An older woman with grey hair stands in a department store and smiles at the camera.

The Radspielerhaus

A stately city mansion anyone can feel free to enter

Interested in stately city mansions that bear their architect’s illustrious name and in some cases are even still inhabited by the latter’s descendants? There are several such Stadtpalais to be found in Munich. One of them is Palais Rechberg, better known as Radspielerhaus. Fine fabrics and wooden furniture are now sold here, and one of Munich’s most beautiful gardens is hidden behind its yellow façade. But how can a historical building of this kind be kept alive? We met members of the owner family for a tour.

The garden is well hidden: people ought to be aware of the entrance to this idyllic inner-city paradise because it really is worth a visit. All you have to do is venture into the splendidly appointed Radspieler furniture store on Hackenstrasse and express an interest in garden furniture, which is on display in the garden – or more precisely in Radspieler Garten, belonging to what was once Palais Rechberg, better known today as Radspielerhaus. Here you can behold the sight of more than a thousand square metres of sheer Munich bellezza.

Behind the ochre façade, which bears a stone plaque commemorating the fact that Heinrich Heine lived here for a year, there are ash, chestnut, lime and beech trees, some of them more than 200 years old, the tiny nature conservation warning triangle screwed onto their weathered bark, with a Baroque stone fountain in their midst that features a cherub whose lips are shaped to spout water: the perfect spot to capture dreamy moments of divine peace amid the noisy hustle and bustle of the city centre.

 

With its façade on Hackenstrasse surrounding this green oasis, the Palais houses the exclusive furniture store Radspieler on several floors – originally founded by gilder Joseph Radspieler (1819-1904), the scion of a longstanding Munich furniture manufacturing dynasty: having started out making picture frames, the culmination of his inexorable rise was finally to be awarded the privilege of being appointed “official purveyor to the Royal Court of Bavaria”. The garden, the store and the entire building have been in the von Seidlein family for six generations. The community of heirs is currently made up of five owners, with trained architect and interior designer Ulrike von Seidlein having been the managing director of the property for ten years now. The Radspielerhaus is one of the few stately mansions in Munich whose rooms are open to the public: since it is a store, guests are welcome to enter it any time

Here you can behold the sight of more than a thousand square metres of sheer Munich bellezza.

Design and artisanry are the golden thread running through the company’s history. The foundation stone for this was laid quite literally by Joseph Radspieler – the man who crafted a throne for King Ludwig II of Bavaria as well as furnishing the royal apartment in the Residence: Radspieler’s descendants went on to refurbish Palais Rechberg, and as a result the company mainly became a joinery specialising in furniture and home accessories. As an additional line of business, high-quality products were imported from all over Europe.

“I grew up in the family business myself,” says Peter von Seidlein, “and even as a youngster – as well as later on when I was training as a photographer – I was actively involved in delivering and assembling furniture.” In order to ensure the company remains entirely owned by the family, a special contract was drawn up stipulating that shares in the company can only be inherited by direct descendants. “The number of shareholders grows with each new generation of course, and there’s ongoing discussion and choices to be made about which family members should be actively involved in the business and in decision-making processes,” says Peter von Seidlein. The yellow mansion on Hackenstrasse is now managed by a property company. “That’s why we pay rent for our business premises,” says von Seidlein.

And the company is constantly developing: in 2017, the community of heirs agreed to convert the top floor and rent out sections of it. The first, second and third storeys of the tract along Hackenstrasse now house offices and surgeries, while members of the family occupy the remaining parts of the building.

Despite the modern style of the furniture and fabrics on display, a walk through the spacious Radspieler showrooms on the ground floor and first floor of the Palais is also a journey through time – especially if you look at the walls and ceilings: painted wood panelling, magnificent frescoes and murals provide the backdrop for sofas, armchairs, tables, lamps and fabrics of unadorned elegance. "This coffered ceiling is actually the remains of a room that was exhibited at the world fair in Paris in 1900, for example,” explains Peter von Seidlein. “Radspieler acquired it there and moved it to Munich – the space had to be adapted to the ceiling painting, of course.”

In the next room, you feel transported to a cathedral – and von Seidlein explains why: “These murals were discarded during the neo-Gothic restoration of Munich’s cathedral, the Frauenkirche. These were snapped up by Radspieler too and he moved them here.” A modern iron staircase leads up to the first floor, where you suddenly find yourself standing on magnificent antique oak parquet flooring that creaks softly under your footsteps, giving you the sensation of entering a museum of aristocratic or upper middle-class lifestyle in a stately city mansion. “The parquet was protected by carpets for decades – that’s why it’s in such good condition. We didn’t even have to sand it.”

This has never been a museum, nor was it ever meant to be one, Peter von Seidlein emphasises with a laugh: “Not so long ago, this salon hallway on the first floor wasn’t a Radspieler showroom as it is today: it was rented out.” Tenants included the photographer Günther Kaufmann, brother of actress Christine Kaufmann: he had his studio here and would do photo shoots with stars and models such as Veruschka Lehndorff, “and sometimes even his brother-in-law, Hollywood star Tony Curtis, would sit there amusing everyone with his jokes.”

With a mixture of a frown and a grin, Peter von Seidlein recalls other tenants who occupied the first floor of the mansion with its stately rooms and elegant fireplace: “The editorial staff of the Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine Jetzt were also based up here for a while. They were pretty wild guys – very nice on a personal level, but they didn’t always take very good care of the premises.”

You suddenly find yourself standing on magnificent antique oak parquet flooring that creaks softly under your footsteps, giving you the sensation of entering a museum of aristocratic or upper middle-class lifestyle in a stately city mansion.

SZ-Magazin columnist Axel Hacke was low-maintenance by comparison: “He would just sit quietly over there in his corner writing his Das Beste ... columns while sipping on a glass of red wine”.

Radspielerhaus – a city mansion steeped in history: a place where all the diverse facets of Munich culture and entrepreneurship have come together over the centuries. The von Seidlein family is making every effort to ensure this will be maintained for future generations.

 

 

Text: Nansen & Piccard; Photos: Frank Stolle

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