Exotic in Eilat

An early investment paid off later, enabling this couple to build their dream house.

Hearst Castle 521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Hearst Castle 521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Home-owners Aran and Chaya had numerous influences in producing their exotic abode in Eilat. French Provence, Gaudi buildings in Barcelona, and even Hearst Castle in California were some of the places they used for inspiration and ideas – far-flung, but all uniting to create the warm and colorful home pictured here. The two are now in their early 50s with two grown children. Aran was born in Eilat and works in hi-tech, while Chaya comes originally from Jaffa.
“My parents came from North Africa in 1947 and went to a kibbutz,” says Aran. “When they wanted to leave in the late ’50s, they were offered a job and an apartment in Timna, which was the only opportunity available at the time.”
After the army, he was working as a diver in the nowdefunct Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv when he met Chaya, who was in computers. He decided that performing with dolphins was not going to constitute a lifetime career and wentto study for four years at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. They married and had two sons.
Just after the Gulf War in 1991, they received an offer to work abroad for a few years and decided it was just what they wanted. Chaya suggested they think about buying a house, or at least some land. “If we go abroad and don’t have a home, we never will,” she said.
At the time, land in Eilat was cheap. They bought the plot, went to France and started to think about what they would build when they came back.
For five years, from 1991 to 1996, they planned, even bringing over architect Eli Bina for a week to Lyons, where they were based.
“We basically spent the entire week brainstorming on what we wanted,” says Aran.
They traveled around France looking at different styles, and liked the look they saw in Aix-en-Provence, where they studied houses and materials.
One of the most important items they decided to bring back to Eilat was a container of handmade 19th-century roof tiles that had been collected from old demolished houses in Provence. The style they had chosen was “Mas Provençal” – that of a country home in France’s southern region.
They also brought over the wooden doors and windows they were going to install.
The rounded iron balconies and railings were loosely inspired by some of the Gaudi houses they had seen on visits to Barcelona, and they were lucky to find a blacksmith who was able to do the job and give them the look they wanted. The shutters, on the other hand, take their inspiration – or at least their color – from Greece, being painted in bright royal blue.
The house has an uninterrupted view of the Red Sea; on the other side is the Shahamon wadi, which occasionally floods, making it impossible to build there.
BUILDING THE house used up so many of their resources when they moved in in 1997 that the dream kitchen had to wait; it was completed only in 2000. The cabinets are made of pear wood, and the handles are copper. The work tops are not marble, but a pinkish stone that comes from neighboring Petra, the rose-red city. Terra-cotta tiles of different shades cover most of the floors, inside and out, while vivid mosaics decorate the kitchen cabinets.
Each of the two bedrooms belonging to the couple’s sons has its own character. One is decorated with cartoons of Tintin, which Chaya painted; the other is the refuge of a very keen surfer. As Aran points out, they all love the sea; most people living in Eilat do.
In the middle of the house is a tree-shaded patio with an intricately tiled floor inside a terra-cotta surround, and it’s possible to sit out here even when the heat is powerful.
Finally we look at the house’s entrance and the brightly colored insets of the steps leading up, a direct copy of one of the staircases at Hearst Castle.
The stones of the rockery, which come from Timna and the copper mines nearby, have a green glint to them, while the plants have been carefully chosen for the arid climate.
Chaya designed a pebble fish, set into the step at the entrance, to greet visitors. It symbolizes prosperity and health and sets the tone for the warm welcome inside this charming and carefully planned home.
“We put an enormous amount of thought into this house,” says Aran. “People have come in and made us offers, but frankly there’s no price for this house.”