When we first set eyes on our dreary Jerusalem apartment, located in a complex that abuts a field of trash, we weren’t stoked, to say the least. But that’s the rub with this whole Foreign Service being-assigned-a-house thing: Sometimes you get winners, like our spacious and well-located Madrid pad, and sometimes you get dropped in an cat-infested apartment complex in the suburbs. (That’s not fair: I actually enjoy all the stray kitties).
All this belly-aching is to say that there was a moment when I was like “How can I possibly make this blah apartment feel like home?”
“I have no doubt you’ll do it,” Mr. Jerusal-Em said. “Buy whatever you want.”
“A new couch?” I asked from our government-provided shlumpy brown couch.
“Let’s do it.”
Before we left Madrid, we gave away my old couch, the one I’d had since college. The one on which my neighbor may or may not have expired. Back in 2004, Mom recovered it in an off-white canvas and it served me well for more than a decade as comfy, cute, but not particularly sophisticated couch for years. But I was ready for a sofa. And I knew just what I wanted: A elegant, dark blue, velvet Chesterfield. A piece of furniture that one would look regal upon whilst draped in green silk, sipping champagne, but also the kind of sofa that would up the elegance of a Netflix-and-cheese binge by a million percent.
I began my search in a nearby neighborhood that makes up in car dealerships and stores selling cheaply-made furniture for what it lacks in charm. I wasn’t going to find The Sofa there. Then, Mr. Jerusal-Em and I made our first trip to Tel Aviv, which is a more cosmopolitan city than Jerusalem, so one could presume its sofa options would be more sophisticated. I did some research (the Internet is all in Hebrew here!) and pieced together that there might be a furniture district in Tel Aviv, so that’s where we found ourselves on a chilly sunny day in December. However, this area also seemed to be comprised mostly of car dealerships and auto repair shops. We walked for an hour. We were getting nowhere. We stopped for wine and regrouped and Mr. Jerusal-Em directed us to what appeared to be a legitimate furniture district. What a trooper he was for putting up with this, because, let’s be real, what are the odds we were really going to find a dark blue velvet Chesterfield sofa in any industrial neighborhood in Israel?
We walked in to a store (Kahiri Furniture, 87 Herzl) that had some nice sofas, although not The Sofa. The saleswoman told us “We can make anything custom.” I sighed and said, “I’m looking for something very, very specific. What I really want is a dark blue velvet Chesterfield.”
“It’s upstairs,” she said, as if she’d been expecting me. Or as if this sofa had been expecting us. We bolted upstairs. There it sat all lonely in an annexed area. It was exactly what we were looking for. Granted, it was humongous, but that just makes it more dramatic. As luck would have it, this beautious sofa was a floor model that had been around for a while, so we got a truly ridiculous deal on it. We celebrated with Mexican food (which doesn’t exist in Jerusalem). We couldn’t believe our luck.
Two days later, two skinny moving guys arrived and quickly informed me, in broken English, that there was no way to move this beautiful beast of a sofa into our apartment. Wouldn’t fit on the elevator, wouldn’t fit in the hallway off the stairs. I despaired for a nanosecond but didn’t truly believe that sofa would be returned to the store. It was mine! What about bringing it up over the balcony, one of the movers suggested. We leaned over the balcony and looked into my neighbor’s yard down below. I’d already made up my mind about our neighbors (whom I’d never seen) because of the large amounts of permanent dog poo in their yard. So when the mover informed me I’d have to go down and ask the neighbor if it was possible to bring the sofa in through their apartment, out into their yard, and up over my balcony, I was nervous. But there was no alternative.
I knocked on their door. A pretty young woman opened the door and I explained that I was her upstairs neighbor and recently purchased a giant couch and could the movers please bring it into her apartment in order to get it into mine? She acted like I had merely requested a cup of sugar. “Of course!” she said with a smile and flung the door open, revealing three small children who seemed more concerned than did she.
Then, this lovely woman physically helped us get this couch into my apartment.
“You are too nice! This sofa could fall on us and kill us both!” I said, as we squatted in her poopy yard under one end of the 13-foot sofa and pushed up. The movers were up above on my balcony and those deceptively strong men managed to pull the sofa over using just two long nylon straps.
The sofa was in! It was incredible. Even the movers stood and looked at it in a sort of oxygen-deprived awe.
“Money up now,” one mover said to me, moving his thumbs in an upward motion.
“Yes, yes, Money up now. I understand,” I said, beaming.
They drove me to an ATM. I paid them more shekels than originally agreed upon. I returned home and sat not on the sofa, but across from it, so I could behold it’s beauty. The next day, Mr. Jerusal-Em and I napped on the couch, heads on either end, and OUR FEET BARELY TOUCHED. If it was cat-hair resistant, it would be perfection. But it’s pretty darn close.
Did this resplendent sofa improve our apartment? Yes, of course! This sofa would make an abandoned yurt in Sibera look pretty great. Not to mention, we had every piece of government-provided frumpily formal furniture removed from the apartment. I’ve painted almost all rooms. I’ve “tiled” the kitchen with some lovely stick-on tiles. It’s starting to feel like home. (More pictures to follow! I’m waiting on a battery charger for my good camera).
To finding your perfect sofa,
Em in Jerusalem