An ingathering of styles

English and Middle Eastern influences serve up a casserole of tastes in a Ramat Gan home.

Eclectic might be the first epithet that springs to mind to describe the Ramat Gan home of Ofira and Robin Forman, which seamlessly combines the best aspects of their different ethnic origins. He is from England and in the 11 years since he made aliya, has become known for his skills as a garden designer, creating some of the most beautiful gardens in Israel. She is of Iraqi origin and works as an interior designer. Together, this artistic couple has turned what they describe as "an old wreck" into a beautiful home, where English antique furniture and elegant crystal light fixtures coexist with Middle Eastern and African artifacts. Ten years ago, Robin and Ofira searched high and low for a property to which they could both bring their skills, and after viewing close to 150 old houses, chose this one in what is now an exclusive area in Ramat Gan. "The neighborhood was built in 1921 for Tel Aviv civil servants and municipal workers and was originally working-class, with small apartments built on pillars," explains Ofira. "Today, the population has changed, but the mayor does not allow any building which will alter the authentic character of the area, such as high-rises." The house, which today is a spacious two-floor family home, started out as a square, one-floor apartment. What is now the ground floor was in fact nothing but sand. They dug down into the sand to gain another floor. All the pillars remained and Ofira incorporated them into her design. "I love columns," she says. "People see them as obstacles, but I see them as adding a wall so I can put furniture against it." When Ofira designs for a client, she likes to get to know them well and design the space to suit their needs. She believes the colors people like reveal a great deal about their personalities. "I studied the psychology of color in Japan," she says. "Every color has a meaning and affects your life in some way." For her own home, she chose natural mother earth colors, greens and browns and sand. There are thin, iron Belgian windows throughout the home in a pale mint shade, which blend into the garden. For the floors she used a rough travertine stone, beige in the lounge and red in the kitchen. In the lounge, with its nutmeg shaded suite, she has used the old pillars to create niches and set the furniture against them. "People think a large space gives the feel of a big house, but I don't agree," she says. "I like to put walls in the space and break it up as it makes for a less cluttered look." The unusual kitchen is made of zinc, oak and brass. "I found someone making zinc tables and I asked him to make the kitchen for me," she says. "Usually metal is cold, but in this kitchen, it's sizzling." The bright red marble worktop is actually an unusual material - scagliola - an imitation marble made by mixing finely-ground gypsum with glue. While the surface is soft, it is variegated with splinters of marble, spar and granite, which had been colored and polished. Ofira was even able to embed some dried flowers in the surface. The home's kitchen and bedroom balconies are rustic - with archways, Roman and Greek artifacts and hanging plants. They're great places for sitting and taking in all the beauties of Robin's garden. Upstairs, the landing has been set aside as a welcoming area and a decision was taken not to make it a computer corner or play area for the two small children. The wrought iron banisters are like a sculpture and have even been carried around to the wall above the stairs, where their only function is decorative. Ofira opens the door on a cavernous bathroom - "it's a bath room," she emphasizes. The central pillar has been utilized for a sink on one side and a shower on the other. The walls are without any tiles - after all it's a room - but Ofira has concocted her own paint finish, a kind of fine tinted, waterproof plaster. Interesting paint effects can be seen all over the house. The master bedroom has a rounded gold wall which looks like velvet, achieved with six different layers of paint and other techniques. The inner doors have inset windows and two-tone effects. The front door is a massive affair of stained wooden planks. "There's no hi-tech here," says Ofira. "It's timeless." Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail