Great neighborhood

The song of larks in the backyard... it's like going to the opera every day.

arch 88 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
arch 88 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
Lynn and Amnon Gimpel were thrilled to get back to their beautiful home in Jerusalem's German Colony after spending several years in Moscow on business. "When it was minus 32 degrees there, I used to close my eyes and dream of the wonderful Emek Refaim neighborhood near our home which I had rented out," says Lynn. "I've been to Paris and London but I still think it's unique in the world - you walk out and everything is there - cafes, boutiques, movie theater, post office, people strolling about, plenty of local Anglos as well as tourists. You get the whole spectrum and you can find everything you need on one street." They acquired the apartment in 1995 and chose the first floor in the renovated old building. "I liked the fact that it faced south and even though it's the first floor I have an amazing view because we are on a hill," says Lynn. "On a clear day I can see Bethlehem." The whole building had been taken over by a well-known architect couple, Doritte and Doron Hoek, who renovated each of the five apartments in keeping with the spirit of the original building. The Gimpels' apartment was the model for showing potential customers around, so everything was finished before they moved in. The gray-black marble tiles were in place, with a peach shaded inset in the living room. Lynn immediately took her old three-piece leather suite to a craftsman in Jerusalem whose specialty is dyeing leather and she matched it to the peach marble. The tenants replaced it temporarily with white suede, not practical for the Gimpels with their seven grandchildren, so the restored peach suite will soon be reinstated. On the wall leading out to the patio are several Modigliani prints. Three magnificent arches lead out through sliding glass doors to the main balcony which leads down to a private garden. The garden was created by Batsheva Mink, the chief botanist of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. Each plant was placed in the optimal location so that the garden would be in bloom for at least nine months of the year. The owners can sit on a hammock and survey the irrepressible bougainvillea blooming in every corner. Another corner of the sun-drenched balcony is furnished in cane with a trellis roof. "We entertain a lot out here," says Lynn. "In Jerusalem we can be outside for at least eight months of the year. And because we are situated right next to the Museum of Natural History, we hear the birdsong of larks in our backyard - it's like going to the opera every day." The dining area opens out to another side of the same balcony, also through a single archway. The dining table, acquired here, has the extra leaves stored inside itself and can open up to seat 24 people comfortably. Next to the dining room is a small study cum library cum TV room which is furnished with a Victorian sideboard picked up in a flea market. "It's made of solid wood and is useful for storage as well as being decorative," says Lynn. Lynn was thrilled with another find, a wrought-iron glass-topped table. She hadn't measured the space but brought the table home and found it fit the entrance to this room perfectly. "It's so perfect I can't get a piece of paper in between it and the walls," she says. "I put a mirror above it to open up the room a bit and that's where I put my Shabbat candles. I like to have flowers there too - thanks to the mirror you get double your money." The bedroom is furnished in dark wood, and the bed headboard and dressing table, brought from the States, have 20 different kinds of wood in the intricate marquetry work decorating them. The curved outer wall of the building is echoed in one of the inner walls of the bedroom. A handmade quilt is on the bed. Finally we glimpse the kitchen with its unusual light mauve cabinets and darker pink-gray granite worktops, also chosen by the architects, but which suited Lynn fine. "I became so homesick when I was in Russia," she recalls. "It was like going away to camp, and it's wonderful to be home."