Harmony in Savyon

A retired British couple, he a rug expert and she an artist, choose the minimalist approach to offset their personal aesthetic.

Savyon house 521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Savyon house 521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
‘We’ve lived in every possible décor from high Victorian to classical Jewish Renaissance,’ say the owners of this beautiful home in Savyon, a newly arrived retired couple from England. When they came here, they decided that minimalist was the way to go.
“We’ve loved all our homes and especially the Victorian one,” she says. “But that look – high ceilings, intricate plaster work, wood paneling and rich velvet curtains – just didn’t seem right for the Mediterranean climate.”
They decided that white walls and simple lines would be less stimulating and much more restful.
As she is a very talented amateur painter and he is an expert in Jewish carpets with several very unusual examples, they both felt they preferred a neutral backdrop to show their treasures for best effect.
They saw many houses when they decided to settle here, but this one had just been more or less completed by the builder, and they were immediately attracted by what they call its clarity and purity.
“Especially compared to the other houses we saw, this one had never been lived in and was empty, not bringing the residue of yesterday’s cooking,” he says.
“The builder promised to do a lot more small jobs – but disappeared to America before he could manage them,” says the owner with a rueful grin. “But it was almost finished, and we were able to move in.”
Pushing open the heavy front gate, the first impression is of peace and harmony, created by a long stone water feature that gurgles its greeting as one walks up the steps to the front door, next to which stands a sculpture that looks like an embracing couple.
The house is on three floors, but a small elevator discreetly placed at the entrance solves the staircase problem.
Starting our tour of the house in the basement, the owner points out shelves upon shelves of books lining the walls. “All the shelves came from IKEA,” he says. Around the walls are his wife’s still-life paintings and her portraits, while the floor is covered with rugs from his collection.
The suite is in attractive pale green, surrounding a simple bent glass table in the center. It makes for an inviting corner to sit and browse through some of the estimated 10,000 books.
Rather than take the elevator, we walk up the stone staircase to inspect the family likenesses covering the walls, stopping to look at a window halfway up, facing the house next door.
“The builder put a film on the glass so we can see out but can’t be seen,” the owner points out.
The windows at the side extend over three floors, contributing about 14 meters of glass to the total side of the house.
Windows also make up much of the living room, and more windows open up to a patio leading to a long thin pool, perfect for doing serious lengths or just cooling off in our perpetual summer.
They like to have breakfast on the deck outside or serve supper when the grandchildren visit and are playing out in the garden. Flowers and bushes around the pool bloom healthily in pots.
The lounge is simply furnished with a suite in light grey corduroy and a dining table made of tancolored glass with matching tan leather chairs.
“There’s so much richness outside,” says the artistic owner, “that inside we wanted to emphasize function as the main concept.
Everything should blend into the background.
Each space has a function, and each should relate to the space next to it, just like in a painting where the background creates a harmony.”
The contrast between the home of today and the high Victorian look is so strong, one wonders if they miss the ornate look at all.
“In many ways it was a great stimulus for design and color,” says the artist wife. “But we wanted a change, and that lifestyle is hard to keep up nowadays. All that silver and crystal – you need staff to run a home like that.”
Here contemporary designer chairs complete the look, and the wife’s paintings decorate the plain white walls.
Glass also features strongly in the adjoining kitchen decorated in white Formica and wood veneer. A glass sliding door can separate the kitchen from the rest of the living space if necessary, and glass is used instead of tiles. The thick glass creates a very pale turquoise effect, and the chairs around the island are upholstered in a similar shade.
“We both love glass,” she says. “You both see it and see through it.”
Upstairs we take a look at the guest bedroom situated directly under the roof of the house. I particularly like the two easy chairs at the entrance to the room, which they tell me came from the Back Shop in London, a company specializing in ergonomic furniture. The sculptural chairs are made of metal tubes covered in some sort of foam, and over this the wife knitted her own multicolored covers, creating both a striking feature and an incredibly comfortable chair.
Finally we inspect one of the many Jewish carpets around the house, and the owner points out the elements that make it Jewish. “The three sections of this Bezalel rug display three of the most evocative sites in Jewish history: the tamarisk tree planted by Abraham in Beersheba; Mount Sinai; and the tree planted by Theodor Herzl on his one trip to Israel. There are subliminal messages too. In the double-arched niche, we see the outline of the Tablets of the Law, and the vertical columns are reminiscent of the Polish Sabbath candlesticks.”
Looking around, one realizes that an ultramodern piece of furniture looks great on an antique rug – harmony is everything.