Beth G. Kopin
Inches to Metric: Zionism Through Design

Inches to Metric: Buying a Home in Israel #2c-What?

Before and after, notice cinderblock wall on left, electric chiseled into wall

What do you need/want in an Israeli apartment?

This part of my series deals with technical aspects of the home. There is much to think about…

Walls? Typical apartments/buildings are built from cinderblock. Block is used for exterior structure, separation between apartments and as walls between rooms. In Jerusalem limestone is applied directly to the block on the exterior (zoning requirement keeps our beloved city beautiful and golden). Why cinderblock? Buildings can be erected quickly, economically and block helps retain the cool, especially in hot/humid climates. Tiles are placed over block in bathrooms and kitchens (no need for cement board/drywalling).

There are a few challenges to building with block. They are hollow, hanging heavy cabinets requires reinforcement and installing electric wiring requires chiseling into the block. Interior walls are being constructed with metal studs and drywall in some of the newer apartments/buildings. Wiring in hollow walls (drywall over studs) is easy. Drywall makes sense for homes that have sophisticated electrical systems, soffits, HVAC systems (requiring duct work), internet, and security.

Windows?  Thermopane/insulated glass windows is a newer concept. Most buildings have non insulated windows which are placed directly into an opening. Consider yourself lucky if you have caulk between the window and the block wall! There is never wrap on the inside/outside of the building or between the windows and walls (protection from extreme temperature changes). Non insulated windows can have condensation when the heat is on in the winter. Water may run down the walls causing bubbling or mold. You can buy better quality windows but it is costly. Some buildings do not allow this, it changes the appearance of the exterior.

Ventilation? Most homes do not have exhaust fans in the kitchen or bathrooms! The kitchen stove is typically placed under a window to allow the steam/smoke to escape. The bathroom usually has a window near the kitchen (not ideal) and mold accumulates in bathrooms. It is preferable to have exhaust fans.

Sun exposure? Our home has a South Eastern exposure giving us soft sun in the am. By 10:00 the deck is shaded and we get full sun until 3:00/15:00 in our garden. Our neighbors on the other side of our building have blazing sun from noon until nightfall. Blinds are very important they keep the sun/heat and dust out of homes! Best if you can have electric blinds (ease of use), with a possible manual over-ride for shabbat.

Security? We live on the garden level…

We Installed:

  • heavy duty mechanized security blinds in our living room (avoid bars), bars on bedroom windows, and an industrial door with window panes in the office
  • interior/exterior security system with alarm and cameras (with phone app) allowing us to see our home when abroad
  • exterior motion detector lights

Kitchens? Israeli kitchen layout differs from the US. The US typically has the following; sink under a window, stoves are a focal point with pretty exhaust hoods centrally located, and walk in pantry. Most kitchen sinks in Israel face walls, stoves are under windows, upper cabinets never go wall to wall, and no pantry.

Cabinets? Custom cabinets from fine cabinet makers or ready made cabinets from kitchen stores are available. Kitchen stores draw up your space, provide a layout of your kitchen, sell and install the cabinets. When working with a builder/contractor you will go to one of his sources/kitchen stores to select cabinets. TIP-remember to ask for samples (not common) to ensure you are getting what you selected. It’s more challenging to do custom but there is freedom in layout, selection and style.

Kosher? How do you define your kosher? I have worked in the Charedi (ultra religious) community for several years. My first Charedi client found me web surfing, he was from the US and wanted a US trained designer with an American aesthetic. I realized my type of “Kosher/Jewish home” was different than his in how he wanted to design his home. I found it amusing that within the Charedi world there were disagreements on how to live/design a proper Charedi home. It was fascinating… I was trained in “Charedi boot camp”, and loved it!

Outdoor space? An interesting topic of conversation was terraces and how to use them; closest to the kitchen, bedrooms, dining or did it matter. My Israeli born clients did not view the terrace as outdoor living space, US born clients saw value in putting the terrace closest to the kitchen so the kids could play outside and for bar-b-quing ease.

Stay Tuned…

About the Author
Beth Kopin is a trained interior architectural designer from the US. She has experience in the design/construction world that spans thirty years, and works and lives in both Chicago and Arnona, Jerusalem. She commutes regularly between the two cities. She brings her work ethic, training and US standards to Israel. Beth has surrounded herself with extremely talented trades. Her design team developed a way to CAD (computer aided design) plans in both US and metric standards. This enables both the US born clients (some of which live in Israel, some as second homes), and Israeli trades to better understand the plans, ensuring a more fluid communication. She is able to help bridge the gap of cultural differences, manage expectations, relate often confusing metric standards, as well as all the basic elements of designing a beautiful and functional home.,
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