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(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
Ronit Tal, a young interior designer, has just had one of her homes chosen for a book on 20 beautiful homes in Israel, one of a series of design books from publisher Orly Robinson.
Given the number of beautiful homes in this country, it is a signal honor - especially as she makes no claim to being an architect.
"I studied design during the seven years I spent in the Far East with my husband and it gave me a lot of inspiration," says Tal, who has been designing homes for the last 10 years. The fusion of Japanese, Mediterranean and contemporary in her own home is a testament to her eclectic tastes. The result is a clearly modern home which still exudes warmth and comfort, with some unusual features she likes to describe as "surprises."
"I take what I know and change it just a little bit," says Tal. "I like walls that narrow at the bottom, walls set slightly at an angle, unexpected niches, walls that are not really walls. I like to be a bit adventurous."
The house, located in Kfar Syrkin, near Petah Tikva, is a return to roots for the 38-year-old Tal, who grew up there and whose parents still occupy the house next door.
"I always knew I would go back to the countryside," she says. And after spending seven years in Hong Kong because of her husband's business interests, coming back to what was her grandfather's cottage and renovating it was a homecoming she had only dreamed about.
The first impression of the house is that it is enormous, but that's an optical illusion created by the height of the ceilings and the view of the surrounding garden with the pool. In fact, it's about 180 square meters, with a small master bedroom and two even smaller rooms for her son and daughter. All her office space is outside in the garden, in what was once a chicken coop.
"The concept of the house is that I want to feel I'm sitting outside the whole time, even if I'm actually inside," says Tal. Windows run the whole length of the wall facing the pool, unhampered by drapes or blinds, just a thin Belgian iron profile. The wall to the right of the salon, where the large television screen is situated, faces the side garden. Here, too, the thick greenery of a hedge right up to the window is the only decoration.
What distinguishes the home are the slightly tipped-up walls with their unconventional shapes and the furniture set at unexpected angles.
"I wanted to get out of the square shape of an ordinary house and be a bit adventurous," she says. "You don't feel threatened by these walls." The wall at the front door is in fact opaque glass painted with an orange sun, the Japanese symbol of wholeness.
The finish on the walls is a rough, attractive "Vega," giving the effect of smoothed concrete. Gray is one of the primary colors in the home, together with green and orange.
"When I design a home, I like to use no more than three colors," she says.
The walnut kitchen has a large island, around which she has placed cream-colored high stools. A wonderful place to sit for a cup of coffee, they sink slightly at the touch of a bottom and are extremely comfortable.
The lounge furniture is Habitat mix 'n' match in green and orange, including a space-age orange rocking chair, and on one slanting wall there is a built-in fireplace set with logs.
"I don't use it very much, as I don't want to get the fireplace dirty," she admits.
A corner light, constructed from conventional shades piled one on top of the other is particularly striking.
The dining table is covered in orchids and simple wavy ceramic dishes, which are very effective. A piano stands against one wall and a very old cabinet from Hong Kong on another. The mix of old and new does not jar in any way.
"I don't like pictures," says Tal - and sure enough, not one painting or photograph is to be seen.
The two-and-a-half-dunam garden has an inviting pool, safely contained behind Perspex fencing, which is backdrop to a hedge of green bamboo-like water plants. Besides the converted chicken coop/office, the garden has room for a small winery, which produces a boutique wine from homegrown grapes.
"When you build a house, you have to love your architect," says Tal. "It's his soul that goes into the house."
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