Yankees in King David’s court

First they took Manhattan, now they’re taking Jerusalem.

Emek refayim house real estate 311 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Emek refayim house real estate 311
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
If location is said to be the most important factor in choosing an apartment, then this one wins hands down. It’s in the German Colony, in a quiet side street off one of Jerusalem’s most dynamic thoroughfares, Rehov Emek Refaim. It’s a minute’s walk from the busy tourist attraction with its many cafes and gift boutiques, but so peaceful that, sitting on the balcony of the living room, one can hear the birds twittering, while in the far distance the hum of traffic is just about audible.
The apartment belongs to a couple in their mid-50s who came from New York, first to Efrat, and only in the last few years to Jerusalem. They approached an old friend, interior designer Anat Gertner, to create a living space specifically for their needs.
“They are former Manhattanites and they needed a blending of some of the chic elegant lines of the Upper West Side, which they would have had back in New York, with the original old building, which was first constructed in the 1920s as a one-story house and to which their floor, the middle one, was added in the ’30s. This is what drove the design and the concept, the colors and materials, and especially the choice of lighting,” says the designer.
Gertner has had four careers. She started out as a buyer for women’s fashions, but about 15 years ago, 10 years after making aliya, she started her career as a designer, and is so successful that it looks as though she’s staying with it. She is a specialist in lighting, and her work in this apartment reflects this interest.
In what she calls the “Great Room,” that is the living and dining room which is at the heart of the concept, she has included five different possibilities of lighting to change the functions of the room.
“In this room the owners don’t just sit and watch television, or sit and eat,” says Gertner. “The different lighting creates different atmospheres, for reading, writing or entertaining.”
One of the most striking features of the apartment is the circular skylight in the center of the living room, which creates the illusion of being open to the sky but is in fact a clever use of electricity.
“It was very dark when we first saw this room,” says the designer, “so the skylight is meant to represent daytime in a dark place.”
On the walls are corbels with concealed lighting that can be dimmed fora gentler light. In one of the bathrooms she has built an entireconstruction from the sink unit to the ceiling to bring the exactlighting touch she was looking for.
The owners – he is a businessman with a passion for literature which heis studying, and she is a ballet dancer and choreographer who also usesdance therapy – had to considerably downsize when they left their largehouse in Efrat for the 160-square-meter apartment in Jerusalem. Theygave away many possessions to their children, but still had to solvethe storage problem of what was left.
Gertner came up with the idea of floor-to-ceiling cupboards in theGreat Room, whose elegant cream polished exteriors conceal a multitudeof prosaic objects.
“Just look at this cupboard,” exclaims the owner, opening a door. “Icall it my garage, because I keep things here that most people store intheir garages – a stepladder, work tools, cleaning materials.”
Another eye-catching storage item is the buffet running along thewindow, with wrought-iron decorations covering the front. The proudowner explains this unusual feature. “Anat came up with the design,which depicts the seven species and is not only beautiful but serves toremind us of Efrat with its seven hills, each one named for one of theseven species,” she explains.
Since the designer’s aim was to blend the chic with the old, she hasadded several elements that recall the original provenance of the house– specifically the arched windows, which they kept whenever it wasfeasible, and the floor, which is a warm stone interspersed with smallblack diamonds.
“Anat was most insistent we not do a flat beige floor,” says the owner.“She warned me I would be a slave to the floor if I did, and she was soright. With this floor, you don’t obsess about every spot and I likethe way it gives life, texture and body.”
The lounge is where they sit to watch television, a large screen whichis perched on an arm so it can be moved out of sight and doesn’tdominate the room. Under it the owner has placed some greenery and alarge piece of driftwood which she found and loves. She is a keenflower arranger, and an example of her handiwork sits on the modernNoguchi classic coffee table.
The bedroom is very simple with only a bed for furniture and everythingelse behind opal sliding doors. But a small window seat in the cornercovered in red satin with flower-embroidered cushions on either sideadds interest and provides even more storage space.
Another two smaller rooms are assigned to each of the couple as astudy. “His” has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves while “hers” is decoratedin an attractive Wedgwood blue.
The kitchen is predominantly red, but the designer thought that toomuch red would be overwhelming, so she balanced it with some black andwhite and allowed upper cabinets only on one side so as not to betop-heavy. An excellent idea worth copying is the fixing of cork noticeboards on the inside of the cupboard.
The small entrance has an old mirror from the owner’s grandparentsplaced against a textured wall with a glass shelf and morefloor-to-ceiling storage cupboards built for whatever specific needsthey had.
The apartment offers an oasis of tranquility from the hustle and bustle of Rehov Emek Refaim, only a heartbeat away.