Modest makeover

A retired couple fixes up its rental apartment.

real estate chile 88 224 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
real estate chile 88 224
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
'These embassies and mansions are all very well, but why don't you feature an ordinary home sometimes," my friend Michaela complained to me recently. At about the same time, an e-mail came in from a couple living in a rented apartment in Herzliya saying more or less the same thing. "I wonder if you have ever thought of featuring a home that is beautiful but on a more modest scale," wrote the renter, "more in keeping with what most of your readers can afford." She sent me photos and explained that although the apartment was only rented, she felt it was possible to make even a rented place attractive with minimal expense. The couple moved into this apartment only five weeks before my visit, and it's the equivalent of a second marriage for both of them. She's a retired professor of human development from California State University and he made aliya from Chile in the '70s. They reconnected after many years when she came to visit Israel after his first wife died. She keeps her apartment in California, so the Herzliya home is almost entirely furnished with Chile-made pieces which he brought with him 35 years ago. As the apartment is rented, they did not feel inclined to make any major structural changes, and most of the improvements to the original look are thanks to the interior design, choice of colors, light fittings and original artwork. Before they could gild the lily, they had some basic cleaning up to do. "It had been left in a terrible condition by the previous tenant," explains the renter. "It took two days to get rid of the mold and fungus inside the cupboard under the stairs. Most of the kitchen handles were broken and the walls and floors were stained and dirty." But they liked the layout of the apartment, the spiral staircase - still waiting for its coat of paint - up to the roof garden and the small balcony off the sitting-room where they eat all their meals, weather permitting and which they fitted with synthetic turf for a pseudo-lawn effect. They immediately saw the potential of the inner shape and knew it would be suitable for all the Chilean furniture. The quality of the furniture immediately catches the eye and the renter tells me it was all hand-carved. Even the bases of the sofas, the inner drawers of the bar and several small tables have the same intricate carvings. Other pieces, like the traveling trunk which contains photo albums, are made from beaten copper. Fortunately the kitchen, with cabinets of natural wood and a black synthetic marble work surface, was in reasonable condition, although all the handles had to be changed and one cupboard had to be reconstructed to house a full-size dishwasher, while others were adapted to have out-and-up attachments for mixers and the like, to eliminate the need to crawl on all fours looking for a particular pan. The piano was one of the renter's first acquisitions on coming to live here. "I have a baby grand at home in California and my first major is music," she tells me. "Basically my contribution to the home is the piano, the handmade quilt in the bedroom and some of the colorful artwork on the walls." They worked for days to get the marble floor clean, even having it professionally polished, but found some stains immovable and solved the problem with strategically placed plant pots and ornaments. The window boxes flourish with well-cared-for chrysanthemums, while in the roof garden, with its view of the sea in the distance, a whole cactus garden grows. Among the many fine artworks on the walls are a fabric painting by Herrera and several works by the well-known Chilean painter Nemesio Antunez, which add many bright splashes of color to the overall white and off white color schemes. The message of this apartment is that even if you don't own the place, you can put your own stamp of originality and creativity on a home without breaking the bank. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: [email protected]