‘I am not a designer who takes the easy way out,” says Selwyn Elkin, whose homes have been featured many times in this column for the simple reason that they are invariably beautiful.“I don’t do gray tiles, white walls and neutral upholstery fabrics,” he says.One could not find a better example of his style than this Tel Aviv penthouse, where color is anything but self-effacing. And not just color.
The furnishings, artwork and fabrics are all there to make a statement.It belongs to an older couple who made aliya from Canada many years ago. Elkin had designed their first home in Israel, a villa in Herzliya Pituah, and for years afterward wondered how they were getting on.“It was one of my first big jobs,” he recalls. “When they decided to downsize, they contacted me again.”The living room was large enough, even with the downsizing, to accommodate two separate seating areas.The fabric chosen for two of the sofas is a flamboyant red-and-white floral. It took a great deal of time and trouble before they found just the right material, which originated in England. Next to it are two retro ’50s chairs upholstered in a red-andwhite stripe.Although it seems like breaking the rules of design to put stripes together with floral, Elkin has the confidence to do it – and it looks wonderful.The table that separates the two floral couches is lacquered in gray to tone with the walls. It has a collection of bronze sculptures and two lamps with the ebony stands carved to look like leaves. On the windowsill next to it is a glass bust by Picasso.The sofa faces a wooden unit with what looks like a large mirror in the center, but this is actually a television.This is the family area, and also in the unit are a built-in bar, and a refrigerator with an ice-maker. The unit even contains a small sink for rinsing out the glasses; the sink has a pop-up faucet operated by remote control so it can be made to disappear at the push of a button.The second side of the lounge is furnished in gray to match the walls.Perspex brackets were made to display the many bronze sculptures. A grand piano next to the balcony becomes a repository for all the family photos, and a ceiling light was custom- made to echo the piano shape.The regal dining room has a three-meter glass-topped table standing on Plexiglas legs – the same table made for the villa 30 years ago.The original chairs were re-covered in a black damask fabric embossed with silver thread and painted in black lacquer.To complete the room, there is a cabinet, also in black lacquer, that houses all the dinner services and flatware. A collection of silver and Judaica stands on the cabinet, reflected in the mirrored back.Over the table hangs a chandelier that Elkin designed, made locally in Tel Aviv from fine metal and crystal drops. To add more color, a Max Ernst Dadaist screen that was already in the family was added in the corner, and an unsigned Italian oil painting on the wall.Throughout the apartment, Elkin has put surround-sound speakers – but behind the plaster, out of sight.“It’s something new on the market and perfect for the look we wanted,” he says.The kitchen continues the redand- gray color scheme, with a round, glass breakfast table and dark-gray leather chairs. Over the table hangs an impressive round light fitting in red, echoing the shape and the color of the table.The cabinets are all white lacquer, and there is one complete wall of stainless steel – including the refrigerator, cooker and cabinets.However, the bar chairs and one wall bring in the vivid red shade. The integrated sink, made of the same Corian material as the worktops, is completely seamless to give a particularly streamlined look. The wall television is designed to keep recipes readily available.The guest bathroom is thing of beauty in its own right, with gold-lacquered fittings and a gold glass basin. The striped walls have been hand-painted, and the luxurious gold faucet and soap dispenser complete the picture.Husband and wife have their own bedrooms and adjoining bathrooms; the wife’s is especially glamorous, with purple glass shower doors and a tiled mosaic floor in dark gray and purple. The dressing table is covered in mirrors, both on the drawers and the top.The large balcony, furnished with raffia chairs and table, looks down to a central garden, with a view of the sea.For this older couple, downsizing meant they could still have the elegant interior of their seaside villa, right in the heart of Tel Aviv.