Raising Ra’anana

After retirement in Arizona, this couple turned to an expert to turn their house of collectables into a home.

Raanana dining room 521 (photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
Raanana dining room 521
(photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
How do you choose what to keep from an 800-squaremeter mansion in Phoenix, Arizona, when you’re moving to a penthouse in Ra’anana? That was the dilemma facing this retired couple when they decided to move here two and a half years ago.
To add to their problems, both their parents and several sets of grandparents had been compulsive collectors, and their home in the United States was a repository of sumptuous antiques, many of which they were loath to part with.
“The problem was that every piece had a story,” says the wife. “Either it was connected to when and where it was acquired, or it was a gift from someone special.”
She points out, as an example, the two magnificent English early-19th-century Copeland urns, displayed in two glass cases on either side of the lounge.
“Every six months my mother summoned one of her sons-in-law – a surgeon – to take them down and clean them,” she says. “They are so precious and unusual, she only trusted a surgeon’s hands.”
Or how could they part with the bronze cornucopia that her husband bought as a surprise gift after she had jokingly expressed an interest in it at an exhibition in New York? Or the blue Delft plate that had been in his greatgrandparents’ home? With so many objects and so many stories, they might have been slightly tempted to sell the lot and start over with a simpler look – but sentiment won the day, and clearly the reminders of the past still bring them great pleasure.
The Ra’anana apartment had been partially renovated by the previous owner, who had already done the glamorous steel kitchen. After he divorced and remarried, the new wife wouldn’t hear of living in the same apartment, so it was put up for sale.
The owners realized they needed serious help to get it the way they wanted it to look.
“I’m a new immigrant. How would I know where to go for tiles and woodwork?” she says.
I can modestly take credit for recommending my favorite designer, Tel Avivbased Selwyn Elkin, who can always be relied on to bring his special touch to any home. The shidduch proved successful, and the results are, clearly, superb.
He visited them in their rental apartment, where he saw all the treasures for which he would have to find places, and heard of many more still in storage. Undaunted, he set about creating a series of glass-fronted display cabinets or specially designed niches, with the specific object or piece of furniture in mind.
“It wasn’t easy, especially as the new apartment was considerably smaller than the rented one,” says Elkin.
The main living room also had to contain the large dining table and become home to many wonderful antiques that had been in the family for decades – occasional tables with intricate marquetry, two huge candelabras that had been used at all the family weddings, the carved chair that had been used for the bride to undergo the bedeken (covering) ceremony, the miniature carved table and chairs where the grandchildren loved to sit and have tea parties.
The color scheme of the lounge was worked around the red-and-navy Persian rug, another heirloom. The sofa, dating from the ’50s, had been black and was reupholstered in a ruby-red grosgrain fabric.
Opposite this is an early American love seat, the wooden frame inlaid with flowers, and the fabric made of what looks like goldembossed and patterned leather. The large balcony off the living room has a lovely garden blooming in planters and is a great place to sit and have morning coffee or an evening meal.
The dining-room chairs, surrounded by all these priceless antiques, are actually covered in embossed plastic, which the couple says is very practical for when the grandchildren eat there, as they often do.
The walls are covered in paintings from all periods but so perfectly displayed that they complement each other. It took Elkin days to hang up the art on the walls. There’s a 17thcentury oil painting next to a small but powerful Matisse etching. Family portraits line the corridors, where there is also a special niche to house a very old Italian Bombay chest.
In the corridor, too, is the hand-washing station, which has a brass faucet hanging from the very top of the niche, a length of at least a meter. The whole niche is lined with mirrors, and various glass and porcelain objects are displayed.
The family room was extended at the expense of the balcony so as to accommodate visitors.
“I still have two families in the US,” notes the owner.
The décor here includes a mirror made out of a horse’s collar and a collage of Arizona arrowheads and flints, in case they are feeling nostalgic.
The master bedroom also leads to a flowery balcony and is furnished with an imposing four-poster bed.
On the second floor is an entire guest suite with an enormous corner Jacuzzi, from which rises a waterproof working television. The view over the Ra’anana rooftops to the distance is spectacular.
“We don’t need to climb these stairs very often,” say the owners, who have planned so far ahead they even had the elevator for the whole building enlarged in case they might need a wheelchair one day.
For this American couple, Ra’anana was something of a last-minute choice.
“We were planning to go to Jerusalem, and on a pre-aliya trip to the Rockies, we met an English couple with whom we became great friends,” they recall.
“They persuaded us to try Ra’anana for a year.”
Now, after two and a half years, they know they made the right choice. They have made many friends and created a life for themselves. They are especially grateful to Elkin for creating their beautiful home.
“He’s part of our life now,” they say.