Homes: Written in stone

This rustic domicile could easily be mistaken for a Provençal abode.

gival nili house arch 311 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
gival nili house arch 311
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Long before they began to build their home, Anat and Ohad Sagiv began collecting stones. “We knew we wanted our house to be built of stone,” says Anat of the villa in Moshav Givat Nili, where she lives with her husband and three children. A child of the moshav, which is near Zichron Ya’acov and was founded in 1953 by Tunisian, Iraqi and Turkish immigrants, Anat tells us how she dreamed of an all-stone house set on the highest point of her moshav and how, with the help of architect Shouki Aboud, she turned the dream into reality.
“We had lived for many years in Belgium, in a stone house there,” she says. “When we decided to come home [and open a bakery in nearby Pardess Hanna], we knew that the natural rustic look would be right for our land in Givat Nili.”
The Bezalel- and Technion-trained Aboud is an expert in stone construction and was highly recommended by friends, so the Sagivs contacted the firm for which he works, Giora Ben-David in Ein Hod, and together set about creating their home.
They already had a field full of stones which they had collected over several years.
“All the stones come from old buildings which were knocked down, some in Galilee, some in the West Bank,” explains Anat. “We bought truckloads of it from a stone trader and kept it in an adjacent field. When we began to build, the stone mason, from Kafr Kanna, went over every stone, breaking it into the right size and shape. It was quite unbelievable and wonderful to watch him work. He would sit for months cutting each stone until it was ready to use.”
If one looks carefully, it is possible to distinguish faint colors and some writing on several of the outside stones, indicating that they came from ancient buildings. One of them even has what looks like a date, in Arabic, and this is placed over the front door.
The shape of the house was very much dictated by the shape of the plot of land. It is triangular with a rounded edge and so is the house.
“We didn’t want a cube,” explains Aboud, and in fact a rectangular or square building would not have fit into the strange shape which the family inherited. On the 800-square-meter plot, the unconventional shaped house looks totally in place, with the fields of the farming community beyond and the countryside all around.
One is struck immediately by the very high wooden ceilings, the archway between the kitchen and living area and the arched windows which echo it. Everything is wood, stone, iron (in Belgian profiles), glass or ceramic. “You won’t find any plastic here,” says Anat. Shouki points out that even the old furniture, gleaming with the patina of age, fits well into the context of the house.
The farmhouse-style kitchen is the hub of activity. Anat admits that she loves to cook and the blue, slightly distressed kitchen is clearly designed for someone who is prepared to spend many hours in it. The huge Godiva French stove – “It’s my kingdom,” says Anat with a smile – is set into pretty blue wooden surrounds with storage places for pots and pans, spice jars and other kitchen equipment, all visible and temptingly to hand. Much attention to detail is evident in the choice of drawer handles, decorated in minute blue flowers.
A matching corner seating arrangement is an integral part of the kitchen, and this is where all the family meals are eaten. Window boxes full of cyclamen decorate the windows, which are hung with old white lace – flea market finds, Anat tells us. Various
ceramic jars and utensils decorate the room, many of them repeating the predominant blue of the kitchen. One could imagine oneself in a farmhouse in Provence.
Style Points
1. Shelves on a door can be used for display
2. Colorful insets of floor tile relieve a dull expanse of floor.
3. Sometimes one tile is enough to brighten up a bathroom.
4. You can effectively mix styles and periods under the general category of ‘old.’
5. Attention to detail is worth the expense as it adds so much.
A pantry off the kitchen has a fascinating feature which I have never encountered before – shelves on the door to display kitchen antiques, many of them picked up in Belgian flea markets.
Outside the back door is a garden filled with cooking herbs which Anat puts to good use.
The lounge is furnished with different colored leather chairs – “I don’t like sets,” says Anat – and in the corner a stone-surrounded wood-burning stove effectively warms most of the room and adds to the rustic atmosphere.
The Sagivs are great flea market habitues and several of their findsdecorate the lounge. A 1920s wooden filing cabinet stands in onecorner, a Victorian vitrine in another, a French escritoire in another.One splendid Art Nouveau piece is decorated with artificial roses.Windows all around the lounge allow for anyone inside to have an almostpanoramic view of the countryside, looking beyond the flower-filledbalcony that winds round the house.
While all the bathrooms have been tastefully decorated, and mostcontinue the blue color scheme of the kitchen, Anat is particularlyproud of her own bathroom, which features a claw-foot, free-standingbathtub. Over it is placed one very special hand-painted tile in thecenter of the wall.
“Sometimes just one exceptional tile will add something to the wholeroom,” she says. “It’s also much more economical.” The same is true ofthe blue, vine-decorated “rugs” on the expanse of kitchen and livingroom floors which relieve the monotony of the beige tiles.
Out on the balcony a hammock is strung between the walls, just the place to relax and enjoy the beauty of the countryside.