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A young Rabbi Berkal is seated in the front row of this photo

dining area of former home of Harriet Berkal
photo by David Lipnowski

Livingroom of former home of Harriet Berkal
photo by David Lipnowski

Three season room of former home of Harriet Berkal
photo by David Lipnowski


Harriet Berkal


by HARRIET BERKAL, September 6, 2012

Soon, the shofar will sound, for those of us worldwide in the Jewish community to mark the beginning of a new year. Every Rosh Hashona, we look forward to a future filled with good health and happiness. Yet, it is so important to remember where we came from and to appreciate just how privileged we are to live the way we do – with freedom, and so many luxuries that our forefathers went without.
I remember my dad, the late Rabbi Berkal, speaking of his humble beginnings in Yushpalia , Lithuania . His brother Abe and sister Doris arrived first and through hard work, they saved funds, so that the rest of the Berkals could immigrate to Canada in 1927.
My parents who married in 1939, first lived in Grand Forks until they established themselves in Winnipeg in 1954, at 663 Brock Street- a house they bought for a mere $14,000. In retrospect, it seems like it was dirt cheap but back then it was a huge mortgage to pay. They lived in this, their only home in Winnipeg, for 54 years. It was humble and I remember when we acquired our first TV, microwave and central air conditioning. What a far cry from life in the shtel.
Unlike my folks, I have lived in 5 different houses in Winnipeg in my 53 years. As our family grew, we “required” more space. Could we have stayed put- sure – but the fun for me is in renovating spaces. I do not shy away from renovating, in fact the exact opposite. And so it goes, we buy, I renovate – we enjoy it. And then, as my parents aged and got sicker, we bought a larger home in the hope that they would join us.
Our fourth home -on Bower was bought with this goal in mind. That sadly NEVER happened! My folks were determined to stay put in the original humble dwelling on Brock Street- their CASTLE.  Having said that, we kept encouraging them to make the move and as usual, I started to renovate.
This hobby of redesigning homes started off as a favorite pastime of mine in the mid 80’s. Five houses later and I have renovated them all, including my husband’s office. It starts off with a vision for comfort and creative expression and builds to a theme of innovative design – where I can barely keep up with the ideas in my head. I am a firm believer that humans require an esthetically pleasing space to retreat from the stress of the day and/or to be more productive during a work period.
For years, others have asked me to either help them with their homes on a smaller scale (which I have done) and they have encouraged me to start a business of this.
In my personal life, I have carte blanche – whereby my husband would not even notice if a wall had been removed that same day. But, I think I am equally capable of incorporating ideas from all members of a family, who wish to offer input into their vision of converting a SPACE – be it with color, texture, lighting, flooring, art work, etc, into an art gallery of sorts – inviting, embracing and intriguing. For me, a house becomes a “home” when it reflects a family’s inner spirit. It should reflect their taste in ways that help them occupy the space, which adopts their soul.  
An “A” type personality, I put a lot of attention into detail. I like what is unusual and a mixture of textures really appeals to me. But, I am also quite flexible. I consider myself creative in all that I do. Having worked for the provincial government for 9 years, designing brochures, displays, organizing conferences, writing speeches – all require someone who can coordinate. This skill set has transferred over to Bat and Bar Mitzvah design and other events requiring a special touch.
So after much thought, I was persuaded to drop my hat into the ring and see if I could be of service to others. Some photos from my portfolio allow you to see what I have executed in the past. As I said – it is the antithesis of the small shetl my beloved father grew up in. God bless him and the others who were brave enough to leave the old country which was familiar to them – albeit with out many comforts. Their courage has allowed us to live in freedom and to have so much today. Where would we be without them ??

A Happy New Year to ALL !!!

Harriet Berkal is a creative force who has decided to assist parties interested with design elements in their home or otherwise. You can reach her at Neck of The Woods Design - ph# 204-229-1146

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