Smart Down-Sizing

Steve and Hannah Vago spent two years in Beijing for his work and found they didn’t mind living in an apartment rather than a house.

bedroom 521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
bedroom 521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
‘Our life-style changed,” says the US immigrant whose business interests have taken him to Asia for years. “We had a very luxurious three-bedroom apartment in Beijing, and when we came back to Ra’anana to our house we realized that we didn’t need so much space any more and an apartment in one of the new buildings going up in the ‘Shvil Hazahav’ area would suit us fine. The concept was tzimtzum (contraction) to make do with less space, less clothing and less ‘tchotchkes.’”
With three of their four children out of the house, they looked for the largest duplex penthouse they could find and were pleased to discover one in a building a mere six stories high rather than in some of the surrounding buildings of 18 or 20.
They also decided on a complete change of style from their house which was tucked into a quiet cul-de-sac and had a much more traditional look and a pool set in a remarkably pretty garden. This new home was to be much more modern in a style he describes as “loft minimalist.”
They took architect Corinne Amsellem, who also lives in the neighborhood, to get the look they wanted.
“I told her the style and functions we wanted and she had free rein on how to implement it,” he says. “We worked well together.”
When they bought the apartment it was basically a concrete shell.
“We wanted to do all the plumbing, flooring, wiring, carpentry and finish ourselves,” says Vago. “When you let the builder do these things you don’t know what you are getting and the standard is low.”
It took two years to get the place to look the way they wanted, and they moved in last July. All their old furniture was replaced because the new apartment had a completely different feel from the house.
“We did not want to take any of the furniture with us,” he says. “We used a tremendous amount of built-in carpentry and Corinne was ingenious in her use of space. We went from 500 square meters to 200, and have almost the same functions but on a different scale.”
The Poggenpohl kitchen is compact but has room for a remarkable number of appliances.
Except for one large oven which wouldn’t fit, they were able to find place for two sinks, two dishwashers, a combination microwave oven, regular oven and a huge double-door refrigerator.
There is also a drawer refrigerator handy for keeping bottles cold and two warming ovens. The flush induction cooking hob is set into the top of the island.
On the outer side, next to the living room and dining area, they keep glasses and drinks as in a bar.
“The concept is to represent a transition from the kitchen to the living area,” explains Vago. The silver tea service on the coffee table serves the same function.
Sliding glass doors on the counters keep many of the smaller machines hidden for the streamlined look, with mixer, blender, toaster and coffee machine neatly out of sight.
The same floor finish on both the kitchen and patio is to give a feeling of continuity and the dark-gray Italian basalt stone has the feel and look of concrete.
The dark-gray dining table and chairs came from Italy, as did all the furniture in the apartment, and the glass topped table expands to seat 12 comfortably.
In this area the architect allowed some minor decorative additions – the inlaid lacquer box from Burma on the table and the jade dragon as a reminder of their time in China on the shelves behind. A special display cabinet was created here for the collection of antique oil lamps Hannah inherited from her grandparents. A narrow strip of LED lighting means the objects can be optimally visible at all times.
The lounge, furnished in a light-gray suite with pale tan easy chairs looks out onto the main patio with a view of the nearby tall buildings and opens into the garden. The coffee table with a glass top and aluminum legs works with a hydraulic lift which can raise it to the level of a dining table and can seat another eight people.
The balcony is like another room with a completely equipped outdoor kitchen. Besides the barbecue there are a cooker, sink and storage, all finished in the same gray basalt stone as the indoor kitchen. There is also a fireplace out there for cooler evenings which doubles as a table when not in use.
In the upper patio the Jacuzzi is surrounded by sunbathing mattresses covered in a thick waterproof fabric in light gray, while the decking below is a slightly darker shade.
There is also an outdoor shower and TV.
“The whole perimeter is completely secluded,” says Vago.
The mostly white master bedroom has a slight contrast in the beige/gray headboard, the same shade of throw on the bed and the off-white oak flooring. Portraits of the couple’s four children provide the main decoration in this tranquil room.
The door opens on to a landing which doubles as a place for storing books and knickknacks.
Like the previous house, this is also a fully smart house.
“I can control every electrical device – climate, lights, blinds, Shabbat timer, and audio-visual equipment from anywhere in the world, through the Internet,” says Steve Vago.