Ethnic in Herzliya

A cottage in one of Israel's poshest neighborhoods celebrates an eclectic mix of cultures.

armoire 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
armoire 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
When this house was built back in the early '70s, Herzliya Pituah was a very different place than it is today. "It had no supermarket, many unpaved roads and you needed a car to get anywhere," says the owner of this unusual home. "The land was cheap and we built a small house and added on over the years." Today, the town is one of the most desirable addresses in Israel, and facilities have improved out of recognition, although many neighbors still complain that certain areas are neglected by the municipality. For years the owner ran one of the earliest second-hand stores in Israel, selling clothing and some household goods, and found it less tough than one might have expected, even for this ex-New Yorker. Nowadays, she enjoys painting the colorful canvases which fill her house and occasionally helps out a friend in a gift store. The house reflects her eclectic interest in all kinds of crafts and her love of foreign travel. While still standing at the front gate, one gets a feeling this house is not going to be your standard elegant d cor; the bars on the gate and windows are made of undulating wrought iron with birds sitting atop them. "I wanted bars on the windows and hated the idea of the house looking like a jail," says the owner. "The concept of birds on branches just came to me, and it works as it's both attractive and functional." Because she liked the look so much, she repeated it above the windows of the lounge, just for decoration. Above the long narrow kitchen she has put a carved Indonesian screen which fits the space perfectly. "I've redone my kitchen three times, expanded it and changed the cabinets, but I always keep the tiles above the marble. I had them made to order for me in France and I've never seen anything I preferred." Despite being old the tiles look quite contemporary, and the bird motif reappears here in vivid primary colors, not unlike many of the na ve paintings hanging around the walls. The cabinets are done in a pale maple wood, some with a milky glass front. There are two sitting areas, a more conventional one on the left and, opposite the kitchen, a television room which is almost entirely furnished with objects brought over from one of her three visits to India. The room is separated from the rest of the house by a magnificent hand-carved mahogany screen which made the long journey from the sub-continent. The blue fabric of the settee was also shipped over, as were several occasional tables. An unusual tin light fitting in blue, yellow and red brightens up one corner and various carved statues, some from South Africa, dot the room. The window is shaded with cane blinds - "I don't like curtains," she says. The side window has a line of carved musicians hailing from Thailand placed on the sill. In the more formal living room, two mirrored boxes on either side of the window were handmade for her 35 years ago and look as good as new. The unusual light fitting is a three-color designer object quite different in style from the more ethnic look of most of the house. "It's so beautiful I thought I could get away with it," explains the owner. "I like to mix and match and put my own twist on things." Scattered around are many other unusual items - a brass ornament specially treated so it never needs polishing, a brazier from Turkey, an inlaid cupboard acquired in a Jaffa flea market and two mother-of-pearl inlaid chests from the Philippines, ideal for storage. Outside, just off the kitchen, the secluded garden is another repository of the off-beat and unconventional, starting with the striking garden swing in carved wood from India. "It's not that comfortable, but for me it's like a sculpture," says the owner. The lawn was dispensed with years before and the ground is pebbled. An ancient Singer sewing machine complements the flowers and long-established trees. More paintings brighten up the entrance and the stairs. She often paints animals, which she says is strange as she has never had a pet. "People say that in my paintings they can see the American in me and also the Middle East in me," says the owner. The same could be said of the home and its unconventional design. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail