A healthy environment

A window onto Jaffa.

jaffa home 88 224 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
jaffa home 88 224
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
'We looked at apartments in North Tel Aviv and Ra'anana, but quickly realized a conventional home was not for us," say Aviva and Michael Murgraff, a young couple with two small children and a new baby who moved into their Jaffa home recently. It was this dread of suburbia that led them to choose a home which is brand new, but built in the style of the old Arab house to which it has been added, complete with arches inside and out, porthole windows, pillars and mosaic floors. They also have very firm ideas about preserving the environment and have used only natural materials in the creation of their home, which was considered so beautiful that it was featured in an advertising brochure. As an osteopath Michael sees a relationship with his profession and his feelings about ecology. "Osteopathy is holistic; it's about looking at the mechanics of the whole body to treat a part. In the same way, we can't divorce ourselves from our environment - if it's sick, we will be too, so we have to preserve the environment in order to preserve ourselves. It's not a far-fetched idea - it's straightforward self-preservation." To maintain the exterior look of the building, it had to conform to the original hundred-year-old house, so three arches were built on the front balcony, through which one has an uninterrupted view of the sea, while in the back, where the dining area is situated, the windows are arched. Other conventional windows mean the apartment is flooded with light during the day. "We can lie in bed and watch the sun setting and the moon rising or stand in the shower and see yachts go by and fishing boats heading out to sea," they say. Altogether the 260-square-meter apartment has 16 windows. The exterior also had to be finished in the old-fashioned, faintly off-white plaster of the earlier time, and the ceilings are very high, five and a half meters. All the windows, both inside and out, as well as the shutters, are made of wood. The solid three-meter dining-room table is made from reconditioned wood and comes from Indonesia. "You should always try to buy furniture from recycled wood because not only is it better for the environment - a lot of new wood is illegally logged - but it also looks much nicer and it isn't going to warp, unlike new wood which can change its shape as it hasn't been left to dry out," says Michael. The kitchen, not in sight when one walks through the heavy metal double doors at the entrance, is made of a lightweight, off-white wood from Italy with work counters of natural blue and turquoise marble to match the sea. The island has a maple top, and over it hang copper and brass light fittings handmade in Jaffa. "Most of the light fittings are rustproof because the sea air would corrode them," explains Michael. Up a flight of stairs made of solid oak, with wrought-iron banisters, one arrives at the second floor with two bedrooms and a striking glass-partitioned bathroom tiled in white brick with a triple-sized bath. The view from up here over the sea is even more beautiful than on the first floor. "The sun rises and comes straight in through the oval window," they say. Living in the heart of Jaffa for this young couple is proving to be a fascinating way of life. "I can understand why some people wouldn't want to live in Jaffa," says Michael. "But I like the fact that I can go shopping in the flea market, full of such interesting characters. Personally I wouldn't go near a mall or a supermarket, so I don't miss them and I like the fact that people of so many different cultures live side by side and get on okay." They also enjoy being near the harbor and keep a small boat there. They are looking forward to the park which is going to be built, stretching from the port to Bat Yam as part of the gentrification process of the area. As one who works hard, with a clinic in North Tel Aviv, Michael deliberately decided to make the home completely separate from his work. "I needed a home that's based on space and color, nothing crowded, but to create a healthy environment from the madness outside," he says. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: gloriadeutsch@gmail.com