On the move

Why would anyone want to leave a Spanish-American-style mansion with a sea view in Caesarea? Why not, if you could just take the whole thing with you somewhere else...

luxury home 311 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
luxury home 311
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
The Rettigs, Dr. Joshua and Linda, are moving again for about the 38th time. Their son, Benjamin, who lives in Tel Aviv, says he’s helped them build or renovate so many homes that he’s lost count. He studied, he says, in the school of trial and error.
Disrupting? No, not at all they say.
“Every time we’ve sold a house and moved into a new one, it’s been an adventure and a creative experience,” say the couple from California, who settled in Caesarea six years ago and are now ready to move on.
“We were never married to any of our houses,” they say. “It’s just a showcase and it’s the milieu that one creates inside that is important.”
Saying good-bye to their splendid Spanish- American-style mansion doesn’t warrant even a pang of regret. And this is a home that they physically created. The house was there, but they helped to renovate it, laying tiles and parquet, putting up bricks and spreading plaster.
When you’ve moved that many times, you become a hands-on owner.
On one of their first visits to the country in 1971 they came to Caesarea and decided that this was where they wanted to live eventually.
They spent 1984 to ’86 in Jerusalem, when Joshua took time off from his radiology practice, so the two children could learn to speak Hebrew. When the time came to settle here permanently, they began to look for the ideal house.
“This house appealed to us immediately, because it’s at the end of a cul-de-sac so is very quiet, and privacy was important to us,” they say. They liked the design, which reminded them of homes where they came from. They liked the fact that it was built on the highest point of Caesarea and the sea was visible from every point. Facing west, they could sit on one of the balconies and watch incredible sunsets every day.
So they set to work putting their individual stamp on the house. They began with the front door, which has a decorative inset of laser-cut iron which blends with the faintly Oriental feel of the archways separating the hall from the living areas. It was designed by Benjamin, who is studying marine biology but clearly has a very artistic bent.
The large open entrance is home to some striking artwork, including a massive Daniel Kafri sculpture of Galilee stone depicting a father blessing his son.
“That’s been moved about 40 times as well,” they say. “It’s traveled a lot.” Linda adds. “I would never choose a home based on a piece of art I had, but when we saw this corner, we instantly visualized it for this particular piece.”
To the right of the hall are two kitchens, a milk one and a meat one, which Linda insists are her domain. A guest bathroom has an incongruous crystal chandelier which is very effective.
In the living room light floods in from three sides and a large gilt mirror reflects the homely seating arrangement of a large comfy sofa upholstered in beige Regency fabric and two bentwood armchairs around a mahogany glasstopped coffee table complete with drawers.
The dining room is furnished with an ornate, oval cherrywood table and hand-carved ribbonbacked chairs upholstered in neutral off-white fabric. Over the sideboard are family portraits and some David Roberts prints, including a very rare one from 1845 in which the artist depicts Jews, apparently for the only time.
In a far corner a glass cabinet holds incredibly beautiful fossils which were recently acquired on a trip to Morocco. “I knew of this place in the Sahara desert,” says Joshua. He points out another collection of fossils in the den. “These are quite young,” he says with a smile. “Only about 200 million years old.”
We climb the spiral staircase with its wooden handrail and are immediately greeted by a wall of books and a comfy chaise longue for sitting and reading. “This is our hard-core Holocaust collection,” says Joshua.
The area is flooded with light from an unusual round skylight with octagonal windows. “We like a lot of light,” he says, and Linda adds, “We never buy a house that’s dark.”
AS THEY ARE voracious readers they have to have four or five areas designated just for reading from their collection of 4,000 books.
The master bedroom has a 160-degree view of the sea from its balcony and also a 300-year-old carob tree growing in the garden below. Several other bedrooms and guest suites make up this floor and one room is set aside just for closets.
The basement is 150 square meters of extra space and is well-lit thanks to the English balconies all around. Many more books are kept down here and one room also sports a sauna and gym as well as a backup electrical system for those periodic power cuts. All in all, the entire house covers 600 square meters of living space.
With artwork from many parts of the world the Rettigs feel they can take the essence of their home with them wherever they go. And they have so many one-of-a-kind pieces like the Dutch tile painting made by the only Jew working for the Delft company, Rozenberg, or a table made from a solid brass plaque dating from the turn of the century which was found on a building site.
They are so well-versed in the art of moving that they can move into a new home and have several 40-foot containers unpacked and everything in place in a week or so.
“We can live literally anywhere in the world,” they say.
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