'As soon as I come home, I go straight to the kitchen, and I spend almost my whole day in there," says the owner of this apartment in Ra'anana. Unusually nowadays for a modern young American wife and mother who has been in Israel for just over a year, she is an unabashed homemaker who loves to cook, bakes her own hallot and is always entertaining. Ready-made food is not even considered, and parties often run to 20 or more.
She also keeps her computer in the kitchen, which has high stools around the large central island for eating, a huge plasma screen at one end, and walls of cupboards storing well-thumbed collections of recipes and every conceivable pot and dish. It had to be a large room to contain all that - plus the large American-sized kitchen accessories - and still be attractive and welcoming, since so much of her life is spent there.
"I was lucky to be introduced to Selwyn Elkin," she says. "In the original plan, this room was the dining room, and when he walked in, he said it was far too beautiful a room to use only once a week for the Shabbat meal. With that amazing view of the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway, it would be a pity to turn it into an underused formal dining-room."
The small space originally designed to be the kitchen was turned into a family seating area for reading or watching television, furnished in light blue and enlivened with gold and chocolate-brown cushions. It has good light pouring in from the high window and proves to be handy for nipping into the kitchen for some of those homemade delicacies.
Before employing Elkin, the owner had never hired a decorator and was worried about how it would work out.
"It was just brilliant," she says. "Being new immigrants, we really had no idea where to begin, what to buy where, and how much things should cost."
Once Elkin - a Tel Aviv-based designer originally from South Africa but in Israel for 30 years - took over, the design of the apartment just leapt along.
The decision to live on a high floor in an Israeli high-rise
building was taken after the family - husband, wife and two teenagers - had spent a year in a small rented house in Ra'anana.
"It was so nice - we were always together as a family. In our large house in the States, we rarely saw the children, so this was a pleasant change for us, and that's why we decided to buy an apartment rather than a house."
The advantages of a high floor are immediately apparent on walking into the spacious apartment decorated in muted but elegant shades of brown and taupe with highlights provided by the satin cushions, the collection of silver Judaica discreetly displayed behind custom-built cabinets and the eclectic choices of artwork on the walls. Through the large picture windows in all the rooms, across the balconies all fitted out with comfortable seating on deck floors, an astonishing view of the surrounding countryside opens up. On one side, the often traffic-congested motorway snakes north to south, while from the bedroom, the Herzliya coast and swathes of blue Mediterranean are clearly visible from land-locked Ra'anana, a 15-minute drive away.
The all-important dining room table is placed in the dining corner most of the time, but when large numbers of guests arrive, it can be turned around and extended to six meters into the living area. When that happens, the glass-topped square coffee table can be shifted to the side or out onto the balcony.
One wall is covered in a bronze-tinted mirror that adds to the illusion of space. Beyond this area they have placed a sink, which is convenient for washing before the blessing of the (homemade) bread.
"For the sitting-room, I told Selwyn I wanted to convey a feeling of warmth and hospitality," says the owner. "We chose the taupe-shaded couch together, and because it's such a neutral shade, enlivened it with the cushions, whose shiny texture adds the necessary warmth."
A built-in fireplace on one wall is set into a granite surround, and a gas fire inside it can warm up the whole room on chilly days.
All the rooms have rather high ceilings, but lowered cornices have been set around the room to hide the shutter boxes and also to provide concealed halogen lighting, which casts a warm glow.
In the master bedroom, surprisingly, there are no walk-in closets.
"We decided they were unnecessary and a waste of space," says the owner. Instead they each have a wall of built-in wardrobes that she insists are adequate. Since the entire wall opposite the bed is taken up with closets, Elkin came up with the clever idea of a pop-up television screen at the end of the bed for in-bed watching. The headboard is made of white quilted leather, and there are built-in side tables at either end.
Back in the kitchen, the owner is checking on a cake in the oven and planning the next big party.
"You know, when I first came here I really wanted a wooden kitchen, but Selwyn was adamant that it wouldn't be right here," she says. "In this particular apartment, the light finish we finally chose is much more appropriate. He was right, as always."
Just as well she listened to him. With that much of one's life in
the kitchen, it pays to get it perfect. n