If you’re looking for furniture and homeware stores that offer a distinctive style, you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for in Munich. We went on a shopping tour through the city centre – from Kustermann to Kunst Oase.
Having taken a peek behind the scenes at Munich’s former purveyors to the royal court of Bavaria and worked our way through try-outs at a variety of traditional costume shops – while learning all about matching costume accessories – this time we’re on the look-out for stores in the city centre that specialise in stylish interior furnishing and homeware. Here again, Munich has a diverse range from which to choose: from select antiques to in-house crafted furniture, and from hand-sewn bed linen to porcelain from all over the world. Anyone with limited space in their suitcase will be happy to opt for handy homeware accessories – or else make use of the international delivery service offered by some stores.
There are plenty of antique shops in Schwabing and Maxvorstadt in particular, but there’s one address you’ll be sure never to forget: Kunst Oase in Hohenzollernstrasse. Even from the outside, this rear courtyard store is instantly recognisable – antique mirrors guide the visitor down into a huge basement filled to the brim with more mirrors, picture frames, glasses, porcelain and other attractive items. Sparkling from the ceiling there are hundreds of antique lamps, chandeliers and fancy lustres from all decades.
80-year-old shop owner Manfred Wambsganss sits on a corner bench, offers customers a friendly greeting and then lets them explore his treasures at their own pace – the Kunst Oase offers more than enough scope for extended browsing. Wambsganss took over the basement in 1984: at the time he was working as a freelance artist and was looking to set up a gallery for colleagues and himself. “Then I just kept getting one cupboard after the next. At the beginning, I used to go to a lot of household clearances, but now small traders come by every day who know exactly what I’m looking for. So I can just sit here and the store goes on filling up,” he laughs.
“There are lots of creative people living in apartments in period buildings around here who are always on the look-out for something distinctive – I’ve sold my products to people like Helmut Dietl, the actress Maria Schell, and Franz Xaver Kroetz.”
Incoming goods first go to the warehouse on the upper floor – here too there are countless items. Broken lamps are repaired, refurbished and cleaned in the workshop opposite – Wambsganss has a friend who’s been helping him out for 35 years. Some of the work he does himself, such as sanding down some of the old frames and giving them a new coat of paint. With a little luck, you might even come across a Wambsganss original among the many thousands of art prints, paintings and copper etchings. In any case, be sure to have plenty of time on your hands when you go to Kunst Oase. As you meander through the numerous narrow passageways, you almost feel as if you could get lost: the loud classical music playing in the background provides an appropriate backdrop, as does the gentle splashing sound of a fountain.
Manfred Wambsganss himself has been living in Schwabing for almost 50 years: “There are lots of creative people living in apartments in period buildings around here who are always on the look-out for something distinctive – I’ve sold my products to people like Helmut Dietl, the actress Maria Schell, and Franz Xaver Kroetz.” Wambsganss’ apartment on Wedekindplatz probably very much resembles Kunst Oase itself: “I wouldn’t know what other kind of lamp you’d want apart from a chandelier. When I walk through Schwabing at night, I’m surprised to see how many people have naked light bulbs or these Japanese paper lamps hanging from the ceiling – I used to have those as a student, but not as an adult!”
Kunst Oase, Hohenzollernstraße 58
From Schwabing we cycle directly to Munich’s historical city centre. Kustermann is a very select address here: a family-run business, it was originally established in 1798 and is now in its seventh generation. The magnificent Kustermann Haus was added some 70 years after the company was founded. To this day it has two entrances: one on Rindermarkt and one on Viktualienmarkt (food market) – in bygone days, horse-drawn carriages would pass through here carrying loads of steel girders and other heavy goods. At that time, Kustermann was mainly known for its iron foundry and steel goods: the company was involved in the construction of bridges in Munich and also did the casting of some manhole covers that can still be discovered in the city to this day.
Kustermann has specialised in selling household goods since the 1950s and now offers more than 70,000 articles, making it the largest specialist store in Germany of its kind: its range includes everything from screws to bicycle tyres, and from blenders to garden barbecues – you really will find everything here. As a department store with a total surface area of 5,000 square metres, it includes a demonstration kitchen, a café and a roof terrace as well as an event location that can be hired for private parties and corporate events. You can even book a private shopping tour complete with personal advisor and have individualised cutlery made on site.
But the main focus at Kustermann is on special porcelain, ceramics and glass, with whole departments dedicated to world-famous brands such as Meissen and Fürstenberg. And fortunately for anyone who happens to fall for an exquisite earthenware service while visiting Munich, there’s no need to worry about how to get your new-found treasures back home. “We deliver all over the world – the furthest we’ve shipped to date was in Thailand,” says assistant manager Susanne Waldherr.
