Just over a week ago, Jasper Fry and I took a trip to Berlin. We had been discussing this trip to Schloss Schönow for some time. It did not disappoint. I hope you enjoy this neo-gothic castle as much as we did.
All photographs below were taken by Jasper Fry.
I've long since learnt that rarely you can be jealous of someone's home. Yes, if they've won the lottery and paid for someone else to do all the hard graft, it's a little grating, but as I hope that is one day me, I shan't moan too much. But with the majority, and especially with the extraordinary, you find that you should be jealous of the home. So often, these houses are left to rot, and then some brave soul takes up the mantle to try and breathe life back into them. Nowhere could this be more true than the home of Brendan Flynt, an hour and a half outside Berlin. Brendan, a cinematographer by trade, already had experience in bringing houses to life. He bought a villa in Potsdam, where he created the Film Villa. The villa was built in 1870 and is located in the centre of Potsdam. It played host to film locations and movie nights and acted as his family's home. Fast forward to 2015, the demand for the Film Villa is enormous; its unique space and undone interiors make it a rarity in East Germany. So Brendan and then-wife and professional partner Tanja Grupp hunt to find another location. They come across Schloss Shönow online. The Schönow estate belonged to the von Sydow family from 1262 to 1863; the neo-gothic castle that we visited and Brendan bought was built in 1840. In 1863 the property was purchased once more before the government appropriated it in 1945. The castle found itself in the unusual position of becoming home to offices and, at one point, the local mall, the great hall playing host to the food hall, and you can see the faded wallpaper with what is believed to be the hairdresser upstairs. The wallpaper is not the only clue to its previous history. Some walls and doors show the signs of the fire in 1990, which took the roof with it. After the fire, the castle lay dormant for 20 years. That was until Brendan happened upon it.
Jasper (photographer) and I arrived at the castle on a Tuesday evening. We'd had a beautiful drive from Berlin, the evening light set against the colours of the early spring surroundings. We entered the castle, where we were greeted by Milena (Milena Villalón, our go-between and conduit to making the shoot happen) & Brendan. Instantly both our mouths were open. It had been everything we wanted and more. To boot, Milena had just conjured up a quiche, and Brendan was serving us the Castle wine, not from Vineyards in Germany, instead just across the border in Poland. It was just an antidote for two weary travellers. We sat in the kitchen, perhaps my perfect kitchen. Huge and workable with space for plenty, tall with windows allowing light to flood in. The doors I noticed all looked perfect. Knowing Brendan has sourced furniture from all over Europe for his castle, I thought this must be another one of his clever acquisitions. He dispelled this idea; he said that when he bought the castle, he was searching around, in the basement, he happened upon a room of doors. Each numbered. Unfortunately for Brendan, the doorways weren't. So another thing was added to the endless to-do list. Measure each doorway and find its partner door. Thankfully by the time we visited, each door was in place and glorious.
The following day we woke early. I could hear Jasper already up and taking pictures. I joined him upstairs, and we set about the lucky task of seeing where the light falls on this magnificent castle. The undone nature of the place makes it feel otherworldly; you can see why creatives from all over Berlin and beyond are clamouring to use Schloss as the background for their films, shoots and events. With the help of Brendan and Milena's hard work and creativity, the building has grown into an extraordinary location and home. It possesses the wonders of a National Trust building with the added eccentricities of having an owner. Which makes it a place you can feel at home while also being in awe of. I am not the only one who has been won over. Swathes of people make the castle their home for summer weekends, while others use the magnificent architecture and the helpful infrastructure erected by Brendan as the backdrop to weddings, parties and concerts.
Although the mammoth task of dealing with these events and constant bookings while also ticking off the ongoing to-do list would feel daunting to most, Brendan and Milena seem to take it in their stride. I've never been a big one for 'energy', but this place is teeming with the good stuff.
Added Note, Milena is a wonderful photographer to see her work click here.