When you have four homes around the world to choose from, do you put the same amount of care in decorating and furnishing all of them? Judging by this exquisite home in Herzliya Pituah, the answer would seem to be yes.
"I choose the décor in all my homes," says the owner, a British-born businessman, who acquired this triplex apartment as his family home for his wife and three sons. They made aliya 13 years ago and are waiting for the children to complete their education in England before settling here permanently.
"We lead a rather peripatetic life," he says.
When he first settled here he rented a place and built "probably the most beautiful house in Israel" which he later sold to Arkadi Gaydamak. He decided that he wanted to be near the sea and chose the corner house of a Jerusalem-style pedestrian walkway with an uninterrupted view of the sea.
From the different floors of the house he can sit and watch the sun sinking into the Mediterranean from different levels. Sometimes it's from the neat front garden with its impeccable lawn, which turns out to be synthetic though you would never know. Sometimes it's from a small room on the upper floor, which he describes as a "joy." Simply furnished with stark white walls, it is the eye-catching butterfly collage on the wall and the blue blinds which make the room so pretty.
"That's all you need," he says. "A bit of color on a white wall brings the whole room to life." That and the amazing view of the sea stretching out to the horizon, with a good view of the yachts bobbing around in the marina and the shoreline stretching as far as the eye can see.
HIS RECIPE for attractive décor consists basically of stark white walls, with color being supplied by the handmade silk rugs on the floor and the artwork which is an important feature of this home. The furniture was all purchased in Israel at Tollman's and some of it is blue and white, but the striking pieces, such as the snake-like beige sofa in the living room or the beautiful small desks and tables, which are more works of art than furniture, are from Europe, the sofa being Swiss and several of the unusual pieces having been made by the Italian firm Georgetti.
"I like straight lines, light and space," says the owner, who qualified as a lawyer and accountant before turning to business. "I hate clutter or wires showing." To minimize that the place has underfloor heating and halogen lights set into the ceiling.
The elegant living room is dominated by the sofa, which is modular and can be shaped into a straight or wavy line, or a U shape. Two matching tub chairs stand in front of the window and a Mane-Katz oil surveys the scene. A Torah scroll in a silver casing stands on a side table, but the scroll is unfinished, making it possible to keep it in an apartment rather than in the holy ark of a synagogue. The glass-topped dining room table seats 20 and yet has only four legs.
"It's built like a suspension bridge," explains the owner. The chairs around the table are upholstered in gray suede.
For color a magnificent flower oil painting hangs on a wall above the sideboard. The owner happily recounts the story.
"Thirty years ago I went into a hotel in Honolulu and saw this and was bowled over. It had a huge price tag I couldn't afford, so I tracked down the artist, through Chabad actually, and bought several of his canvases. His name is Lau Chun, and I think he could teach Monet a thing or two."
OTHER EXTRAORDINARY paintings can be seen around the apartment - a Picasso lithograph in the guest bedroom, a small Agam in another room and other well-known local and foreign artists. But the jewel in the art crown is undoubtedly his collection of David Roberts lithographs of the Holy Land, which is displayed on the walls between two floors of the house.
"It's one of the largest collections in the world, but not complete," he says. "The Church of the Holy Sepulchre doesn't really belong here," he adds with a mischievous smile.
From the entertaining rooms, we step into a kitchen furnished in biscuit-colored bamboo cabinets and stainless steel, with two of everything, two sinks, two dishwashers and two massive stainless steel catering-size fridge/freezers.
"Actually there is a third one upstairs in another kitchen," he says. "The customs people couldn't believe a private home needed three of these and they raided us," he says with a grin. Fortunately he was able to convince them that they were for personal use only and he wasn't starting an import business.
The upstairs was originally a separate flat which he incorporated into the two floors he already had, hence the second kitchen, which was kept as a milk kitchen just for breakfasts. The master suite is situated here and is built for comfort and pampering with a massage chair, a massive plasma screen and an adjoining bathroom complete with sauna and Jacuzzi.
"We can lie in bed and look out at the sea, with a remote control for opening and closing the blinds in the morning," says the owner.
On the lower floor another striking art display consists of a rare collection of black-and-white studies of famous rabbis taken by photographer Joshua Harouni. Dotted around the house are photos of the owners snapped with the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and even Prince Edward when he visited Israel on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme, as the owner is its cochairman here. Down in the basement are children's rooms, a study/library and guest rooms with below-ground garden patios, which in Israel are referred to as "English balconies." Thanks to these light pours into the basement and greenery is visible through the windows.
"One of the best things about this house," says the owner, "is that the sea is directly opposite so no new buildings can ever obstruct the view."