(photo credit: )
If That 70s Show was looking to stage a lounge scene in Israel, Saluna would be a good pick. While the Saluna Lounge Bar is only 18 months old, on entering the place one would think it has been a Jaffa establishment for decades. There's a long corridor lined with mini living rooms complete with sofas upholstered in funky retro patterns, each lounge area separated by brown beaded curtains. Glass cabinets house a strange variety of objects - from books to figurines.
The "chandaloofah" shining over the loungers summarizes the cultural theme: East meets West. A chandelier is a Western fixture, while a loofah sponge is a poor man's luxury.
The interior designers, Roth-Tevet Space Design, recently received the 2005 Ot Ha'itzuv award for their work on Saluna. Dubbed "The Oscars for design," these awards were given to a group of accomplished interior and industrial designers on Thursday at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds, where a massive design exhibition, Design 2006, is being held through Saturday.
Only a careful examination will reveal how delicately calibrated the Saluna design is. While the sofas look old and battered, they are actually custom-made reproductions of 60s and 70s furniture, with each fabric hand-picked. In order to infuse the place with the local language of Jaffa, some furniture items, like the funky lamps, were "imported" from the Jaffa flea market. The Oriental patterned, multi-colored floor is all that remains from the original building.
"Design isn't about furniture, colors or certain materials. That's boring," Roth said, who likes calling himself an "experience designer."
"We're interested in a story. I think contemporary design should tell a story, because stories never bore you."
The owners of Saluna wanted to create a warm, inviting Jaffa-inspired lounge-bar that doubles as a cultural platform. The walls above the mini living rooms are covered with paintings, illustrations or photographs that alternate every month, and are sometimes arranged by a curator.
"You get to experience art in a less formal way than in a gallery," explains Roy Roth, who designed Saluna with his partner, Ya'al Tevet. "You come to drink and, by the way, look at art."
Art and its promotion has always been a big feature of this establishment. Last August, Saluna launched a street-wide exhibition that transplanted art from galleries, studios and museums to the streets of Jaffa without the permission of the municipal authorities.
Interior design usually serves as a "natural selection," and Saluna attracts a casual, artsy and trendy crowd. Interestingly, many women can be seen coming in and out.
Roth attributes the female flow to the softness of the place; it's not sleazy or masculine. "Most bars are masculine; designed and owned by men."
With all its mini living rooms, Saluna is also a favorite for birthdays.
Saluna Lounge Bar, Rehov Tirza 17, Jaffa (03) 518-1719. Music: Freestyle, with a DJ nightly. Hours: From 9 p.m.