Small is beautiful

A look inside a beautiful and small home in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Oak beams are actually cheap timber painted with four layers of varnish. (photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
Oak beams are actually cheap timber painted with four layers of varnish.
(photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
‘We were both decimated by divorce and left with nothing, so it was all we could afford,” say the owners of this 40-square-meter apartment in Jerusalem’s Nahlaot neighborhood. Both professionals nearing retirement, they decided that whatever the place lacked in space, they would compensate for with creative ideas and ingenious solutions. The result is a small jewel of a home with everything a couple could want – albeit on a small scale.
They married 11 years ago and bought the apartment outright, not wanting to take out a mortgage at their time of life. The wife, whose professional life involved landscape gardening, used some of the space-saving principles with which she was familiar to create her beautiful home.
For the dining room, they chose a glass table, 1.5 m. square, which is perched on a bamboo-like stand. “We didn’t want legs or leaves, which would have made it all look more fussy,” she says. Although they can’t easily entertain their seven granddaughters in one sitting, they have had as many as nine people around the table for a meal.
The oak beams around the table were made from cheap timber they bought at a local home shop, and painted with four layers of varnish to give a warm, rustic glow. A mirror set into the top of the structure immediately doubles the size of everything. A healthy-looking potted palm completes the look.
There’s even room for another raffia chair with black and white upholstery, matching the sofa with its black and white flowery cushions. A black gas log fire warms the place in winter, and a container of logs stands conveniently beside it.
The colorful striped rug under the sofa is from Ikea. “There are so many neutral colors, it adds a dash of brightness,” says the wife. The wire room divider, hung with puppets, is intended to give a feeling of space. “It’s an idea familiar to garden planners, to have a not-solid wall, as it makes the eye want to look further,” she explains.
A reed table holds a brass lamp with a yellow shade, while on the floor, a toy tiger guards the narrow staircase. Dominating the far wall is a print of a leopard skin, transferred to cowhide. A narrow niche is used to displays some ornaments. In keeping with the double use of objects, a globe in the corner doubles as a drink cabinet.
The sliding door behind it, made from alternating panels of black wood and opaque glass, conceals a narrow sitting place for the owner when she wants privacy.
The kitchen has a wooden breakfast bar and matching cabinets, while covering the window is a pretty, flowery sunshade with a pelmet of palm trees. “All the lighting is flush to the wall,” the wife says. “There are no hanging lights, as these would take up too much space.”
The bedroom is almost childlike, with a Mickey Mouse phone, bear portraits on the wall and teddy bears on the bed. There was not enough room for a double bed, so they manage with a large single that is made up with pretty, feminine sheets. The furniture is from Ikea, and the wooden bench is useful to sit on to get dressed. The skylight, with its bright orange shade, was added after they moved in.
Finally, the balcony/garden also turns into a succa when necessary, and the plants were chosen with water-saving in mind. With two pomegranate trees and two conifers on either side, the flowers provide a symphony of color. There are three large plant boxes behind to avoid too much use of water, and spring flowers in the front. There is no automatic watering system -- "just me" -- says the owner.
"There is so much concrete around, but everyone likes to be close to nature," she adds. She has managed to put aside a small two-square-meter space at the entrance to hold her washing machine, and even a spare refrigerator for when extra visitors comes. But there is no doubt that space is tight. "If I buy something, or someone brings me a gift, I have to throw something else out," she says with a cheerful smile.