Homes: A very special street

How an old, unlivable apartment in a great location can be transformed.

Jerusalem apartment (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Jerusalem apartment
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
‘This is one of the most happening streets in Jerusalem,” says interior designer Marla Haber-Goldstein of the apartment she renovated on Emek Refaim Street. “It is owned by a young American couple who find it very exciting to be living in the center of the city.’ They bought the 170-square-meter apartment when they made aliya four years ago.
The owner, a lawyer with an interest in interior design, saw the apartment which, in her words, was “a complete disaster.”
“It was completely unlivable,” she says, “but I could see the potential for light, air and space.”
Uriel Messa
Uriel Messa
She was introduced to Haber-Goldstein and approached her to bring the old design in what is a building from the 1940s into the 21st century. She is a Canadian trained architect who herself made aliya nearly 30 years ago from Toronto and lives in Talpiot.
Besides her architectural work involving additions to houses and other serious construction, she also does interior design as another string to her bow and finds it especially creative.
Since she is available for a one-time free consultation, many clients take this opportunity, especially when they are looking to buy a property. She gives practical tips on what to look for in a building, how to renovate and the use of specific materials and building methods in Jerusalem.
Uriel Messa
Uriel Messa
“One of the best things about these old apartments is that the ceilings are usually much higher than those built today,” she says. “In the case of this apartment, it had been two smaller flats and they had been joined into one large one several years ago but in a way that one could almost see the join. In the original renovation, one almost walked into a wall, but we opened up the whole entrance.”
Working together with the new owner who brought many new ideas and suggestions of her own, they set about renewing the apartment.
A white wall in the entry hall was added and a piece of glass affixed to it which has the effect of defining the entrance and allowing light to come in, as well as reflecting the adjacent kitchen.
The inner staircase, which leads to another 20 square meters of roof, was moved from its original position on the other side of the bedrooms as it was not an ideal situation to have to walk past all the bedrooms to get to the roof. Instead of the original stone, the new staircase was made out of African walnut, bringing in a touch of the exotic. The same wood is used for the bar, which looks down at the busy street below that intersects with another equally busy road just below them.
“The apartment is two high flights up and when the window is closed it’s very quiet,” says Haber-Goldstein. “But during the day the owner loves to sit at this bar having a cup of coffee and reading the paper in what she feels is her own personal coffee shop.”
A shade hidden in the ceiling can be activated on very sunny days and the glass of the window has been treated to reduce radiation.
The dream kitchen also had very high ceilings and Haber-Goldstein felt she should lower it slightly for a cozier effect, so she created a big ellipse in the center.
“I found the shape to be very suitable for that kitchen as it broke up the square lines,” she explains. Two green lamps, selected with the help of a lighting consultant, hang from the middle of the ellipse, which is painted in a sparkly off white paint, and the Italian mosaic of part of the kitchen wall matches the shade of the lamps exactly.
With room for two sinks, two dishwashers, a very large free-standing refrigerator and white leather stools around the island which contains the hob, the kitchen is a tranquil oasis, with its pale gray woodwork and slate gray floor.
Uriel Messa
Uriel Messa
The dining room is conveniently situated next to the kitchen and against the balcony wall the owner keeps his whiskey collection on some old American furniture they brought with them.
The master bedroom has an interesting curved wall with three small windows looking out over a new building in the distance.
“We put in new bamboo parquet flooring and redid the windows adding bamboo ledges under the windows and emphasizing the nice roundness of the wall,” says Haber-Goldstein. A wooden bench was added and the whole room painted a cheerful yellow.
Blue retro tiles have been used for the bathroom, and the curved wall of the shower gives a restful spa-like feel to the room which also includes the specially planned soft lighting.
The owner was so taken with the whole experience of jointly renovating her apartment and creating something so attractive out of what had been old and ugly that she is seriously considering giving up law and studying interior design.