(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
Zvicka Feller, who makes his living selling orthopedic mattresses, always dreamed of being an interior designer. He studied the subject in the seventies and realized that he would not be able to work in the field and support his wife and three children.
"Designing this house was the realization of his dream," says his wife Nily, showing me around the splendid home in Azor, near Holon, which they moved into eight years ago.
Once a farming settlement, with stables, chicken runs and small two-roomed houses for immigrants, Azor's character changed gradually after Moshe Dayan, as agriculture minister, decreed that the environs of Tel Aviv would no longer be used as agricultural land.
"We have lived here for 26 years," Nily tells me, "but until we decided to build, we lived in a small house at the front. That's why the new house was built at the back of the plot."
It means that the approach to the house is through a garden, with the back of the semi next door serving as a dividing wall and providing a backdrop for towering palms. A small fountain and fish pond at the entrance greet the visitor and the front door, at the top of marble steps, opens onto an entire first floor in which the kitchen, dining room, indoor garden and lounge can all be taken in at a glance.
One is struck instantly by the European look of the home, created by many antiques, engraved glass windows and the broad window sills on which stand plants and ornaments.
"We bought the windows in a Belgian street market for pennies," says Nily. "They came from old buildings and we designed our windows based on their dimensions."
Unlike most houses here, the window sills are on the inside, and are wide to allow a place to perch all manner of ornaments. There are no shutters outside but they don't feel the need as the house is positioned in such a way that plenty of light penetrates without the heat of the sun. The double-glazed wooden windows were all done by their friend Shmulik Ahronovitch of Elrom Windows, whom I have to thank for finding me this gorgeous house.
A skylight in the roof allows enough light for the indoor garden at the foot of the stairs. Here potted plants flourish, two flamingos gaze at each other and the rocks and stones are scattered with autumn leaves carried back lovingly from Hungary flattened between pages of newspaper.
"We were visiting Budapest and I saw these leaves, like flowers in the street, a beautiful bright bordeaux color," explains Nily. "I collected them, and sprayed them with a sealer and they have lasted a few years."
Niches around the carved mantelpiece were built to make the stereo speakers as unobtrusive as possible. Marble surrounds the mantelpiece which is topped by a carved Belgian mirror. The Fellers were lucky to have a relative living in Belgium where they could leave their flea market acquisitions until they had enough for a container. The magnificent iron chandelier above the dining table, hanging from a circular niche, cost 50 shekels. Much of the antique furniture, some of it with intricate carving, came from Jaffa and the mixture of woods and styles blend seamlessly together.
Up the red and cream marble staircase we inspect the master bedroom, furnished in dark wood with a diamond shape motif at its center. The en suite bathroom with triangular Jacuzzi is fully tiled.
Under floor heating is especially effective as the fitted rug absorbs the heat and the room stays warm and cosy for hours. To add to the comfort, a small refrigerator ensures an unlimited supply of cold drinks, even in the middle of the night.
On this floor Zvicka has his studio, with an easel set up and all his tubes of paint arranged in impeccable order. Not a splash of paint sullies the furniture or rugs. His paintings are displayed around the house.
"I wanted the house to be cozy and warm," says Nily. "I think we have achieved that by the use of wood and pastel shades."
The house has everything - it's cozy, bucolic and yet grand at the same time, and best of all perhaps, it's five minutes from Tel Aviv.
Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.