Sleek in Old Katamon

A Canadian couple seeks the comforts of retired living in an ultra-mod apartment.

By
April 1, 2010 12:09
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bathroom 311. (photo credit: Uriel Messa)

Coming from a large modern house in Toronto furnished in traditional style, the Korzens, Barry and Corinne, decided that their new home in an apartment in Jerusalem was going to be, by contrast, very sleek and minimalist. Bright colors were rejected in favor of beige with touches of chocolate brown.

The notable exception and immediate focal point on entering the apartment is the gorgeous stained-glass window positioned between the living room and the kitchen, and the story behind it is as fascinating as the window itself.

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Barry, a retired endodontist, takes up the story.

“The window is one of four stained-glass windows from a now defunct synagogue in Preston, in northwest England, and they date from the beginning of the 20th century. In 1980 the congregation had dwindled to nothing, and the property was sold to a developer who turned it into a mosque. The windows were sold to a Canadian dealer, and when I heard about them, I immediately wanted to buy them and return them to Jewish ownership.”

When the Korzens both retired and made aliya in 2008, they first settled in Efrat, where their daughter lives, and bought an apartment there. The windows came with them.

One of the windows depicts Rachel’s Tomb and the road between Bethlehem and Efrat, and they were amazed to discover that this is exactly what they saw when they looked out their apartment window.

Efrat, however, did not hold their interest as a place to live, in spite of having their daughter, son-in-law and five grandchildren there, so they reluctantly left the town, and the window, and moved to their present apartment. Their daughter is interior designer Hadley Baumol, so together they set about creating the apartment of their dreams in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old Katamon neighborhood.

The 240-square-meter apartment was adapted to make all the space convenient for a retired couple; so two smaller bedrooms were put together to make one very roomy master bedroom. The lounge was so big that Corinne was worried it would look like a bowling alley. Hadley came up with the idea of niches in the walls, lit with attractive concealed lighting which would be used to display their art collection. One niche, on the dining room wall, was built to display their crystal Judaica collection and consists of two glass shelves, lit from above and below. It doesn’t hold everything at once so they rotate the items on display.

The three-meter table was custom built as the Korzens love to entertain, particularly on Shabbat, and Corinne likes to have plenty of room to put out the food and for it not to be crowded. One feature she is particularly proud of is the small sink built into the wall-length sideboard for guests to ritually wash their hands before eating bread.

“In Toronto people used to have to troop into the kitchen to wash, so this was something I always wanted. And we were lucky to find such an attractive faucet that flows and curves in the same way as the light fixture over the table. It’s so decorative it’s almost like a sculpture.”

All of the furniture is high-gloss, and the sideboard’s top is made of chocolate-brown glass.

A small section of one wall is left unplastered but with an inscription written on the bare stone, to recall the destruction of the Temple. Also in the living area stands a lectern with an open illuminated copy of Ethics of the Fathers.

Leaving the living area and noting the aesthetic corner fireplace built into the wall, one reaches a splendid kitchen in pristine condition and is surprised to hear Corinne say that she doesn’t actually cook.

“In Toronto I worked full-time – I’m a divorce lawyer by profession – and I employed a cook, so I never needed to do any cooking – although I can do eggs and grill things,” she says. “I wanted the kitchen to be very sleek, with nothing on the counters.”

The all-important coffee machine, which not only makes superb coffee but grinds the beans just before, is stowed away but emerges at the push of a button, as does the water machine. The kitchen colors are high-gloss black wood and beige glass and the center island is, as Corinne points out, more accurately called a peninsula as it’s attached to the wall. There are two ovens and a wine cooler built into a wall.

“The surfaces show fingerprints like crazy,” confides Corinne, “so it’s really not a practical working kitchen – but I don’t care, I just wanted it to look really cool.”

The splendid master bedroom departs from the brown/beige color scheme and emerges as all white with gray walls and a slate gray floor. Hadley designed all the drawers and the wardrobe where Corinne keeps her clothes, while Barry has a separate walk-in closet with every belt, tie and shirt nestling neatly in its own compartment.

The separate beds are electric so the backs can be set at any angle.

Above the bed are three horizontal fluorescent lights set into the wall to blend into the all-encompassing “sleek” look they wanted, and the same lights are placed vertically between the windows.

There are several bathrooms – in fact they have one each as their bedroom was composed of two small rooms with bathrooms for each – and in one the walls are covered in a metallic tile of pink and blue-gray marble. All the woodwork in this bathroom, which is Corinne’s, is custom-made and painted in the slate blue of the walls. Barry’s bathroom has a spa feel to it with its wood-look floor reflected in the bench he can sit on and relax with a steam shower, his very own mini Turkish bath.

Hadley, who is officially an accountant, studied interior design after she was convinced by her family that her passion for beauty in design should be pursued, and she is kept busy with commissions for many of the English speakers in Efrat and Jerusalem. Her parents’ beautiful home is clearly also a labor of love.


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