A post-war palace

This handsome home shows no signs of the missile that once demolished it.

staircase 88 (photo credit: )
staircase 88
(photo credit: )
My old friend Lorna finally succumbed to my importuning of the last two and a half years and agreed to let me feature her home in this column. It always appealed to me, not just as a beautiful home, but because it's the only one I've come across that was rebuilt after being destroyed by a Scud dropped on Ramat Gan, courtesy of Saddam Hussein, back in 1991. "The whole house moved 15 centimeters," says Lorna. "Luckily we were away at the time, but I heard from the neighbors that there was an enormous explosion and eight houses were destroyed." She shows me photos of the rubble that was her home and points out that the only part left intact was the bookcase containing her husband's holy books. Without drawing any metaphysical conclusions on the subject, the photos of an entire house which has collapsed around an intact library certainly produce a few goosebumps. The new de'cor was the result of cooperation between the owners and the designer, Barry Jaffe. "I told him what I wanted and he translated my ideas into action - but basically everything is mine, including the mistakes," says Lorna. She is proud to point out that not one item of furniture or accessory was bought at the "correct" price. As she is an ex-Mancunian, this is an achievement not to be underrated. The side entrance of the house opens onto a very large and impressive hall. "I know it's a total waste of space," says Lorna disparagingly, "but it was important for me to have a proper hall rather than have visitors fall into the living room as soon as the front door opens." The entrance is made even more spectacular by the choice of furnishings, including a table made from Hebron-stone pillars supporting a glass top, upon which is perched a French ormolu clock. The wide, curved staircase was inspired by the one in the Chaim Weizmann house in Rehovot, and the banisters have an Art Deco flavor, as do the ceiling light fittings. The lounge to the left of the entrance is furnished in an eclectic mix of non-matching sofas which blend together pleasantly. "I was keen to get away from the '70s look of my previous apartment - all black leather and chrome - and wanted stuff that wouldn't look dated," says Lorna. The Danish golden oak carved sofa was upholstered in red and gold to pick up the red of the dining room chairs. An antique Chinese screen of lacquered wood set with ivory and ebony ornamentation stands against a wall. A Victorian marquetry desk has been placed at the room entrance. The entire end wall of the dining room is a mirror, which makes the room look twice as big. "It was a dead corner, in a way," says Lorna, "and the mirror makes it more alive." Healthy, tree-size potted plants bloom in almost every corner. The kitchen is "beyond my wildest dreams" with masses of counter space and storage and two separate, double sinks for meat and dairy. As if this were not enough, a Pessah kitchen-cum-scullery off the main kitchen provides extra storage. "It's wonderful to have a Pessah kitchen," says Lorna, "but I prefer to go away if possible." Another must for Lorna and her husband was to have the master bedroom suite on the same level as the living quarters. "I hardly ever need to go upstairs," she says. A soft, green, fitted carpet covers the floor, and the bed linens and window blinds blend in with a fabric of the same green in a baroque design. The enormous bathroom with walls of pink Turkish marble, two sinks and a bath was one of her mistakes. "No one ever uses the bath," she says. A small library also leads off the entrance hall and out into the back garden and patio. Up the splendid staircase are several bedrooms and bathrooms for when the grandchildren visit and, although she looks barely into grandmother status, Lorna, unbelievably, has three great-grandchildren. The cavernous basement has many more rooms and leads out to a three-car garage. Somewhere among all these rooms is a security room. Although, after their home's experience in the Scud attacks, the security room is one they hope they'll never to have to use.