Modernly orthodox

An English couple builds a religious home that's full of surprises.

kitchen april 13 298.88 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
kitchen april 13 298.88
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
When they decided to build a family home in Israel, the English-born owners of this home in Jerusalem's German Colony approached the architect with specific ideas in mind. They wanted it to have a modern streamlined look, to be low maintenance and to have a background simplicity which would act as a foil for the owner's own works of art, as well as what she calls several "iconic" 20th-century pieces displayed on the different levels of the home. Built on a plot which had been the garden of the modernized Templer house next door, the house was planned so that it would not be too big when the children all married and moved out. "When we moved in, three of our six children were already married, and now, several years later, the youngest just got married so we knew we didn't want a very large home," says the owner. "We built it with a view to retiring here and wanted it to be flexible, so the children and grandchildren could come back to stay." First we check out the den and library, with its red-lacquered shelves loaded with books, and then inspect the lounge/dining room, a long, elegant room opening out to a balcony which runs the entire length of the room and is big enough to contain two succot permanently ready for use. The fa ade has "memories of arches" and an interesting play of orange stucco in the stonework and forest-green woodwork, features which are repeated on the second floor and can be seen from the balcony. From this peaceful vantage point, one can look down at the garden with its transplanted olive tree and take in the picturesque view of the German Colony laid out below. The large dining table stands on a Turkish Hereke carpet with its intricate design in many bright colors. On one wall a cupboard opens wide to reveal a hand-washing corner, the fittings in a gorgeous shade of blue. On a far wall shelves hold a glass collection, including several pieces of Finnish glass from the 1960s. In the sitting area two brown leather sofas face each other, and a fireplace is laid with logs ready for the cold weather. Several of the owner's sculptures embellish the walls, as do other art works by well-known contemporary Judaica artist David Moss. In an attractive arrangement next to the window stands a table made by the owner's father-in-law, who fled from Poland to England before the war, and very unusual hand-made chairs which the owner won in a newspaper competition about furniture production. A collection of pears is also on display - but not any old pear, they have to be special to warrant inclusion. As we take the stairs up to the next floor, a very unusual chair catches my eye. It is a Frank Gehry "wiggle" chair, a classic piece made of intricate layers of cardboard contoured into a single fluid shape. Amazingly, although it is made of cardboard, it is considered very robust and can carry thousands of pounds of weight. In the master bedroom is another striking piece, an Alvar Aalto recliner. "I have a thing for chairs," says the owner. The master suite also has a balcony looking over the back garden, and the floor is a warm parquet covered in a red patterned Afghan rug, while another rug hangs on the wall over the bed. The owner has a small room at the side which doubles as a dressing room and her study. On the next floor under the eaves, she has her studio with its own kiln for firing her work and huge slanted windows to maximize light. Outside, she points out how "grandchild-friendly" the area is, with a patio set up for table-tennis, basketball and even a trampoline. A curious feature which I couldn't help querying was an open mouth set into the wall at the front door. "Oh that's a speaking tube," explains the owner. "When friends come to visit on Shabbat and can't ring the bell, they speak into this mouth and we hear them in the house." Upstairs on a wall is the recipient ear, which I confess I had missed, perhaps because there were so many other interesting design features in this attractive home. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: