On a shoestring

For one designer, ‘design your persona’ is the concept guiding him as he brings an old-fashioned apartment into the 21st century.

Modern Living room apartment 311 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Modern Living room apartment 311
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Having exhausted most of her savings when she bought a secondhand 60-square-meter apartment in Ramat Gan, the owner, a single nurse in a large Tel Aviv teaching hospital, still felt she needed to invest in hiring a designer to sort out her new living space. It was dark, poky and old-fashioned so she decided that she would do a radical alteration and turned to Yaron Iftach Ben-Gera to do the job.
She couldn’t have made a better choice, because Ben-Gera sees it as a mission to save his clients money and seems to know every outlet in the area where good furniture and fittings can be bought for a song. The super-expensive designer boutiques around north Tel Aviv and Herzliya are not for him. He scours the area to find the best bargains, discovering little-known and inexpensive shops. If he has to travel to Rishon Lezion to get cut-price tiles, he will. And if he wants a specific piece of furniture that’s too pricey in the stores, he has it made.
He came to design after a career in marketing and having studied theater, and he feels the combination of these skills has helped him in his successful design business.
“There are a lot of good designers in Israel today but they don’t know how to interact with the client,” he says. “After years in selling I have learned to match the design to the personality and I listen to the client to find out in which direction they want to go.”
Ben-Gera and his client started with the floors, changing the standard small beige tiles for large gray ones.
“I found them for a quarter of the price that they cost in a fancy place,” Ben-Gera says proudly. “It was near the Tel Aviv central bus station and they are exactly the same quality as you might get in Ramat Hasharon, also made in Italy, not China, but you don’t get a cup of cappuccino when you walk into the place.”
By changing the floor he immediately created a feeling of space and carried it through to the bathroom as well as the two bedrooms.
For the color scheme of the kitchen he decided to keep the multi-colored tiles that were already in place, as the owner liked them and had no budget to re-do this particular part of the décor. So he added orange elements in a chair, a painting and a vase, and chose to use the olive green of another tile for the water dispensing machine. He shopped around for the Italian-made oven and found one in a beige color that blended with the tiles, and again paid a quarter of the price that he would have in a more up-market place. He created a bar that separates the kitchen from the lounge and added glass inset doors to lighten the look.
The sofa was copied from something they had seen in the Design Center.
“I took a sketch to a furniture maker in Jaffa, chose a nice gray material that is very fashionable now, and had it made for a fraction of the original price,” he says.
He created the entrance-way by building an illuminated niche at the front door, adding a mirror to make the small space look larger and displaying colorful items on the shelves. In the bathroom he changed very little as the fittings were in good condition, just bringing in the new floor and adding a cornice with hidden lighting.
In the bedroom the client wanted a built-in wardrobe, and again Ben-Gera shopped around until he found a place in Rishon that he felt did good work but again at a fraction of the cost of more well-known furniture builders.
“I asked [the client] what things she wanted to store in this wardrobe and had it built accordingly,” he said. “The sliding doors were put in so as not to take up room, and we added glass to the doors to again lighten the whole effect. We put a delicate wallpaper on the walls and made the frame of the wardrobe and the headboard gray to match the floor.”
He opened up a storage cupboard next to the bedroom to create a charming little reading corner with a chair and table. The owner was delighted with the finished apartment and felt that in spite of the cutting of corners she had received a home that reflects a certain elegance.
When Ben-Gera takes on a project he throws himself into it with great enthusiasm, a feeling he also communicates to the client.
“The secret is getting to know the person and designing a home that will fit him,” he says. “‘Design your persona’ is the concept that guides me.”