Reunion in Ra’anana

Designer Selwyn Elkin places his unmistakable stamp on yet another home for a couple from South Africa.

Reunion in Ra’anana 521 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Reunion in Ra’anana 521
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
What better way to design your new home in Israel than by reconnecting to an old friend you haven’t seen in 55 years? That’s what happened to this retired couple from Cape Town when they decided to make aliya, buy a new home and settle in Ra’anana.
They contacted top Tel-Aviv designer Selwyn Elkin, who came here 30 years ago and revolutionized the whole concept of interior design, putting his unmistakable stamp on an infinite number of homes. Some belong to the rich and famous, some are modest family apartments but all have that certain something. This one is no exception; a warm and welcoming house with a cozy lived-in feel. As much a family home as a show home, the couple bought it from a large French family who had lived in it since it was built about 10 years ago.
“We looked at over 30 houses and narrowed it down to two,” says the owner. “The other one needed a lot of work while this was almost ready to walk into.”
Some structural alterations were necessary – they found to their surprise that although the master bedroom had three walk-in closets, it had no toilet in the en-suite bathroom.
“Can you imagine?” says the bemused owner. “They had a walk-in shoe closet, complete with an extractor fan, but no toilet?” They were able to take off part of the bedroom for a toilet and still leave plenty of room for all the necessary furniture.
Another must for her was an upstairs laundry room.
“I need a room which is near to all the sheets, clothes and towels I have to wash,” she says.
Elkin converted a small triangular balcony into a practical washroom complete with washing machine, dryer and hanging space.
Coming from a large house in Cape Town to a good-sized but much smaller home necessitated choosing all the furniture that was going to be transported to Israel and getting rid of the rest. Working long-distance, they sent photos of the furniture and curtains they wanted to keep, and Elkin was able to work out what should go where and lay it out for the best effect.
The attractive flowery lounge curtains, made of Indian crewel work, had actually been in a playroom in Cape Town.
“My lounge curtains were old by then but these were still in good condition and Selwyn approved so we brought them,” she says. In the main bedroom she put another flower-patterned curtain which was sent over complete with pelmet and cut down to size.
All the lounge and dining room furniture was transplanted to the new house as well as the art collection and several beautiful pieces of Ardmore sculpture made in South Africa. Matching cushions connect the two parts of the living room. A Perspex and glass coffee table stands on a pink and black Persian silk rug (“very old”) and the original tiles were polished to look like new before the couple arrived.
The kitchen was ready to walk into and all they needed to do was add a little more storage. All the handles were changed to unify the new and the old. The owner especially likes the fact that although it is an open-plan kitchen, it’s set at an angle so it can’t really be seen from the lounge. It also has a TV corner in which their old furniture fitted perfectly. Among other well-loved items, an Art Deco table fitted exactly into a niche at the top of the stairs.
The owner is a keen gardener and had a huge garden in South Africa for which she needed help. Here, she feels she can manage the relatively small garden on her own and is especially pleased with the planting arrangement dreamed up by her gardener, South African immigrant Brian Lotzoff, who built eye-level potting boxes for the flowers and small trees so she does not have to kneel or bend.
“The best part is that he used the old deck, which we had to take up, to build the boxes,” she says. “I love the contrast of the grass, timber, wall and the flowers and greenery.”
While she is still struggling with Hebrew, the owner and her husband feel that Ra’anana is one of the easiest places for English-speakers to settle. She is looking forward to having her daughters and sons-in-law come to visit with the grandchildren, one family from London and the other from Cape Town.
In the early ’60s Elkin recalls meeting up with the owners every summer at Muizenberg beach near Cape Town when they were teenagers.
“It was a small beach town where the Jewish community came together in their thousands from all over the country,” he says. “So much so, in fact, that it was nicknamed ‘Jewzenberg.’ Fifty-five years later we all met again, in Ra’anana.”