Jewel of a place

On a clear day, the owners of this Jaffa penthouse can see forever.

jaffa living room 88 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
jaffa living room 88 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
In this stunning Jaffa penthouse, many of the working surfaces are made from semi-precious stone rather than the marble or granite of ordinary mortals. The entire kitchen is made of quartz, with a tiger-eye backsplash cum room divider, while one bathroom is decked out in purple amethyst and another in red carnelian. There's enough raw material here to keep an army of jewelry-makers busy for years. The products of an Israeli company called Majestic Gemstone, these kitchen and bathroom finishes claim to be extremely practical as well as exceptionally beautiful. No problems about putting a hot frying pan down on that beige quartz, as all the surfaces are said to be scratch- and stain-proof. The home belongs to an Israeli couple who live abroad, but wanted a pied-a-terre big enough to welcome their extended family when they all come to visit. They bought the shell of two existing apartments in a prestigious building and redesigned it, with the help of young interior designer Michal Cohen who also happens to be a cousin to the Bulgarian-born couple. The lower floor is for themselves with two bathrooms and a large master suite, while on the second floor there are four full-sized double bedrooms each with its own bathroom and a sitting room for the grandchildren. The owner loves to come back from the US and considers the Jaffa place as home. "I love the view," she says of the seventh-floor apartment. "On one side I can see old Arab Jaffa, on another I see the modern skyscrapers of Tel Aviv, on yet another I see the Christian buildings, the churches and schools. It's actually very spiritual here with the convergence of three religions. It's a little bit like Jerusalem, except here I have the added bonus of the sea. I can see the coastline stretching north and south. On a clear day I can see Caesarea to the north, Ashdod to the south and to the east the Jerusalem mountains." She loves to look down from her balcony to catch a glimpse of an old Jewish cemetery which few people know about. "As far as location is concerned, there's nothing better than this," she says. The kitchen and living room are all in one, as the owner likes to cook but doesn't want to feel cut off from the rest of the house. The huge beige quartz counter acts as a room divider and at the end is a block rather than a cupboard to allow for the effect of the light inside, which, when switched on at night, creates a beautiful warm glow through the transparent stone. The tiger-eye wall was originally conceived to hide the faucets and less glamorous parts of kitchen work, but is a remarkable feature in its own right. All the cabinets are finished in black lacquer and the room boasts two windows for maximizing the incredible view. The lounge has the longest sofa I have ever seen, easily seating eight people and all the locally-made furniture is in mixed but toning shades which have been picked up in the custom-made rug. "We like to mix textures, colors and shapes," says the owner, and indeed many of the chairs are quite different but blend happily together. There are square tan leather chairs, white suede wide-armed chairs and firm-back dining room chairs, but all have a roundness which softens what might otherwise be a severe look. Contributing to the softness are both the hand-painted walls with a light apricot and gold mottled surface against the background white, and the collection of light fittings which even continue the jewelry theme. All are gold filigree of one sort or another. On closer inspection, several which appear to be filigree turn out to be made of hundreds of gold jewelry clasps. One light fitting on the ceiling looks like a huge bracelet. Another looks like it is made of spaghetti-like gold rope. Another was a bowl-shape and they had it flattened to their specifications. The guest bathroom is the one with the amethyst wall and fittings. The dominant purple of the stone is emphasized by purple towels and soaps, and the vanity was a flea market purchase with all the extraneous decoration removed. For a mirror they went to the gallery where they also purchased many of their paintings, and for a trash can the owner found a planter which does the job but looks much better than the usual plastic. The front door is hand-painted by an artist both inside and out in a dull gold with different motifs in soft black. A magnificent feature in its own right, it also gives a clue to the beauty to be found beyond the entrance. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: