Real Israel: House Rules

You don’t have to be rich and famous to have a home worthy of its name.

Renovated aparment that kept original Ottoman elements 521 (photo credit: Shay Adam)
Renovated aparment that kept original Ottoman elements 521
(photo credit: Shay Adam)
There are two types of Jerusalem Post Magazine readers, and the difference between them has nothing to do with religion, politics, nationality or gender: There are those who enjoy the “Homes” column, in which writer Gloria Deutsch offers a look at the interior design of some of the country’s fancier abodes, and there are those who do not. I am a firm fan. It’s a vicarious pleasure, but I get joy from seeing the inner beauty of other people’s homes.
This is why I also like Open House events, such as the annual “Houses from Within” project taking place in Tel Aviv- Jaffa this weekend. These include free tours of usually private spaces, listed on the website ( as “designer lofts, urban villas, unique synagogues, architecturally significant public buildings, curious construction sites, plazas and gardens.”
As someone who was brought up in Britain and spent most childhood summer vacations in France, I admit that this might be lacking some of the cachet of, say, Windsor Castle or the French palaces at Versailles or Fontainebleau. Nonetheless, open houses like these open the mind. And I like seeing how the other “10 percent” live locally. If someone with a beautiful home has a big enough heart to share it for a while with others – on the house, as it were – then it can’t be a bad thing. And a mezuza on the door adds a welcome touch.
For me, the perfect home must be, well, homey. I subscribe to the Mark Twain school of thought (which probably further divides the readership). Twain maintained: “A home without a cat – and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat – may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?” (Incidentally, my burglar alarm greets me enthusiastically when I come home – enough to compensate for having to deal with dog hair.) WHICH BRINGS me to one of the problems I have with advertisements showing “model apartments” – I don’t trust pictures of model apartments any more than I trust photos of clothing worn by fashion models.
A model apartment is for show. But show me an apartment after the average family has moved in, complete with pets, and if it remains clean, white and sparkling with everything exactly in its place, I would wonder what goes on – if anything – behind the closed doors.
Just as models have to work very hard to stay thin, someone has to work very hard at keeping a house perfect – possibly too hard.
I once came across a cartoon of two women standing in a hallway. The caricature hostess is saying: “Please excuse the mess,” and her visitor asks: “Why do women always say that?” eliciting the little- uttered home truth: “Because it’s easier than tidying up!” The sparkling nature of the apartments shown in advertisements is not the only problem I have with them. Having offended half the magazine readership, I’ll risk offending half the advertisers, too.
I have noticed a trend in recent years for a noncommittal look – not so much anything goes, as anywhere goes. There are a few buildings that emphasize the sea view (oh, the joys of living in a Mediterranean country), and some stress the only-in- Israel view of Jerusalem, but the majority, for some reason, show no view whatsoever.
I can’t help but think that all these well-designed apartments seem interchangeable (or perhaps there is another oh-so-fashionable tower block blocking what would have been the stunning vista).
If you show me only one impeccably clean, white, illustrative living room with no hint of the surroundings, I find myself dwelling on the question of what makes it different from any other new apartment? The places all look the same – as if they were dreamed up by some ascetic interior designer who is planning an elegant but Spartan lifestyle for a model family – a family whose members never call out: “Where did you put my watch/book/shoes?”; never leave dishes in the sink or cups on the table; never have visitors under the age of 30; and never actually kick off their shoes, sit down and relax.
I HAVE not formally studied interior design, but you can further divide readers into those who have reading material in the smallest room in the house and those who don’t. My in-house newspaper rack includes several home design catalogues and magazines.
Overall, I subscribe to the old but still relevant commercial slogan for the Tambour paint company: “Tireh ma shetzeva yachol la’asot!” – “Look at what color can do!” And get personal: There’s a place for Ikea, but there’s nothing exclusive about buying exclusively there. If a home is a home and not a hotel room, surely it should contain something with sentimental value – a piece of furniture from a grandparent, a painting by a relative, an antique found at a flea market that had you itching to buy it? In my humble opinion, you can’t beat books in the home, either – even in the age of Kindle. There’s nothing like browsing somebody’s shelves to get an idea of who they are (or who they would like to be).
Long live the eclectic, lived-in look. Even if you don’t live in style, home comforts are priceless.
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