Homes: Patriotic pied-à-terre

Bright and airy, almost the entire Jerusalem apartment is decorated in the colors of the Israeli flag.

patriotic jerusalem apartment_521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
patriotic jerusalem apartment_521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
‘This is probably the most prestigious project in Jerusalem,” says David Zylbermann, the Frenchborn designer who is showing us around an apartment he has just completed in the King David’s Crown development.
It’s situated just behind the YMCA, and the plot of land originally belonged to it. The views from the sixth floor windows are magnificent – the Old City in the distance with the King David Hotel a few hundred meters away.
The owners are an English couple living in London, who bought the apartment as a holiday home but were determined to make it more than just a simple pied-à-terre. It’s furnished and equipped completely as a home away from home. Bright and airy, almost the entire three and a half rooms are decorated in the colors of the Israeli flag – lots of white with accents of royal blue.
Maybe they just like the color scheme or maybe, as active members of the London Orthodox community and committed Zionists, they really were making a statement.
They approached Zylbermann, who is a well-known designer to the Jerusalem commuting community, to help with the construction and design of the apartment, which was only in the planning stage when they acquired it.
“I’ve been involved in this for over three years,” says the amiable Zylbermann, who worked all his life in diamonds until the builder he and his wife Debbie had hired vanished with their down payment, forcing him to take over the renovation of his own apartment. He discovered he had a talent for design, studied at night school, gave up diamonds and became a full-time and very busy designer nearly 20 years ago.
One of his fundamental beliefs is to keep it simple, especially if he’s dealing with a holiday home.
“People land in Israel after a 12-hour flight and they haven’t yet learned the geography of the kitchen – where the coffee cups are, which side is milk and which meat. So if the design is simple overall it makes finding things easier,” he says.
To this end he has made a complete half room into a storage room at the entrance, where the washing machine, dryer and freezer are kept with plenty of shelving for all sorts of extras.
“It’s a proper room with a window, but we felt it was worth giving up the space to free up the rest of the apartment and get the simple minimalist look we wanted,” he says. “We were aiming for a very open look, using the space to best effect.”
Kitchen, lounge and dining room are all contained in one large space which opens out onto a balcony. The kitchen is half-separated from the rest with a bridge lit from below, which gives the effect of a floating cabinet to increase the feeling of space. All the walls are painted off white. There are no tiles, but a backsplash of silver and white glass in the fully-equipped kitchen.
In the dining area, furnished with a blue table and cream leather chairs, the corner for ritually washing the hands is particularly effective. The backsplash is tinted bronze glass with a sink in gold leaf and black granite tap.
On the other side of the divide, the bronzed glass continues in the niches which have been constructed to display ornaments and relieve the large expanse of wall.
“The owner particularly asked for glass on this wall as she wanted to be able to see the King David Hotel reflected in them when she sat in the living room,” says Zylbermann.
In the lounge area, the cream furniture and floor make perfect foils for the interesting cube sculpture which catches the eye and the colorful print on the wall above the sofa. The print is by Victor Vasarely, while the cubes were chosen to match the spirit of the picture but from a less prestigious source. They came originally in gray, but all but one were painted in blue to conform to the apartment color scheme. Small side tables in cream have chrome legs to match those of the dining chairs. There is no coffee table and Zylbermann never uses them, he seems to have a thing about coffee tables.
“I think they are a nuisance and apart from the fact that they spoil the clean lines of the apartment, they have other disadvantages; children trip over them, they take up space in the middle of the room so you can’t see a nice carpet or floor tile and if you have a long sofa the table isn’t much use to people sitting at the ends. I prefer small side tables which can be moved around.”
The bedroom is ultrapatriotic, with all the linen custom made in white satin decorated with blue frills. Even the coat hangers are blue as are the monogrammed towels and handmade glass decorations.
The balcony is furnished in dark green synthetic straw with a glass-topped table and the best artificial flowers I have ever seen “planted” into the window box. This is where the owners like to sit on balmy evenings and enjoy the historic sights stretching as far as the eye can see.