(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
The Zaksh family home in Binyamina stands out on a road of conventional villas because it is painted bright blue. The whole look is reminiscent of something very old and very oriental, though it is only seven years old and was built from scratch by the owner, architect Noga Zaksh.
"If you thought it was old and Arab, then I have achieved what I set out to do," she says. "I wanted the house to fit into the landscape of the country with its diverse ethnic population. I wanted to use the flat roofs and the balconies of the original homes and to give a Muslim feel with the use of arches. It was important for me not to put in anything modern or give in to contemporary fashion, but to try and stay faithful to myself and to the roots of the area."
The front gate opens onto an indoor courtyard with a dolphin fountain, also painted in the same blue. Over the fa ade, painted with a vine pattern which the owner did herself, are colorful Turkish tiles, while cherubs perch on the roof. The heavy, antique front door, bought in Jaffa, opens to reveal the highly decorative and original interior.
"It's an upside-down house," Zaksh says. "That is, the bedrooms are on the entrance level and the living room is up the stairs. Sleeping upstairs or downstairs is not that significant, but the view from up is so magnificent that we just had to put the lounge and balcony up there."
She explains that the placing of the staircase and the shape of the entrance almost beckon the visitor to go up. At the top of the stairs, the lounge, resplendent with a very high ceiling, brightly colored vitrages and an eclectic choice of colors and furnishings, has an almost cathedral-like grandeur and the tall windows look out onto the surrounding countryside.
Zaksh tells me that originally the walls were painted yellow, but she decided to revert to the original basic color of the bare bricks, trying to recreate the atmosphere of the house while it was still in skeleton form.
"When it was being built, even though the blocks were ugly, the place had this special grandeur and after the first yellow paint went on, it lost it," she explains. "The moment I restored the gray, it got the atmosphere back. As a background color, everything shows up against it - pictures, furniture, ornaments. But because it's such a cold industrial color, I added the turquoise to soften it."
The floor tiles are made of a local stone, while interspersed here and there are newly minted tiles but with a turn-of-the-century design which contributes to the antique look. The overall look is exotic, helped by Turkish hanging lamps and papier mache items which are actually Christmas decorations from Spain.
"I take from anywhere," Zaksh says.
The dining-room chairs are English but upholstered in material from Marrakesh. On the long table she has set candlesticks and other objects, all of a particular height. Various niches and stands hold her own ceramics and those of other artists, and pillars around them contribute to the palatial feel of the room.
The busy kitchen is separated from the lounge by rows of multicolored tiles and an open door. From the wooden rafters hang dried plants. "It's small but well-planned, and with the pantry I have plenty of storage," Zaksh says.
One more small room off the living area is painted in a vivid red lacquer. "I always dreamed of having a red room," she says, and here she and her husband drink their morning coffee or sit and read. "It's very inviting even though the color is so powerful."
Downstairs, the master bedroom is painted in pale blue and cream with a frieze of angels around the ceiling which sports a large rosette in the center, as do all the rooms. The large bed with the hand-painted gold-and-brown headboard is set into an alcove, and the floor is in blue-and-white checks with the occasional inset of "old" tiles. A large old-fashioned bathtub stands by the window.
The other bedrooms are equally unusual - one has a ladder to reach the bed on a gallery, while the security room is painted in bright green. The bathroom downstairs is pink and green and has tiles only where they are absolutely necessary.
"I wanted it to feel like a room, not a bathroom," Zaksh explains.
As an architect, Zaksh adapts to her client and can do conventional designs equally well. Not everyone would want to live in her house, but everyone would acknowledge that it is beautiful.
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