Asian influence

This unique home is a result of the owners’ taste – acquired while living a rather different lifestyle in the Far East.

Isaac Ofek's Asian-themed living room 521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Isaac Ofek's Asian-themed living room 521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Isaac Ofek, a businessman and a writer, was born in Marrakesh but spent much of his adult life in the Far East. His home in Ramat Aviv is a reflection of the dual aspects of his personality.
His wife Miriam is a Philippines-born pediatrician who underwent an Orthodox conversion to Judaism several years ago. Their home, a double apartment in a new building, offers endlessly changing views of the Mediterranean practically at their doorstep. The inside reflects the many years spent in the Far East – Korea, Hong Kong and Japan – with artifacts from all these places and more.
“It’s 90 percent Asian,” he says.
Perhaps the most abiding influence Hong Kong and Japan had on the couple was the need for space after so much time in densely populated areas.
“We wanted to be able to spread ourselves after having lived in poky apartments in the Far East,” they say.
They were able to buy two apartments in the building, which was begun in 2005 and took several years to complete. One was 140 square meters and the other 110 sq.m., making for a total of 250 sq.m.
This enabled them to have two sitting rooms, both decorated in autumnal colors that, taken as a whole, blend pleasantly together. The left side is predominantly cream and brown, with color provided by the many hand-embroidered cushions and vivid paintings, while on the right, the seating arrangement is a warmer shade, more like apricot and brown with tobacco-shaded cushions.
The matching coffee tables, designed by Isaac, are made of rosewood with a mahogany finish and cream marble in the center, which matches other touches of marble in the rooms. The wooden coat stand was brought from Korea, and there are many decorative objects around – like the three terra cotta warriors in the corner and the oriental vases – which remind the couple of the places they left. In one corner is a cello, which Isaac likes to play in the evening when it’s quiet; during the day, he prefers the saxophone.
The splendid kitchen is a revelation for Miriam in more ways than one. Not only is she learning to make Jewish food, she is learning to cook. As a doctor, she was always too busy to do domestic things, so her mother did everything.
“It’s a different lifestyle in the Philippines,” she explains.
The kitchen, all sleek black wood and white marble, is in the back of the apartment and looks out over Tel Aviv.
“When it’s all lit up at night with the tall buildings in the distance, it reminds me of Hong Kong,” she says.
For a novice cook, she has some sophisticated culinary accessories, like a wine fridge and a gas hob located on the central island. There are two sinks, for kashrut purposes, and earthenware pots in which she grows herbs that both enhance the food and add color to the room, relieving the stark black and white of the space.
The dining room, situated between the two lounges and the kitchen in the back, is where they entertain friends for dinner on Shabbat. The large inlaid table and solid leather chairs come into their own on Friday night when old friends and new come to celebrate with them.
Several brightly colored paintings from China and an old painted screen embellish this part of the apartment.
Over the table is a chandelier with hanging crystal pieces in the shape of autumn leaves; this is Italian, one of the few non-oriental pieces in the entire place.
Finally we are shown the bedroom, which for Isaac represents purity and cleanliness, its predominantly white appearance relieved by some more colorful paintings.
“This is the uninterrupted dream space,” says Isaac, who is the author of several books and plays.
Interestingly the cover of his book The Poem and the Moon features a bedroom not unlike the one in this apartment.
The blurb describes the story as an “ambitious and epic exploration of the idea that love conquers all.”
Somehow this seems to sum up their lives, too.