A child-friendly penthouse

By combining two apartments into one, this couple created a huge penthouse with a rustic feel-and plenty of room for kids and pets.

tel aviv view 521 (photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
tel aviv view 521
(photo credit: URIEL MESSA)
Although it’s in a sophisticated part of Tel Aviv – Neveh Avivim – and stretches over 500 square meters, the instant feeling on coming into this penthouse is that it is warm, welcoming and very child-friendly.
Perhaps it’s the animal cages spread around, or the dollhouse in a corner, or the poodle-like dog that jumps up to lick a greeting. Whatever it is, the Provence-style fittings and furnishings make this look like what its owners were aiming for – a villa in the sky.
The owner, a young mother of five children ranging in age from 15 to three, wasn’t quite sure what look she wanted when she and her husband bought the penthouse next to the one they already owned and turned it into one huge space. She brought in an architect who suggested a modern, minimalist look that would be snapped up by all the avant-garde journals.
“I was crying,” she says. “The architect was talking about gray stone floors like sidewalks and dark bathrooms.
I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t that.”
She started to think about what decors she had most admired, and realized she loved the rustic look variously labeled Provence or Tuscany. They chose all the furniture, colors and fabrics that fitted in with her concept; later, she was surprised to discover that the look she had created would have fit well with her grandmother’s home in Manhattan.
“I was born here,” says the owner, “but often visited my grandmother in New York, and subconsciously I must have wanted to recreate those happy childhood visits.”
One enters the apartment into a large space sparsely furnished with a few Regency-style chairs, a huge round gilt mirror and a large rug. The owner immediately explains that this is where the children like to play. Further into the space are a kitchen and dining room occupied by a large hamster cage, an empty rabbit cage and a play tent and dollhouse in another corner.
A tiny, sweet hamster is put on the table for inspection, arousing the curiosity of Milky, the friendly dog.
Meanwhile, my curiosity is aroused by the streamlined stainless-steel kitchen, which seems to depart from the rustic concept, in spite of a rough brick surround to the gas stove.
“I felt that a big wooden kitchen would be too heavy,” explains the owner, “so I decided to break the style a bit, but only here.”
The iron chandeliers suspended from the ceiling help to retrieve the country look.
We walk up to the second floor via an impressive, wide staircase of mottled cream marble with an ornate banister, which was created by an artist and fulfilled her desire for something that would suggest movement.
“I had a picture of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind in my mind when we designed the staircase,” she confesses.
The main sitting room has a color scheme of orange and mustard chairs arranged around two long, pale wood bird’s-eye maple coffee tables side by side. The whole arrangement sits on an orange carpet, which she feels was quite a daring choice.
An old stone fireplace and some unusual ornaments add to the country-house feel. Another kitchen is situated on this floor, this one decorated in distressed light wood and totally in keeping with the concept of the house.
The owner proudly shows me the dinner service that was also chosen carefully to fit in with the concept – the Wedgwood Cornucopia design, consisting of a tan marble outer edge roped with cobalt blue.
“Nothing comes into the house if it doesn’t suit the style,” she says firmly.
Because the apartment is made from two penthouses, there is a huge balcony on either side. The adults’ balcony is the best place to get a view of the sea not too far away, and here we find the two rabbits enjoying the fresh air instead of in their cage.
On the other side, the children’s balcony is much more sheltered and has artificial grass so they don’t slip when they come out of the Jacuzzi. This balcony is home to the two parrots.
The owner is especially proud of the guest toilet on this floor, with its hand-made toilette in distressed brown wood, the cream marble surround and the embossed gold wallpaper. The carefully chosen bathroom accessories complete the look she wanted.
In another part of the vast living room is an unusual copper box table studded with buttons; this acts as a bar, the drinks and everything else kept in a glass-fronted vitrine against the wall. A huge ornate gilt mirror stands in this corner, along with an easy chair upholstered in shocking pink damask. The windows are hung with cappuccino shaded shot satin drapes.
The television room, separated from the living room by doors covered in white padded quilting, is furnished with a bed-like easy chair so anyone sitting there can stretch out. It is upholstered in purple and apricot stripes, another daring combination.
North Tel Avivians are sometimes referred to as “tzfonim,” which connotes rich and snobby. But that certainly isn’t the feeling one gets in this North Tel Aviv home.