Homes: Ra’anana-fontein

A South African couple recreates its Jo’burg mansion.

dining room 311 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
dining room 311
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
What better way to create your home than to have a very experienced designer carry through the entire renovation while you go back to South Africa to plan your aliya?
This was what a retired couple who wanted to settle in Ra’anana near their children did. After they bought the rather dilapidated 100-square-meter apartment, they took the precaution of hiring Selwyn Elkin, a fellow South African with 30 years experience of interior design here, who planned and oversaw the transformation of their newly acquired home into the beautiful little gem it is today.
“I discussed the changes I wanted to make to the interior walls and we chose colors and fittings before they went back,” recounts Elkin. “We completely gutted the place and they never saw any of the breaking down and building. When they finally came, it was perfect and ready to walk into.”
The apartment is on the second floor of a 20-year-old building in the heart of town, but when one walks in and out to the small garden at the back, one has the feeling of being in a private villa. The garden is secluded, very pretty and so quiet one can sit under the striped awning and hear the birds of Ra’anana sending each other messages in time-honored fashion.
For the owners, one of the biggest challenges was downsizing from a Johannesburg mansion to an apartment which contains three bedrooms and two bathrooms besides the living rooms. They wanted to keep some of their furniture: It was all in perfect condition, and they had a special attachment to many of the pieces they brought. Some had been in the family for many years and some were antiques. They wanted to bring their art work and sculptures, trophies and family souvenirs. Somehow Elkin found space in the apartment by removing dividing walls, arranging the furniture in just the right way and, in one memorable instance, actually having a huge four-seater sofa cut down to a two-seater.
“It can be done, but you have to know who to go to and get the right people for the job,” explains Elkin.
Looking at the perfect finish of the coral-pink sofa next to the patio window, brightened up with matching cushions, it is hard to believe it is a half of its former self.
They have managed to recreate their original family room in the limited space available with clever placing of items to maximize the space without it looking too cluttered. Two cane armchairs complete the seating arrangement around the two identical glass tables which they prefer to solid wood. They thought the dining room suite with its heavy antique table and 10 matching chairs would be a problem, but Elkin found the perfect position for it, placing six chairs around the table and the rest around the apartment.
He also found room for two pink granite and wood side tables and anantique fire screen covered in handworked floral petit point. Built-instorage at the side is custom-made to house a variety of objects. Thetop shelves, with glass doors, display silver and family photos. Lowerdown are extra-wide drawers, and the owner shows me how she can storeeven her hot tray in one.
The open kitchen is absolutely impeccable and the owner is sofastidious that she keeps her dishcloths inside a cabinet. When thedoor opens, the cloths slide out on a moveable arm. The mixer and foodprocessor are kept hidden behind a rolltop door which matches the creamcabinets. Two dishwashers ensure that no dish racks are in sight tosully the view.
The guest toilet is still in its place in the corridor leading to thebedrooms, but by dint of putting a sliding door rather than aconventional one, the designer made the area more user-friendly. In thesmall entrance created when he took away one of the walls, he hasplaced a welcoming tableau of a small table and two chairs, behindwhich they have hung one of their fine collection of paintings.
The master bedroom has a ceiling fan and the twin beds are dressed – noother word seems suitable – in exquisite cream embossed sheets whichlook as though they were expensive and custom-made but were actuallybought here. The two beds are cleverly designed to contain underneathstorage.
The attached bathroom is all white and, unusually for en-suitefacilities, has a corner bath as well as a sit-down shower. The ownerfelt she was not yet ready to give up on the occasional soak in a hottub. A scarlet throw over a chair introduces a bright splash of colorto the bedroom. In another smaller room, a peach throw over theconvertible sofa achieves the same effect.
The floor in the entire apartment is pinky beige granite porcelainwhich is hard wearing and easy to keep clean, an important factor forthe very house-proud owners.
“It wasn’t easy at the beginning to get used to such a comparativelysmall space,” the owner tells me. “The problem wasn’t justpsychological but actually physical as well. I used to find myselfbumping my arms on the walls when I hung out the washing.”
After a year or so here, they have become used to living in a compactspace and love it. They enjoy sitting in their perfect little gardenwhich was completely overhauled, and take pleasure in the syntheticlawn which never needs watering or cutting. knowing they arecontributing to the environment of the country they now call home.
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