A long way from Manhattan

As a flight attendant, Elisheva Gustafson was attracted to the varied architecture her world travels exposed her to and, after achieving her dream to become a designer, found the perfect place for her taste.

Bedroom 521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Bedroom 521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
After 27 years living in Manhattan, designer Elisheva Gustafson returned home to Israel seven years ago, and chose to live in Ajami in Jaffa. The contrast was a deliberate choice for the former El Al flight attendant, who studied interior design in New York.
“I lived for many years in a sophisticated high-rise area and when I decided to come home to Israel I was drawn to a different world – smaller, more village-like, nearer the earth – an open environment with a mixed population, and, most importantly, a view of the sea,” she says.
Now, instead of looking out at a concrete jungle, she has what she describes as a junkyard next door, a yeshiva round the corner, Jewish and Arab neighbors of all stripes – and the sound of waves breaking on the sand a few hundred feet below her balcony.
Her travels as an El Al flight attendant in the late Sixties and early Seventies exposed her to a new world of design, of which there was little awareness in the Israel of those years.
“I began to be conscious of my surroundings and it was a far cry from what I saw in Israel,” she says. “I was attracted to architectural ideas, and arranging my environment aesthetically began to appeal to me.”
Eventually, from being an amateur she decided to qualify professionally and studied at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology.
She worked with several Israeli expatriates and designed for the Israeli embassy and consulate. Today she is anxious to dispel ideas that Manhattan is all modern and minimalistic, straight lines and trendy lofts.
“In New York today the prevailing style is actually traditional,” she says. For her new home in Jaffa, which she bought while still in the planning stage, she decided to integrate traditional, antique and modern to achieve the look she wanted to live in. She also applied the Feng Shui principles she had studied and believes in.
The three-story building’s design includes a nod to its location with pseudo-Arab features such as the arched balcony railings and the wooden shutters, which look old and authentic but are actually electrically operated. For the interior design, comfort and harmony were the order of the day.
“The overall feeling I wanted was simple and lived in, but elegant at the same time,” says Gustafson.
The entrance hall was designed to provide a warm welcome and at the same time have practical elements like a coat closet and storage cupboards to reduce clutter. The space is painted a warm terra-cotta and the autumnal scene above an art deco sideboard provides all the color necessary.
The main living area combines kitchen, dining room and lounge in one large space with the added dimension of an open balcony with its picturesque view out to sea. The basic color scheme is brick red and ochre, and Gustafson used the Turkish-patterned wool carpet as inspiration for the room’s colors.
“I always start with the rugs,” she says.
Where there are no rugs one can see the halila stone floor tiles, which are very large, 80 cm. by 80 cm., to make the space seem larger. The terracotta color appears in the kitchen cabinets, the recliner in the lounge, various easy chairs and cushions and in a runner on the dining room table. Even the kitchen work surface was chosen to tone in with the strong, warm color scheme.
Perspex dining chairs match the coffee table and the solid oak table, an antique which was originally dark and bumpy, and has been shaved and bleached until its color corresponds to the cream of the walls and the floor.
Among the Feng Shui elements are a small water fountain and the ochre color of the sofa which expresses openness, sincerity and sun. In the kitchen she has two iron cranes, which in China symbolize luck. The cushions on the couch are in contrasting colors but with similar rough texture to that of the rug.
“I like a mixture of textures which go well together,” she says.
For the master bedroom she chose shades of antique pink speckled with brown.
“Pink is the color of love and is also soothing,” she explains.
The Art Nouveau painting of the four nymphs which dominates the room is actually a finished puzzle which she found in the nearby flea market and had framed. The satin drapes came from America.
The bathroom continues the same warm color scheme with a pink glass mosaic, and even the grouting is carefully chosen to blend in. She is very particular about getting the tiles to fit exactly without any leftover uneven pieces.
“This can affect our sense of harmony,” she maintains, “even though we do not consciously see the method.”
It’s all a long way from , but Elisheva Gustafson is glad to finally be back home. ■
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