salon 88 224.
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
Despite having different last names, Canadian Ambassador Jon Allen and his wife, Clara Hirsch, have been married for 26 years. The popular Jewish, couple who have been here for 15 months, are on their first ambassadorial posting after having spent time in Mexico, India and the US. Clara is very much her own woman with a variety of interests, which might explain the name issue. She is a talented artist who has exhibited around the world, and here she expends much energy in volunteering, specifically teaching English to Ethiopian adults and children.
The splendid house in Herzliya Pituah has been the official residence for about three years now; before that it was in Savyon, and Clara is happy with the move, being nearer to the sea. In Canada they have a home in downtown Ottawa but don't feel too nostalgic, as the residence is furnished entirely with Canadian-made furniture.
"They brought over an interior designer who looked at the house and figured out things like seating arrangements, color schemes and what would work here," she says. "I'm very happy with the result. It's pretty and light and the entertaining area is ideal for receptions - although not perfect for living quarters.
"What's nice is that the design fits into the climate. When we arrived at our India posting, the Canadian look didn't suit the place and I redid some of it with Indian fabrics."
The first impression is of a huge house - the entrance hall is full of light and space, with nothing but a small table topped with a vase of flowers, a couple of chests of drawers and behind this a spiral staircase which sweeps up to the second floor - while a solitary sculpture stands in a corner. The sitting-room to the right is symmetrical with one side a mirror image of the other. From the French windows, one can see a pool set in an attractive small garden. Appearances, however, are deceptive and the house is not big enough for the July 1 Canada Day celebration to which 400 to 500 people are invited.
"The date means it can be sweltering outside and people are crammed around the pool trying to listen politely in the heat while Jon makes his speech from the balcony. We felt it was a bore, so this year we did it in the lobby of the Diamond Bourse and were able to hold a concert of Canadian music."
For smaller parties, the lounge is perfect with several groupings of sofas around coffee tables in a soothing color scheme of beige, yellow and touches of turquoise in the checkered cushions. Clara tells me a baby grand piano is soon to be added, and she is mildly concerned about it affecting the room's perfect symmetry. Around the walls are works of art by Canadian artists and her own paintings, notably a portrait of her Holocaust-survivor father.
The dining room is furnished quite traditionally with dark wood sideboards and mole-shaded satin curtains, while the busy kitchen is in lighter wood with a granite work surface of sparkling midnight blue. Here the chef will prepare both Hanukka and Christmas celebrations. Off the kitchen is a small enclosed balcony where the ambassador and his wife like to eat breakfast.
At the top of the spiral staircase, a large landing is decorated with more of her portraits and ceramics. The bedrooms of their two sons, who visit during vacations, are here, as is the master suite which is not just a bedroom but more of a sitting room and study which also happens to have a bed. "This is where we hang out," she says. The restful color scheme of white, beige and touches of turquoise echoes the design of the lounge. A neat walk-in closet completes the room.
Below stairs is a large basement which is used as a library and family room.
In Canada, Clara always worked in addition to her art, and at one time was in the consular bureau dealing with the families of Canadian victims of 9/11. Here she devotes much of her time to the Netanya-based Forgotten People fund and has found ESRA, the English Speaking Residents Association, helpful too in working with Ethiopian Israelis. For her, being the wife of an ambassador is much more than an endless round of parties.
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