Mad about Tel Aviv

A loft-like residence not far from the chaos of a huge and busy intersection in South Tel Aviv has a contemporary look, but it is far from being minimalistic.

Tel Aviv home (photo credit: Uriel Mesa)
Tel Aviv home
(photo credit: Uriel Mesa)
One of the things that makes Tel Aviv such an appealing city is the amount of greenery that springs up unexpectedly in even the grimiest of areas. You could be walking in an area of busy thoroughfares, honking cars and unattractive warehouses, then you turn a corner and suddenly you are in a graceful, treelined, quiet street full of residential buildings, cared-for gardens, even a few boutiques.
This was the experience of visiting Shmulik Bilgoray in his loft-like residence not far from the chaos of a huge and busy intersection in South Tel Aviv. He is an interior designer who created a home for himself, his wife, Idit, and two small children at the top of a nearly 40-year old building.
“We bought an old apartment on the fourth floor and also the roof, which we were able to turn into a second floor for us,” explains Bilgoray, who studied interior architecture at a local college.
Much of his work until now was designing shops for clothing companies such as Renuar and Crazy Line.
“It’s a completely different way of thinking and approach,” says the 39-year-old sabra. “When you do a shop, you have to please a lot of people, and also convey the brand. For the apartment I just had to please myself, which is in some ways harder.”
Having acquired the old apartment, the first thing was to knock down all the inner walls to divide the 85 square meters differently. What is now the TV room with the staircase was the kitchen, and the bedroom is where the old living room was.
“The concept was that the entrance floor would be private, with the bedrooms and work places, while the upstairs would be for entertaining,” explains Bilgoray. He also put a strong emphasis on green, sustainable building with the materials he chose, and the use of energy-conserving lights placed in unusual ways.
The alteration took about two years from the moment of buying, through acquiring the necessary permits, to the day they moved in. The construction is not the classic concrete and cement but is made from pre-built panels.
“It’s much quicker to build this way, and also much lighter, which is important in a very old house like this one,” explains Bilgoray.
With two small children did they consider adding a playroom? “No, the whole house is a playroom,” he says with a smile.
While the apartment has a contemporary look it is far from being minimalistic, particularly on the second floor with the daring textile combinations of the living room and the warm bamboo kitchen.
“The first floor is calmer,” acknowledges Bilgoray.
But it is the lounge that draws the visitor in, with its vibrant colors and eclectic style.
In a joint venture with two other designers, Micky Breger, who designs furniture, and Yaron Shmueli, who chooses the textiles, Bilgoray presents his own living room as an example of the modern styling in which his company specializes. The mixing of geometric and floral, the unusual color combinations contrive to look stunning.
“After living with them for six months, orange and pink together look normal,” says Bilgoray.
THE LONG BEIGE sofa covered in a thick woven cloth is a perfect foil for the vivid cushions in contrasting fabrics which add so much color to the room. Another chair, also designed by Breger, is inspired by a wooden packing crate with upholstery in a pink floral material. Two armchairs from the 1950s and a stainless steel display cabinet complete the picture.
Out on the balcony with a dazzling view of Tel Aviv all around, a built-in grapera wood seat is covered in a hard-wearing white material that can withstand sun and rain. Out here a thriving small garden yields tomatoes, peppers and every possible herb.
Down the staircase to sample the delights of the entrance floor, we note the glass walls, the black oak floor and bamboo everywhere.
“It’s an amazing material,” says Bilgoray enthusiastically.
“First of all it’s ‘green’ in the sense that regular wood takes 25 years before you can use it, and bamboo can be used after five years. You buy it in rolls and although it’s very difficult for the carpenter as it’s extremely hard, it’s very practical.”
Bamboo is used all over the apartment either in its natural color or sometimes painted in black or white.
In the master bedroom all the drawers and built-in closets are covered in natural bamboo.
Other interesting textures are achieved by using embossed wallpaper on wood which is also painted over. The entrance to the children’s bedrooms is a gentle white curve created by using flexible board.
“This is an important junction,” explains Bilgoray, “and I wanted it not to be a sharp corner, preferring the curve.”
In this striking area with snow-white walls and black floor, they have managed to include a desk and computer area where Idit can work on the visual merchandising which is the essence of her work as a window dresser.
Several unusual features add interest and are easy to copy. A small niche at the entrance contains two circles cut out of the white base and painted black so you will never have to say, “Now where did I put my keys?” again.
All the electric fuse boxes are covered, and LED lighting is used wherever possible to save energy.
“We love living in Tel Aviv,” say Shmulik and Idit. “We’re both city people. We love to visit the countryside and see the greenery – but after two or three days we go crazy and want to come back to the city.”