Seeing the light

Dorraine Gilbert- Weiss found not just the light she wanted but a secluded garden balcony blooming with flowers.

Interior design  (photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
Interior design
(photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
‘We lived in a house with glass walls, mirrors and tons of light,’ says Dorraine Gilbert- Weiss of the home she and husband Barry left in Los Angeles four years ago. “It was on the ocean with a view of the whole Santa Monica Bay and into West Los Angeles. So one of the most important things we were looking for in our Jerusalem home had to be a great deal of light.”
They found it in the four-bedroom apartment in Abu Tor where they live today, the second floor of a three-level building with only two apartments on the floor. They found not just the light they wanted but a secluded garden balcony blooming with flowers in pots – some built in, some freestanding – and wonderful panoramic views of Jerusalem. Dorraine credits her gardener, Bracha Weisman, with the way her garden looks. For the interior, she takes most of the credit.
“I’ve always helped friends who were decorating and made sure they were not making any mistakes,” she says. “Although I never studied interior design, I think I have an eye for the visual.”
In the apartment, this expresses itself particularly in the way she loves to lay a beautiful Shabbat table, using good china and crystal she brought with her. In fact, most of the furniture had a previous existence in their California life where, among other things, she worked in various business enterprises, one of which was selling rugs and window coverings, while Barry worked in insurance.
Today she is a proud matchmaker with five successful unions to her credit. One of their sons is a rabbi in Efrat and father of six children, while another son still lives in Los Angeles and has one child. Not bad for a couple that was once part of the Hollywood jet set, entertaining film stars in their Pacific- side home.
The lounge, dining room and kitchen are all in one large open space while a staircase leads down to the bedroom level.
“The only modern piece is the glass coffee table,” points out Dorraine. “Everything else is either antique or quite old.”
She especially loves the dining room set, which is over 100 years old, which she acquired at auction from an estate sale and which once belonged to the radio manufacturer Atwater Kent.
“I still have the original catalogue of the sale in 1949,” she says. “After that it belonged to a doctor and then to me.”
The ochre leather chairs have a hand-painted motif on their backs which is repeated on various cabinets around the room. The table, when the extra leaves are added, can seat 16 and, as she and her husband both love to entertain, gets plenty of use. Their dinner parties are a joint project.
“I love setting the table and I don’t mind washing up, while Barry likes to do the cooking,” she says.
The light green sofa is decorated with rust-colored cushions that echo the rust-and-gold coverings of the two easy chairs opposite.
“It’s a great fabric,” she says. “The grandchildren can sit on them and it still stays lovely and clean.”
The small area connecting the lounge to the kitchen also contains the staircase leading to the bedrooms. An arched window in stained glass was put there by previous owners and four carved wood screens from Hong Kong depicting the four seasons also embellish this part of the apartment.
The kitchen was not kosher and had to be adapted so that a second sink and dishwasher could be added. Dorraine credits her handyman, Yossi Cohen (“my angel from Hashem”) with doing a great job.
One wall in the lower level is completely filled with family photos.
“I had the idea years ago when we lived in the States,” she says. “We used to have a lot of parties and counted Hollywood celebs among our friends and naturally we had photos taken with them. When we came here we took out the other photos and put our family photos in instead.”
The bedroom is decorated in cream and gold with a striking white bas-relief on one wall, which she tells me is a museum piece and a fine example of Depression art.
Relocating the California lifestyle and furniture as best they could, Dorraine and Barry are happy to be settled in the heart of Jerusalem.
“I brought the things that I love to make my home here,” she says.