Minimalism warmed up

Having grown up in a design and fashion environment, it’s no wonder interior designer Nickie Kantor finds herself in great demand.

THE WHITE metal staircase has steps made of oak (photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
THE WHITE metal staircase has steps made of oak
(photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
Designer Nickie Kantor recognizes several influences in the creation of her minimalistic, modern home in Ramat Hasharon. One is the attraction she always felt to all things Japanese, to the extent that she studied the language at university in England. But perhaps an even stronger influence is that she is a scion of the family that produced the duffel coat back in the ’50s.
“I grew up in a design and fashion environment,” says Kantor, who made aliya 20 years ago from England. “I often used to go to trade shows, and I must have had something inside me that attracted me to design.”
The ubiquitous duffel coat – worn by politicians, artists and just about everybody back in the middle of the last century – was not exactly her family’s invention, but the Gloverall company her family owned improved it and made it immensely popular. She even has a reminder of the iconic coat on the wall of her beautiful home – two framed children’s coats, which add color and all-important textile interest to the décor.
As a designer wanting to live in a contemporary home, she realized how small touches were necessary to creating a warmth that would otherwise be missing. With the use of wood and textiles, or at least a textile look, even in some of the tiles, she has achieved this aim.
She came to design quite late, having worked in advertising after gaining a degree at Sheffield University and coming to live here as a single woman back in 1993.
After 12 years in the field, she found the hours too demanding, especially with three small children at home, and decided to requalify as an interior designer.
One of the first homes she built was her own, which was finished about five years ago. It sits on a half a dunam (0.05 hectares) of land, on two floors, with a small garden that can even accommodate a pool. The open plan makes for an airy and cool home, in every sense.
“I always try to combine the aesthetic with the practical side,” she says. She and her Israeli-born husband do a lot of entertaining, so the place had to be suitable for a large amount of traffic. She finds the polished concrete floor a blessing.
“We’ve made two bar mitzvas here, we do parties for New Year’s Eve and Independence Day – and the floor always looks good,” she says. “And another bonus is you don’t see the dirt,” she adds with a smile.
The small cozy reading corner just off the dining room is a good indication of how she uses textiles and wood to take the edge off the stark modernism of the home. The white metal staircase has steps made of oak, while in the room a yellow crocheted pouffe and a rug add texture. She has a mother-in-law who is a talented amateur sculptor, and several of her works are dotted about.
“Books also add a splash of color, and having them here also makes them easily accessible,” points out the designer. The views of the garden through the plate-glass windows soften the overall look as well.
The lounge directly opposite the pool is furnished with a tweed charcoal- colored sofa and two gray leather chairs around a wooden table, which also has texture and which she painted in pale gray. Along the entire length of the wall runs a concrete shelf, 45 cm. deep, which contains, in addition to a pebbled gas fire, many art and design books.
It extends right into the dining area, which has an unexpectedly rustic heavy oak table.
“We chose it for a more eclectic look,” says Kantor. “Not everything has to be modern and hi-tech.”
Several chairs came from Ikea. She points out that budget management is an important part of designing a home, and while it’s worth investing more in some things, with chairs it’s not necessary to break the bank.
The white and stainless-steel kitchen is an important part of the home, and she sees it as more of a family room than a place to cook and wash up.
“Everything happens in here,” she says.
A long dark-gray leather settee faces a television, set into a wall of white cupboards; this is where the children can watch their favorite programs. A wooden surround softens the starkness of the white wood – she feels this is the Japanese influence again – and the closets contain all the dishes and glasses needed for the frequent parties.
“Sometimes when you open up the cupboards it’s a mess,” she says, “but that’s the big thing about minimalism – you choose what you want to have on display, and everything else you put away.”
The bathrooms are good examples of her use of textured tiles and wood.
The guest bathroom has a backsplash of black “tweedy” tiles and a white, modernistic tap jutting out from them, while the sink unit has the same warm oak wood as elsewhere in the house. In the master bedroom, where the concrete floor has given way to parquet, the white bathroom wall tiles have a knitted effect.
The carpentry was all custom-made, and Kantor knows and works with some of the best artisans in the business.
“If you are building a home, it’s always good to have a project manager who knows the best people to call on for the different jobs, who can speak Hebrew and knows the market,” she says.
That is why she finds herself in great demand from people building their homes in Israel.