are super minimal, and they make me feel very calm and clear when I look at them, I hung them across from my bed, so they are the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing before I go to bed. They are perfect palette cleansers, both stimulating and soothing.

They are the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing before I go to bed. They are perfect palette cleansers, both stimulating and soothing.

The Figurine

We notice an interesting figure on the night stand and ask Molly about it.

This is a cute little guy! Ira gave him to me for my last birthday. When we had reinstalled my faucet while renovating my kitchen, I had an extra one of these metal pieces lying around, it’s the piece that keeps the faucet in place and we realized it looked like a face. Later Ira found this piece of wood on the street, already carved into a shape. Last March he showed up on my birthday with this lil’ guy. And I was like “I love it! The face found a body!”

I actually try really hard not to have knick knacks around, but somehow I still manage to acquire little things, mostly rocks and pieces of wood I find out in the world.

I actually try really hard not to have knick knacks around, but somehow I still manage to acquire little things, mostly rocks and pieces of wood I find out in the world.

To us, Molly’s place inhibits the perfect balance of expressive minimalism; She does not seem to own anything superfluous and her apartment is wonderfully clutter-free — yet her thoughtful personal touches makes it anything but sterile. Her attention to detail is extraordinary and we tell her that her place has a sense of peacefulness that is hard to accomplish.

That is so important to me. Before moving her I lived in Ira’s studio in Wedding. It was an amazing experience living in such an industrial environment, but the winter of 2010 was just too much for me. I found this apartment while looking for a simple sublet, just to ride out the remaining cold months, and was planning on moving back into the studio come summer, but 4 years passed and Im still here! I love how quiet it is here. Much of the time Im just staring out the windows, watching the birds, or the train go by, or watching the light change, I get really beautiful light here.

The studio was always so chaotic, fun, but a little crazy. I still plan on moving back though. The entire space is being renovated as we speak. And if anyone has ever been there, maybe to one of Ira’s infamous Wedding parties, they will know its a really big space, but we will turn a small section of it into an “apartment” or rather, a “tiny home” and Ira will share the remaining space with other artists and designers.

I’m really excited about finally moving back to the studio, and having a really different living environment from what I’ve become accustomed to the past 4 years. The new space will be really different from this apartment and of course a lot more industrial, but I’m hoping to bring with me this calm energy I found while living here.

I look forward to experimenting with a different interior design style. So much of the style in this apartment, I would say, came from the apartment itself. For example some of the furniture that was here when I moved in, has a very mid century scandinavian feel, I also happen to live in the scandinavian quarter of Berlin and somehow between the two I feel I have managed a very quirky and offbeat nod in that direction.

I guess this place is just really pieced together from flea market finds, art from friends, and treasures discovered from the streets of Berlin.

Photos by Rita Braz of Analogue Stories.

Molly Morgan McDonnell just celebrated her 6th anniversary in Berlin where she works as a freelance fashion designer and tailor. She grew up in Marin County’s rolling hills just across the bay from San Francisco, California. Before moving to Berlin in 2007, she resided in Oakland California, living in and out of various converted warehouses, while she studied fashion design in San Francisco and worked full time as an artist’s model.
Currently she works out of the spare room in her home, where she consults clients and offers tailoring services specifically in the form of reconstructing menswear for women. Taking on a very limited number of clients at a time, Molly gives great attention to each garment, often sourcing it with a specific woman in mind and sculpting pieces to fit the essence and individual lifestyle of each woman, resulting in modern, streamlined and often oddly proportioned but unique pieces She is currently developing a website for her tailoring services. Visit MollyMorgan.de for more info.