Down in the valley

California dreaming in Jerusalem's Emek Refa'im.

kitchen may30 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
kitchen may30 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
'All the furniture came from our home in Los Angeles," the owner of this renovated Templer house in Jerusalem's German Colony tells me. Although the old Spanish house was larger and some of the furniture is huge by any standards, it all fits snugly into the space by virtue of good planning and some minor alterations to the house which the owners purchased six years ago. With children living here and having visited many times, the retired physician and his wife looked around for their perfect home in Israel and used to walk around the quiet leafy streets of the area, wanting to absorb the atmosphere. When the house came on the market, they knew it was just what they were looking for. It had been renovated by the previous owner and the original small, century-old house with its own well in the garden had had two floors added to it. "It didn't look anything like it does now," says the owner. "The present kitchen is the old house and the rest was added on over the years. Our main change was to take out the spiral staircase, which took up a large amount of space at the entrance. We thought we could live with it, but I'm glad we decided to take it out as it changed everything." One supporting column had to remain, so they added another for symmetry. So much space became suddenly available that they had room for the massive Dutch sideboard, with its intricate marquetry work, they had brought with them. The staircase was moved to the side of the house. Starting our tour in the kitchen, it is clear that the d cor fits happily into the historical origin of the room, the off-white cupboards being finished with a "distressed" look which has suddenly become very fashionable. Says the owner, "It looks old and it works new, and what could be more perfect in a kitchen?" Brass edges are affixed to the cabinets and the handles have been given a crackle finish. The floor, made up of different kinds of stone in different sizes and shades, was already here when the owners acquired the house. "The workers wanted to run pipes under the floor, which would have destroyed it," says the owner. "I had to fight to keep it." As with many Orthodox homes, the kitchen is equipped with two of everything for meat and dairy. One feature I really liked was a baking cupboard concealed behind a sliding door which opens up to reveal mixer and food processor all set up for use and all the other necessities to produce a good cake conveniently to hand. They added a powder room, an elevator for the four floors - two up and one below - and next to the dining room is the sink for hand-washing before dinner. One walks down two steps to the sunken lounge decorated with many reminders of their travels and previous life in LA. The color scheme is rust, seen in the settee and rug, and a warm blue in the occasional chairs and drapes. Many of the ornaments and paintings come from China, which they visited eight years ago. At the bottom of the stairs leading up to the bedrooms, they keep some antiques on display on glass shelves, and also have a collection of Toby jugs of Dickens characters. The corridor on the second floor is utilized as their office with a computer each and all wires hidden behind a pull-out drawer. The master bedroom is decorated in gray and cream, with a subdued gray parquet floor. "I used to have busy prints, so this makes a nice change," says the owner. The suite has its own flower-filled balcony, roomy walk-in closets and a bathroom in green and orange marble. Washing can be thrown through a hatch right into the laundry room. The next floor up contains guest bedrooms and another pretty balcony where one can stand and look down on the red rooftops of Emek Refaim, and the original skylight in what is now the kitchen. Finally we inspect the basement with its TV room and a library stocked with thousands of books. Outside the small garden has a winding path lined with fruit trees and, at the end, a trickling fountain. Just the place for bibliophiles to sit and enjoy a quiet read. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: