If location is said to be the most important factor in choosing an apartment, then this one wins hands down. It’s in the German Colony, in a quiet side street off one of Jerusalem’s most dynamic thoroughfares, Rehov Emek Refaim. It’s a minute’s walk from the busy tourist attraction with its many cafes and gift boutiques, but so peaceful that, sitting on the balcony of the living room, one can hear the birds twittering, while in the far distance the hum of traffic is just about audible.
The apartment belongs to a couple in their mid-50s who came from New York, first to Efrat, and only in the last few years to Jerusalem. They approached an old friend, interior designer Anat Gertner, to create a living space specifically for their needs.
“They are former Manhattanites and they needed a blending of some of the chic elegant lines of the Upper West Side, which they would have had back in New York, with the original old building, which was first constructed in the 1920s as a one-story house and to which their floor, the middle one, was added in the ’30s. This is what drove the design and the concept, the colors and materials, and especially the choice of lighting,” says the designer.
Gertner has had four careers. She started out as a buyer for women’s fashions, but about 15 years ago, 10 years after making aliya, she started her career as a designer, and is so successful that it looks as though she’s staying with it. She is a specialist in lighting, and her work in this apartment reflects this interest.
In what she calls the “Great Room,” that is the living and dining room which is at the heart of the concept, she has included five different possibilities of lighting to change the functions of the room.
“In this room the owners don’t just sit and watch television, or sit and eat,” says Gertner. “The different lighting creates different atmospheres, for reading, writing or entertaining.”
One of the most striking features of the apartment is the circular skylight in the center of the living room, which creates the illusion of being open to the sky but is in fact a clever use of electricity.
“It was very dark when we first saw this room,” says the designer, “so the skylight is meant to represent daytime in a dark place.”
On the walls are corbels with concealed lighting that can be dimmed for
a gentler light. In one of the bathrooms she has built an entire
construction from the sink unit to the ceiling to bring the exact
lighting touch she was looking for.
The owners – he is a businessman with a passion for literature which he
is studying, and she is a ballet dancer and choreographer who also uses
dance therapy – had to considerably downsize when they left their large
house in Efrat for the 160-square-meter apartment in Jerusalem. They
gave away many possessions to their children, but still had to solve
the storage problem of what was left.
Gertner came up with the idea of floor-to-ceiling cupboards in the
Great Room, whose elegant cream polished exteriors conceal a multitude
of prosaic objects.
“Just look at this cupboard,” exclaims the owner, opening a door. “I
call it my garage, because I keep things here that most people store in
their garages – a stepladder, work tools, cleaning materials.”
Another eye-catching storage item is the buffet running along the
window, with wrought-iron decorations covering the front. The proud
owner explains this unusual feature. “Anat came up with the design,
which depicts the seven species and is not only beautiful but serves to
remind us of Efrat with its seven hills, each one named for one of the
seven species,” she explains.
Since the designer’s aim was to blend the chic with the old, she has
added several elements that recall the original provenance of the house
– specifically the arched windows, which they kept whenever it was
feasible, and the floor, which is a warm stone interspersed with small
“Anat was most insistent we not do a flat beige floor,” says the owner.
“She warned me I would be a slave to the floor if I did, and she was so
right. With this floor, you don’t obsess about every spot and I like
the way it gives life, texture and body.”
The lounge is where they sit to watch television, a large screen which
is perched on an arm so it can be moved out of sight and doesn’t
dominate the room. Under it the owner has placed some greenery and a
large piece of driftwood which she found and loves. She is a keen
flower arranger, and an example of her handiwork sits on the modern
Noguchi classic coffee table.
The bedroom is very simple with only a bed for furniture and everything
else behind opal sliding doors. But a small window seat in the corner
covered in red satin with flower-embroidered cushions on either side
adds interest and provides even more storage space.
Another two smaller rooms are assigned to each of the couple as a
study. “His” has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves while “hers” is decorated
in an attractive Wedgwood blue.
The kitchen is predominantly red, but the designer thought that too
much red would be overwhelming, so she balanced it with some black and
white and allowed upper cabinets only on one side so as not to be
top-heavy. An excellent idea worth copying is the fixing of cork notice
boards on the inside of the cupboard.
The small entrance has an old mirror from the owner’s grandparents
placed against a textured wall with a glass shelf and more
floor-to-ceiling storage cupboards built for whatever specific needs
The apartment offers an oasis of tranquility from the hustle and bustle of Rehov Emek Refaim, only a heartbeat away.