Only the best

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September 29, 2011 02:36

The owner of this apartment is 90, but unlike any other nonagenarian I have ever met.

4 minute read.



home interior

home interior 521. (photo credit: Uriel Messa)

The owner of this apartment is 90, but unlike any other nonagenarian I have ever met. When she wants to show me some of her paintings that she has no more room to hang, she shows them to me on her iPad. When she listens to classical music she enjoys it through two massive loudspeakers she hunted for all over London.

In her home are several small rooms devoted to various activities which keep her very busy. One is a lending library of English books on Jewish subjects. People come, borrow or donate a book, and go on their way. In another is a well-organized collection of costume jewelry, also donated, that she sells for charity. In her spare time she very much enjoys a game of Scrabble.

She came here with her husband 30 years ago, leaving Golders Green, the very Jewish suburb of northwest London, for the sandy wastes of a small central town, but determined to create the London home in her new environment. She and her late husband selected the location – a new building with only three floors on a long narrow plot – because it was near the synagogue he had already chosen.

The shape of the home reflects the strange shape of the piece of land – long and narrow, with windows on three sides, which they liked. The place looks much as it did 30 years ago, with the same gold textured wallpaper still in place, the same wallto- wall carpet, the same books and decorative pieces.

“We were told there would be a problem with the fitted carpet as it can make the place hot, but we’ve never had any trouble with it,” she says. The very English look of the living room has been preserved – but her London garden, of which she was very proud, has been reduced to one luxuriant plant around one of the supporting pillars of the flat, supplemented by some colored plastic flowers semihidden beneath the real overgrowth.

She always loved art and won a scholarship to art college while still at grammar school. She managed to study for two years, but World War II intervened and she was called up.

“There weren’t that many options for women who wanted to be able to keep Shabbat,” she said. “I wanted to be a land girl but had to settle for work in a factory. I spent the war making bullets and later assembling gyro indicators.”

Besides her own paintings the apartment is full of the work of a Russian immigrant painter who painted rabbinical scenes, and her own daughter-in-law’s work, more often than not with a Jewish theme.

THE LOUNGE suite was the latest style in 1980, a Maralunga Italian set, still made today, with built-in cushions that are adaptable, making it very comfortable.

It is upholstered in a dusty blue hardwearing material and when they wanted to re-cover the dining chairs with the same material they were able to order it and have it sent from Italy.

The living room is a repository for many sacred books and she shows me a 200-year-old Gemara that has pride of place on one of the shelves.

“We started to have them rebound, and did one, then we realized they were losing all their beauty and authenticity, so we left them as they were,” she tells me.

Because of the unusual shape of the apartment, she has divided up the long narrow stretch of space with a draped curtain on either side of a small inner room, to reduce the clinical feel of what is essentially a corridor. This effectively softens the look. In this small room, where afternoon tea is served on delicate china, she keeps a paperweight collection under the window.

Between the white wood kitchen and the small dining area they built a glass cupboard so that while working in the kitchen she was not cut off but could feel a part of what was going on in the rest of the home. Here she keeps more treasures, including an early printed Hebrew Bible dating from the 16th century. The kitchen has plenty of storage and she brings out some of the antique china to show me.


“This is the meat service we used when I was a little,” she says. “It’s Villeroy and Boch and easily a hundred years old. It always gives me pleasure to use things belonging to my grandmother that I saw as a child.”

The bedroom is also carpeted and the furniture is painted a smooth shiny white. Here she keeps old porcelain and other pieces, and of course more paintings.

It is all very tasteful and the whole apartment exudes an air of tranquility and times past.

“I have simple tastes,” says this wonderful lady, old only in biological years, her eyes twinkling; “I only like the best.”


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