An abundance of glass – walls, partitions, fences – would not, one would think, be the first choice for a family with four children younger than nine, including a toddler and a baby, but Helene, the young mother who owns this house in a seaside town, is happy with her decision.
“Yes, there are a lot of sticky finger marks and it’s fine for a day or so after the cleaning lady has been here. After that, well, I try not to look, knowing that it’s for a limited period and it will pass.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that no sooner have the children gone past the dirty-hands phase than it’s almost time for the grandchildren to leave their imprint on her elegant glass partitions, as I know from personal experience.
“If you take the side of the stairs, for instance, the designer convinced me that if I put in metal banisters it would feel like a prison and wood would be too heavy,” says Helene. “She persuaded me to go for glass and I don’t really regret it.”
In every other way the light-infused house is child friendly. The toys are all there in the living room, not banished to some faraway playroom, and the children can be seen, and heard, enjoying the wide-open spaces.
The tiny figure-eight pool is a focal point for them during the hot summers, and it too is carefully surrounded by glass fencing for safety.
Ze’ev, the husband, is the managing director of a large travel company, while Helene works in investments from her home office. They acquired the house two years ago, and set about renovating it, without doing any major structural changes. Sigal Avital Gillon, the favorite designer for French immigrants, was called in to advise on color schemes and materials.
“The main thing we wanted was for it to be functional and practical,” says Helene. “We all live in it and we didn’t want one of those elegant houses that are more a museum than a home.”
They added windows wherever they could, so that the outside deck and garden would appear to be a part of the living area. The garden has a slightly wild look about it, as though it just got like that by accident of nature instead of being carefully planned to give that effect.
As they are very fond of natural wood as a material, they were lucky to find that the old wooden kitchen was still in a good enough condition that they would not have to replace it, and they found it sat well with the chunky wood refectory table and chairs which are very much a focal point of the home.
“We love the fact that wood is a natural, alive material,” explains Helene, “and that’s why we also put parquet on the floors. The only mistake was the stone on the kitchen and entrance floor, which is hard to maintain and gets dirty very quickly. I definitely wouldn’t do that again.”
Next to the dining room, a room divider is also made of glass but has wide shelves painted white above the partition, which Helene uses to display her treasures. The background is a cheerful yellow and white patterned wallpaper.
The living room is reached by five steps down to the garden level, and the small back garden and pool are not just glimpsed through the picture windows but really are an integral part of the lounge. Built-in sets of shelves are placed on either side of the steps, one side for books and the other for toys. The children’s computer corner is also placed here, as part of the lounge. On the corner of one wall, a very unusual element is a glass-fronted gas fire, at eye level with simulated but very realistic looking branches, which warms the whole room.
The large plasma screen sits on a wall decorated on either side with a pretty yellow flower-patterned wallpaper, and a different design but similar colors is used in the paper covering the book niche. This is also the location of the stereo system, with everything neatly stored on the white built-in shelves.
The designer also uses wallpaper to great effect in the master bedroom, where the wall behind the headboard is covered in a maroon and soft gray flowery design. With bed linen in very similar shades, the sloping ceilinged room is particularly striking. From this room the owners look out on the back garden, where an almogen tree (Erythrina corallodendron
“In the winter all the leaves fall off and a red flower grows on the almost bare branches, it’s very beautiful,” says Helene.
The three bathrooms were all modernized, making use of unusual wallpapers and floor finishes, such as pebbles, and ceramic tiles which look as though they are made from a shiny metal material.
The children’s rooms and bathrooms are all on the second floor. But it’s clear that the downstairs living space caters to their every need. Truly a children’s paradise.