Home away from home

Rich decor fills this Canadian's Rehavia penthouse.

pillar rehavia 88 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
pillar rehavia 88 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
"I always like to put surprises in my homes," says Ruby Ray Karzen, the Chicago-born interior designer who settled in Jerusalem 20 years ago from the US. Sometimes it's an unusual musical instrument, and, in the case of this huge penthouse in the Rehavia area, it's an antique child's chair. She feels that these items, often somewhat incongruous in their settings, provide a good talking point. She also uses a most unusual item as a room divider - a huge oversized hassock which divides the two sitting areas of one of the 10 rooms comprising this luxury second home. "It was one of the first homes I ever renovated," says Ruby, who only put her designer skills, which she had acquired in the US, into practice after several years of being in Israel. "About 18 years ago the client, who divides her time between here and Canada, told me she wanted to renovate the apartment. She had bought it about 12 years before when it was still in the planning stage," says Ruby. "There were several challenges including a very large sitting room with two separate seating areas, and a large collection of fine art which needed to be displayed." The large entrance has a lighted glass cabinet in which original Chagall and Picasso sculptures can be seen. Straight ahead, the visitor is greeted by an extraordinary iron and glass gate which divides off the living area. It depicts the story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho and was done by an Israeli artist. A supporting pillar in white stucco looks more like a piece of modern art than a column. Together the three items - the gate, pillar and the display cabinet - make a very impressive entrance. A corridor leading off the entrance is lined with so many paintings - all Israeli artists - that it looks more like an art gallery than a private home. Through the gate which is normally kept closed the large sitting room has been carefully planned so that the colors blend harmoniously together. The two sitting areas have been colored in what she calls "a mirror image," with shades of black, grey and salmon pink used in different proportions. "Basically one side of the room is white with grey-black and salmon, while the other is grey with white, black and salmon," she points out. A wall-sized mixed media painting on one side was chosen for its colors, and for the craftsmanship of the work. "Its title is Slaughter of the Innocents and it was done in France by the famous artist Francois Brochet," says Ruby. "I'm not going to say it's a happy thing, but it sure picks up the colors." Between the two sides the hassock gathers all the separate colors into one piece which is both colorful and functional. To cover the marble floor Ruby ordered a large rectangular rug which she felt would soften the look, and she designed it herself. "I wanted to use the greys and blacks of the furniture but I didn't want it to be dull. The checkerboard design is very lively." A round table in the middle of the room is covered in a shiny black vinyl material, an unexpected choice for such a rich d cor. On either side of this table - which carries family photos - are two Queen Anne chairs upholstered in a rich rose and yellow silk. Among all the silk fabrics, another surprise is a pillow made of flannel. "I liked the rough texture," explains Ruby. Because there are many windows and the furniture and artwork are very ornamental, Ruby decided to keep the window drapes very simple, using only a sheer gathered fabric.The dining room is mirrored on one wall and has a magnificent antique chandelier. The long table has eight chairs around it upholstered in grey suede. "The fabric was outrageously expensive but it was so right for the dining suite and fortunately you don't need a lot to cover the chairs. I felt it was really worth it," says Ruby. The breakfast area has a stunning tiled table from Finland with 12 yellow-covered chairs around it which fit snugly beneath the table. The dark wood kitchen next to it is due for a face-lift. The powder room has a blue porcelain sink with gold faucets which sits on top of the marble "like a flower." "Whenever the owner comes back to visit, the apartment is ready and waiting for her, just as it was when she left it," says Ruby. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail gloriadeutsch@gmail.com.