Shabby chic, Israel-style

Home stylist Leli Goldstein makes it possible to fall in love with a house.

Interior Design 521 (photo credit: Uriel Massa)
Interior Design 521
(photo credit: Uriel Massa)
You can definitely fall in love with a house. Having seen hundreds in the course of the last eight years, I can say that it doesn’t often happen.
But Leli Goldstein’s English cottage in Herzliya Pituah spoke to me as few houses have.
She is a home stylist who studied textiles at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, but is also a graduate of the Adler Institute in Tel Aviv, where she eventually became a lecturer in parenting. Not wanting to give up her design work, she decided to combine the two, and she has firm ideas about how the space we live in affects the dynamics within a family.
“I grew up one of four children, including my twin brother in a small house here in Herzliya Pituah,” says Goldstein, who is one of the daughters of Paul Kohn, for many years a sports writer for The Jerusalem Post.
“All my friends were very rich and lived in huge houses like museums, but they loved coming to visit me. It was cozy, and lively and fun. A home is like a piece of clothing – it should not be too big and not too small, but fit snugly.”
In the course of her work she still sees the phenomenon; massive show kitchens where the lady of the house can’t boil an egg.
“My house has to serve me, not me serve it,” she says with feeling.
Goldstein and her dentist husband Yarden rent this home and they have rented several others in the last 10 years.
It causes a dilemma every time she renovates a house.
“I invest as little as possible but I still make them beautiful and every time the landlord sees what I’ve done, they want the house back to live in or to sell,” she says. In this house, which she has had for three years, she put a natural oak floor all over the house but it is not glued down so she can move it, like a carpet.
The house is not just extraordinarily pretty but is a showcase for her talents as a designer. For many years she had her own business, creating baby linen because she couldn’t find what she wanted in the shops, and she also designed her own very attractive mezuza covers, made from glass beads encased in a rectangular vintage case. She says she likes nothing better than to find some old chair or chest of drawers and to restore it with a few touches of paint and new upholstery.
The style of the house can be described as vintage, or shabby chic, with several books on the coffee table in the lounge, including Perfect English Cottages and Vintage Style giving a clue to the atmosphere she wanted to create. Rachel Ashwell, creator of the shabby-chic look, is her inspiration.
“Lighting and color are both very important to create the right energies,” she says.
“I also love to mix and match furnishings and accessories.”
Walking into the small lounge, the first impression is of airiness and an ethereal quality from the white blinds sifting the harsh light outside to a gentler light within.
The low beamed ceiling is painted white and the seating arrangements are white or cream, with a numerous decorative cushions. The large glass-topped coffee table fits well in the space and has room for plants, flowers and books. A white piano and piano stool complete the picture.
The three children are usually kept out of this room but have their own equally pretty den also furnished in white and with several pieces of “distressed” furniture which are also practical for storage.
Two white mirrors on the wall were originally black plastic from Ikea – “super cheap” says Goldstein – but now look very effective and soften the harsh rectangle of the room. A huge plaster bowl on the table stores papers and books. “I painted it white,” she says. “I paint everything.”
A simple Ikea kitchen and a dining area furnished with an old mahogany table matched with modern white chairs complete the downstairs. At the top of the steep staircase the landing is used as a playroom for the children, full of toys and games, while the three bedrooms all have distinctive characters.
The master bedroom is prettily decorated with a dainty blue-and-white counterpane, while the children’s rooms are quite different – bunk beds for the two younger children in one, and a very boyish blueand- cream room for the 10-year-old son.
“If someone takes me to style their home, they should know I have eclectic tastes, love to mix and match and I love flea-market finds I can transform into something beautiful,” she says. “I like things that have a story attached to them.”