Color palettes, aesthetic trends and the visual elements that shape a mood are Jessica McGowan’s
bread and butter. A graphic designer and art director by trade, Jessica is also a co-founder of Primary Paper, an annual print magazine that distils a new theme each issue—beginning with Color, and cycling
through Age, Environment, Human and the newest issue, Faith, which is out now.
At home, this understanding of how what we look at shapes how we feel manifests in a calm, neutral interior—an antidote to the wealth of visual information she works with day to day. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Jessica spent seven years living in New York before moving with her boyfriend to Berlin. Their serene, plant-filled apartment is a place for resting, reading, working, and hosting—with traces of the flowers, rocks, and family heirlooms that Jessica loves most.
This interview is part of “Inside with…” a series of home stories and studio visits produced in collaboration with the Scandinavian design brand Muuto. Through dialogue with different creatives, the series explores the ever-evolving concept of personal space.
What’s it like coming to Berlin from New York?
Berlin is interesting. It’s really small compared to New York—we always joke about “this small town, Berlin”—but in a way, it’s cosy because of that. It was very easy to meet our people here. As soon as we arrived we made a lot of friends who own amazing restaurants and bars. I feel like the city has more of that small-town feeling. It’s also more restorative in Berlin. The party scene is crazy and fun, but you can have a quieter life here if you want to.
Tell me about your home.
It’s an old apartment, over 100 years old, and it’s on a really nice street in Kreuzberg. We get the most amazing sunlight in the morning. It’s so bright and warm. We have a huge bay window which sits out from the building, so you can stand there and look all the way down the street—and because everybody has the same setup, nothing is blocked.
We also have a balcony, which I love. Coming from Australia, I was used to living in a house with a backyard. I’ve lived in apartments for over ten years now, and it can feel very confining, but having a balcony makes such a difference. That little outdoor space, even in the winter.
What has changed in the way you live since you moved to Berlin?
I’ve turned into a real minimalist. In New York we lived in a loft and it was so busy, because we moved into one apartment, so we brought this eclectic mix of stuff. In Berlin, I’ve gone ultra-neutral. Everything’s pretty minimal. We’ve been in this apartment for two years now, almost three, and taken our time picking things, slowly figuring it out.
The biggest difference in moving from New York to Berlin is that here, we can have people over to our house. We love to host, all the time.
“I feel like the city has more of that small-town feeling. It’s also more restorative in Berlin. The party scene is crazy and fun, but you can have a quieter life here if you want to.”
What’s a dinner party like at your house?
We’re very lucky as a lot of our friends are chefs, or work in the wine industry, so we’ll ask them over to cook. My boyfriend is an amazing cook, so if nobody else is cooking, he is, while I’m on decor and flowers. There’s a farmers market every Saturday, just around the corner from our place, where I’ll pick up flowers. Occasionally, I’ll find birds of paradise here! They used to grow in my grandparents backyard, I love them.
Do you collect anything?
Being in publishing and graphic design, we have a ton of photography books. I also have a lot of rocks. I know you’re not supposed to take things you find on your travels, but if I find a really beautiful little rock or shell, I’ll keep it. Being a beach person from Australia, I love these small organic treasures.
Recently, I also got into incense, I think because we were coming back to Japan. We went to a tea ceremony in Berlin and it had a beautiful incense. Our furniture leans more Scandinavian, woody, but then everything else is a bit more organic. Flowers and rocks.
How else do you bring the spirit of Australia into your apartment in Berlin?
Every time I go back I’m always like, ‘Oh, what’s this?’ My parents are slowly downsizing and getting rid of things, so I always end up coming back with a suitcase full of little bowls, or the Chinese dinner set my father gave my mother for their first wedding anniversary, or my grandfather’s wine decanter. I’m very sentimental—I love an old thing we’ve had forever, whatever it looks like.
What do you do to relax at home?
I love gardening; I’m super into plants. Last summer I grew all these vegetables, which was so nice. And we get beautiful sunlight, so I love to read on the couch.
Jessica McGowan is a Graphic Designer and Art Director based in Berlin. She is the Co-founder of Primary Paper, and Art Director of Slow. Originally from Sydney, Jessica spent six years designing in New York City, before moving to Berlin in 2018. She lives in a bright apartment characterised by its minimalist interior.
Text: Maisie Skidmore
Photography: Daniel Farò