She also tells us which souvenirs are particularly popular with people visiting Munich: “At the moment it’s the exclusive Munich mug by Meissen, and then there are the classics for every season such as beer steins in various designs, Swiss Army knives, and baking dishes such as the Guglhupf.” Many of the articles are made in Germany – this is something Kustermann attaches particular importance to, and it’s increasingly what customers are looking for, too. Whether at home or abroad, the “Made in Germany” seal of quality is still worth a lot.
Kustermann, Viktualienmarkt 8
Like Kustermann, Bettenrid a few streets away is one of Munich’s erste Häuser (top addresses), an association of tradition-steeped businesses based in the city centre. In fact Bettenrid has two downtown stores, on Neuhauser Strasse and on Theatinerstrasse, and you can also shop at the Bettenrid Outlet in Brunnthal. The company recently celebrated its centenary. It all started in 1916 with Rosa Zaininger, a Munich resident who used to go around collecting her customers’ duvets by bicycle to clean them. A few years later, she expanded her business model and opened a store where she offered duvets for sale, too.
Bettenrid still offers both services to this day: you can purchase high-quality duvets at the store and you can bring in your own duvets for cleaning. For this purpose, the down is separated from the duvet and washed separately – something that only very few stores continue to offer. “Some of the most luxurious fillings are made of the down of the wild eider duck, which lives exclusively in Iceland. The material is considered particularly sustainable because the bird plucks the down out itself to warm its nest,” explains managing director Robert Walossek.
“Some of the most luxurious fillings are made of the down of the wild eider duck, which lives exclusively in Iceland. The material is considered particularly sustainable because the bird plucks the down out itself to warm its nest,”
On the upper floor, customers get to feel the difference: here there are large drawers containing samples of silk, merino wool and camel hair along with various types of down, all of which you can touch. Eiderdown is so light you don’t feel its weight at all – it’s as if you were holding air. Right next to it there is bed linen and sheets in all sizes. Walossek tells us that the extra large sizes up to 2.40 metres are especially popular with tourists. Another top seller is Graser bed linen, which is hand-made in the Swabian Jura. The fabrics are from Italy: you pay around 200 euros per set, but you’re sleeping in bed linen that was produced entirely in Europe.
Bettenrid also specialises in mattresses and beds that are hand-made in Germany. The idea is that you’re better off spending more on something you’ll own for a long time: Robert Walossek also believes customers now attach increasing importance to the idea of sustainability. “People are looking for a more individual style again, too. That’s why our store on Theatinerstrasse will have a made-to-measure studio on every floor after renovation. Here you can have towels embroidered and bed linen customised – with anything you want from piping to buttons,” he tells us proudly.
Bettenrid, Neuhauser Str. 12 & Theatinerstraße 47
A visit to Radspieler is definitely a must: firstly, it is housed in a historic building, the Radspielerhaus, which has stood in the historical centre of Munich ever since 1678. The interior of the building and the charming garden complete with fountain have been preserved to this day. The famous German poet Heinrich Heine lived in the building in the 19th century, and it has housed the Radspieler store now for 180 years – originally one of the purveyors to the royal court of Bavaria and famous for its singular selection of fabrics. Furthermore, you can still buy high-quality textiles of all kinds at this tradition-steeped store – including everything from clothes to cushions.
With around 2,000 fabrics sold by the metre and 2,000 sample books from which fabrics can be ordered, Radspieler probably has the largest selection of fabrics in Munich – and can ship them to order. The cotton, linen and silk fabrics are from Italy, France, the UK and Belgium, with some even being made especially for Radspieler. You can have cushions, blinds and curtains made to measure, too, and there is an on-site sofa and armchair re-upholstery service. In fact you can have entire items of furniture built here: the store has its very own in-house carpentry workshop.
The tea towels designed by my grandmother with sayings on them and the Bavarian snack boards in the shape of animals are still extremely popular.”
This is where Radspieler’s own-brand furniture is made, which is then displayed alongside well-known designer pieces by Carl Hansen, Thonet and the like. If you wanted to, you could purchase a complete set of interior fittings and furniture at this tradition-steeped establishment – from chairs and wardrobes to napkins. “We really do have everything – one customer once called us the forefather of the concept store,” says Anna-Maria von Seidlein, whose own father is the managing director of Radspieler and who works for the firm herself. “The tea towels designed by my grandmother with sayings on them and the Bavarian snack boards in the shape of animals are still extremely popular.”
At the store these are referred to as “Radspieler specials” (Radspielereien) – lovingly selected home accessories that make perfect gifts and are easy to pack into your suitcase. Other examples include mouth-blown glasses from Scandinavia, tableware from Austria and cutlery from Solingen. Radspieler likes to maintain a diverse range of styles. “A lot of people come here for the sheer inspiration of visiting our historic building and beautiful garden. You can just drop by even if you actually don’t need anything,” says Anna-Maria von Seidlein – a piece of advice you should definitely bear in mind.
Radspieler, Hackenstraße 7