Born to design

Dafna Kastiel feels most comfortable at the point where salesperson meets designer: "A designer needs to see the link between the client and the space at hand."

interior design - dining room 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
interior design - dining room 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There are several things in life that “you can’t choose,” as they say. You can’t choose whom you love and you can’t choose the family you are born into. But if choosing a family was an option, chances are there would be a great deal of competition to get into the Kastiel clan. Owners of a thriving design business, the Kastiels have spawned a creative empire in south Tel Aviv, which is all family run.
Walking through the 40-room compound on Rehov Alfasi, customers can catch glimpses of three generations adjusting furniture, choosing textiles and, on the day I happened to visit, weeding the garden.
One wall of the entrance is covered in colorful caricatures, one for each member of the Kastiel team. “That’s my cousin,” pointed out Dafna Kastiel, who is a major player in the young generation of Kastiel folks, indicating a drawing of smiling man with broad-rimmed glasses. “And there’s my mom, we look alike,” she said, pointing to a sweet-looking woman with wiry curls. Her cousin is the current CEO.
It was always clear to Dafna that her place was in the family business. After completing a degree at Shenkar, she traveled to Italy, where she earned an MA in design. Upon completing her studies and gaining an understanding of European aesthetics, she returned home and was immediately immersed in Kastiel.
The business was founded in 1942 by Dafna’s grandparents, Ephraim and Stella. Originally a small upholstery shop in what is now the opera house in Tel Aviv, Kastiel grew to become a front-runner in Israeli design, selling items around the world. Its products embody timeless taste and refinement.
Though the market has changed considerably in the last 60-plus years, Kastiel continues to stay in fashion. Trends play on small roles in the creation of new pieces at Kastiel.
“At the end of the day,” explained Dafna, “we all sit on a sofa. Where we are in the space and what we do in our living rooms have changed a lot. People used to sit in the living room to receive their guests. Nowadays, we don’t wait for a guest to use our living room; we hang out in there all the time. And Israelis in particular really live in their houses. At Kastiel, we like to combine styles. You will find a low, comfortable couch in the same room as the tall, upright chairs that our grandparents like. We don’t ever want to leave someone out. Everyone should feel comfortable.
Each piece has its own character and function.”
In Kastiel, no two pieces are identical.
And no two days of Dafna’s are alike. As her job cannot be defined by one or two words, but rather extends into the many recesses of an expansive company, her days are each unique: each one its own adventure in design and sales. “I do a lot,” she explained as she easily strolled through one of the main display rooms. “In the morning I work in the display, then I go to the factory where I do a lot of research for new products. Then I’m in the store, working with clients.”
Each client comes in with different needs and expectations, she said. This is where Dafna fits in, and where she feels most comfortable, at the point where salesperson meets designer. “They are one, the two jobs. A designer needs to see the link between the client and the space at hand. The sale is an outcome of understanding one’s client,” she said. Incidentally, the actual sale is her least favorite element of the daily doings.
A customer entering Kastiel can expect to be met with a great deal of flexibility, budget permitting. Prices for a sofa, for example, range from NIS 6,000 to over NIS 20,000. Though perhaps more expensive than other furniture depots, Kastiel provides a complete service, which includes answering any question a customer might have about their home décor or layout. Solving-space related problems is Kastiel’s specialty. “Our staff members are experts at arranging spaces. We have 40 rooms. The layout of each one is changed every three weeks. Our clients often come in with plans of their home and together we figure out what the best solution will be for their space.”
Dafna pointed out a long dining-room table that is split into two identical halves and said, “That is the consulate’s table.
Many of our products are named for the client we designed them for. This table was originally made for a young chef named Tamir. He had just bought an apartment in Tel Aviv and didn’t have room for a proper dining table. But he was a chef; he needed to have a place to entertain. So he came to us and we designed him an earlier version of this piece. It separates into two: one piece sat at the entrance to his apartment, the other against one wall in the living room.
On a normal day, the pieces fit into his apartment, but when he wants to have a dinner party, they form a perfect dining table. Then the Italian consulate came to us and wanted a heavier version of the same thing, so we remade the table to fit his needs.”