Down to earth

Soft beiges and rich earth tones warm up this ambassador's residence.

living room 88 224 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
living room 88 224
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
Herzliya Pituah is the town in which many diplomats have chosen to establish their homes, and this residence is there, too, in the center of the town, a large house which the current ambassador and his wife recently renovated. Although they asked that I not identify the country they represent, I can say that the present ambassador's wife was here 25 years ago when her own father was ambassador. "Everything was different then," she recalls. "Coming back for a three-week visit as a student was very different from living here with my own children as I do now. And the country has changed so much." While she has very happy memories of her life here as a girl, she tends to prefer today's lifestyle with all the comforts associated with an Israel that has developed so much in the intervening quarter century. "There was one supermarket, one hairdresser and no malls," she recalls. "I used to go on great expeditions touring around the country which I thoroughly enjoyed, but today there are far more amenities and the area we live in is very cosmopolitan." The house was custom-built for the embassy nearly 40 years ago and although it had been refurbished over the years and even altered structurally, it was well due for a face-lift. The ambassador and his wife looked around for a design company which would suit what they had in mind and were very happy to connect with Gila Harmetz of Loft Interiors in Herzliya. Together they worked out the plan for what they wanted the residence to look like, and the result is very pleasing to the eye with a harmonious blend of earth colors, contemporary design and practicality. Their predecessor had already done some structural alterations to extend the lounge for the many receptions most embassies hold and had built an extra floor for the bedrooms. "My bedroom used to be in the basement, and I'm trying to get my kids to sleep down there too," says the ambassador's wife. "Of course I recognized the house - it hasn't changed that much - just become more spacious." To arrive at the pleasing interior, they first went to the store to look at furniture and get a sense of what they wanted, and began to choose items, guided all the time by the professional expertise of Harmetz. Having such a long room they decided to break it up into seating areas and to keep the same basic cream, brown and rust color scheme but to vary the contrasts. While they knew they wanted a contemporary look, they also had to accommodate existing furniture, like the Syrian mother-of-pearl inlaid chest at the end of the room which had been acquired in her father's tenure, and the original ethnic paintings which were already a feature of the room. Together with the designer they chose furniture and light fittings they thought would work. The first seating area has a suite upholstered in a rough cream fabric and a long Chinese sideboard against one wall; the second has rust armchairs and uses a Burmese rain drums as small tables. The third is cream again with kilim rugs on the tiled floor. Around the fireplace, which was part of the original room, is an attractive copper and brass surround, and the whole room has an uninterrupted view of the splendid pool protected by its Perspex fencing. The long rectangular dining table is made of bamboo, while the chairs are upholstered in a dark, rusty yellow. In another corner of the living room a grand piano is always ready for the musical recitals that are part of every embassy's social program. The family den is situated at the top of the stairs and, in contrast to the formal entertaining room, is far more casual with a shaggy white carpet, rust red armchairs and a wide window through which they have a wonderful view of the Mediterranean. Other chairs are in dark leather or cane and the whole room is cozy and welcoming. Next to this, the master bedroom has black cushions, red rugs and beige curtains. While many diplomatic residences sport crystal chandeliers and antique museum pieces for furniture, this one is a comfortable home. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: [email protected]