A house transformed

The many incarnations of a Moshav Ganei Am abode.

ganei am house 311 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
ganei am house 311
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
This attractive house, with its sharp pointed roof reminiscent of a Swiss chalet, went through several metamorphoses to look the way it does today.
It started life as a small two-room abode for agricultural pioneers in Moshav Ganei Am, near Hod Hasharon. The moshav was founded in 1932 by German refugees who planted orange groves and turned it into the pastoral paradise it is today.
The Kowarskis, Dorit and John, moved there in 1980, because South African-born John wanted to live in a house rather than an apartment, and at the time it was all they could afford. For Tel Avivian Dorit, moving to the countryside was a culture shock and she says they really felt like pioneers.
“It was too quiet,” she says. “I couldn’t fall asleep at night and then when I did I’d get awakened early by the birds’ dawn chorus. But the children loved it from the beginning.”
After living in it for a few years, they asked their friends, Elisha and Ronit Ruben, to build a bigger house for them without knocking down what they already had. The Rubens went on to become prominent architects, and the refurbishment of the Suzanne Dellal Center is one of their many projects.
Together with the owners they constructed the long sprawling house, incorporating the original two small rooms. Their concept was a family home which would welcome visitors the minute they stepped through the front door. Dorit had a lifelong dream of a step down to the lounge and this was added. Glass bricks in the front entrance and wide windows at the back ensure the house is flooded with daylight. New ceilings were constructed to give the illusion of height and add interest.
After six years spent in England, where John was the representative for Agrexco, they returned and realized that they now had different needs, with the three children now teenagers, and the Rubens came back to enlarge and renovate what had been one of their first projects. Dorit was still not able to realize her dream of an extra large bedroom and a bigger kitchen. Then last year, with all the children out of the house, they did the final renovation with the help of their by now famous architect friends who had always had a sentimental attachment to the house.
To do the work, they took Philip Symon, who brought the ubiquitous cornices to every fancy home here, and who operates a building company called A Touch of Class. Blessed with a very large plot of land – 1.7 dunams – they were able to spread out as never before. Dorit finally got her large bedroom by taking one of the smaller bedrooms and adding it to the existing one. In this room they were able to add a large red velvet easy chair and matching footstool for sitting and watching the wall-hung plasma TV, while a French window was built leading out to the lush ivy-covered side section of the back garden, the first thing they see when they raise the blinds every morning.
The plaster wall which was added is wide enough to accommodate a set of built-in bookshelves, and the wooden windows and shutters add to the rustic feel of the room.
What used to be the old family television room has been upgraded to what is essentially a piano room, the place designated to contain the Steinway once owned by John’s mother. But because it might be considered slightly decadent to build a room just for a piano, the designers added some much-needed storage there too. A small television room next to the lounge was added, decorated with a large abacus on one wall.
The living room is furnished with a tan leather suite and a glasscoffee table whose simple lines show off the orchid standing on it toperfection. A wood-burning fireplace warms the room in winter and twolarge black cushions are on the floor in front of it for sitting andenjoying the burning embers.
From the lounge one is able to look at the entrance over a large emptyspace which was meant to be a dining room and enjoy the interestingmetal sculpture by the Dead Sea artist JoJo, eloquently alone as adecoration.
“In the end, I didn’t do a separate dining room because I love thekitchen table so much and I couldn’t part with it,” explains Dorit. Thetable in question, bought from Kastiel years before, is made from anold piece of polished wood gleaming with the patina of time and use. Togive a new look to the kitchen, they settled for changing all thehandles rather than have the huge expense of changing cabinets.
The wall separating the lounge from the bedrooms had to be made widerto support the roof in the original renovation, and the architectsdecided that it did not have to be a full wall, so the result is aniched wall perfect for displaying artwork.
Outside the house, Dorit points out some of the architectural featureslike the triangular ventilation window which echoes the shape of theroof and the three plus one kitchen window which deviates from thestandard rectangle.
The whole garden was recently revamped to get rid of the water-guzzlinglawn and replace it with flower beds and islands set on gravel. Thebeds are constructed of weathered railway ties and purple agapanthus isin full bloom. One corner of the garden is already labeled “ThePlayground” and is being set up for the grandchildren to enjoy. Astriking iron pot, made for them on the South African model, is usedfor burning dried leaves and at night creates a pleasant atmosphere.
Some of the trees – the avocado, eucalyptus and pomegranate – have beenhere since the 1930s. They have presided over many changes to thehouse, from a two-room farmer’s cottage to its present incarnation.
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