Golden days

A cozy cottage in a retirement village.

kitchen aug 11 88 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
kitchen aug 11 88 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
There's a story of the doctor who went back to the 40th reunion of his class and afterwards was asked how he enjoyed it. "It was great," he said, "but I don't remember having that many students from the Philippines 40 years ago." It came to mind when visiting Protea Village, a retirement home near Bnei Dror on the road between Tel Aviv and Netanya. Set in cultivated gardens and rolling lawns, it provides homes in the shape of apartments or small houses for the golden-agers who like the idea of communal living. The main building containing the offices and dining room where people congregate is decorated in simple wood with comfortable easy chairs for visitors. "We deliberately avoided the glamorous look of marble floors and glittering crystal chandeliers you get in some retirement homes," says the deputy manageress, Desiree Massad, known to all and sundry as Des. "We wanted the homely look." Many of the people living in Bet Protea once lived in large, well-equipped homes with expensive furniture and fittings and, even though some of the apartments are quite roomy by some standards, they have had to downsize, purge and discard anything too heavy and ponderous. Nevertheless, they have managed to put their individual stamp on their often identical apartments. One such is the home of M. Cohen, who settled down in Protea village three years ago after she lost her second husband. They had lived on the prestigious Nitza Boulevard in Netanya and after he died, she picked a retirement home equidistant between her two daughters, one in Hod Hasharon and one in Givat Chen. Walking into her three-room apartment, the effect is immediately like being in Northwest London in miniature, which is not particularly surprising because M. lived in Edgware before making aliya 12 years ago. One is struck immediately by the elegant drapes with their curved pelmets which give the room its instant English character. M. explains that these are the curtains she had in the Nitza apartment and because the ceilings are slightly higher, she had to have a piece added at the top - hence the pelmets. One or two attractive antique-type cabinets stand around and M. explains that her second husband, to whom she was married for 26 years, used to be a dealer in antiques who bought in London and shipped to New York. "Unfortunately he wasn't a collector," she says. "You know how a hairdresser never gets a hairdo, so I hardly ever got to keep any of the furniture. But just occasionally I would see something I really liked and I was able to hang on to it." One of the things she did get to keep was a small oval table inlaid with intricate marquetry which she keeps next to the green settee. But she admits that having moved to Protea, she would never have been able to keep the big heavy stuff favored by the Americans who used to snap it up. "I gave away a lot before I moved in," she says. "You have to go according to the size of the apartment." While not very large - about 85 meters - there is a distinct feeling of spaciousness. "I need space, I didn't want to feel claustrophobic," says M. So she chose to make what could have been a small room into an entrance hall, mirrored for extra depth and furnished with an elegant sideboard and a chair in light wood. The built-in cupboards have louvred doors and serve as cloakroom and storage. "It's quite a luxury to have a hall but I didn't need an extra room. It's only Peppy and me," she says with a smile. Peppy, a playful poodle, gives a satisfied bark. The bedroom is very pretty and feminine, with a unit including a dressing table running along the entire garden wall. On either side are glass shelves holding family photos, what she calls bits and pieces of china and souvenirs of her life. The beige fitted carpet and built-in wardrobes add to the cozy feeling. The neat kitchen was built around the large stainless steel fridge she bought and is adequate for her needs. "I'm not into cooking too much," says M. "It's small but quite big enough for me." Out on the balcony she even has a bit of lawn, a recliner and a wooden hammock and enough privacy to make it feel like her own small garden. "At my age I've got everything I need," says M.