Madrid manor

The new Spanish ambassador's family in its temporary residence.

kids room 88 248 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
kids room 88 248
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
The residence of the Spanish ambassador in Herzliya Pituah is being refurbished, so as a temporary substitute the embassy has rented another house not far from the first, in a quiet leafy neighborhood filled with the homes of other foreign missions. "Actually I think I prefer this house," says Jessica Massenet, the young and pretty wife of Ambassador Alvaro Iranzo, who welcomed us into her home a mere two weeks after taking up the post. "The other is bigger but more conventional, while this has something special about it. We find it very charming." Iranzo and his wife are already seasoned diplomats, having served in Malaysia and Angola, and after a four-year stint with the Foreign Ministry in Madrid, they were offered several places as their next ambassadorial position. "We chose to come here," says Jessica. "We were given the choice of several countries and my husband had visited here and thought it would be a very interesting and challenging posting. We liked the idea of living where the weather is good, the people are nice and it would be a good environment for the two children." The residence, set back from the road in a large, shaded garden, has several large entertaining rooms, as formal dinners and large receptions are so much a part of the diplomatic life. The long living room has two seating areas at either side, one almost a mirror image of the other. The basic furniture all comes from Spain and consists of easy chairs and sofas upholstered either in beige or in a very pretty floral pink and green material on a beige background set around rectangular wooden coffee tables. At one side are an additional two chairs covered in bright coral pink. "Much of the furniture comes with the residence and stays from one ambassador to the next," explains Jessica. "If something is very old or I don't like the design, I can change it." To put their own imprint on the room they have installed many striking pieces which they brought back from former postings. In one corner is an antique cradle which they brought back from Malaysia. "I don't put the baby in it, but when we have a dinner party, I fill it with flowers," she says. Around the fireplace, which they have already used on one of the few cold days since their arrival, is a display of silver toucans which they brought from Cambodia. Many other interesting pieces are scattered around, some from their travels and many, especially the paintings and sculptures, are done by well-known Spanish artists. Among the many accessories one can spot a Buddha, a malachite collection and several African carvings. The front door opens onto an entrance hall furnished with an ornate secretaire which came from Spain. On the walls are several paintings by Mara Toledo, a Brazilian painter in the naïf style. There are several dish-like ornaments from Asia which look like huge leaves that have been sprayed with silver. The dining room, placed conveniently next to the kitchen, looks out onto the back garden and is furnished with a highly polished table which, when opened up, can seat 20 people. The rattan-backed chairs are upholstered in a subtle Regency striped material. Along the walls specially built narrow shelves hold many small souvenirs of their travels, while a striking painting, a modern adaptation of the famous Las Meninas of Velazquez, catches the eye. For sitting and watching television or reading, a small room off the hall is set aside. Furnished with brick-colored easy chairs, the walls are book-lined and the room doubles as a library. Jessica points to a portrait of her husband on the wall and explains that this was done by famous Spanish artist Barbara Ouka Lele from a photograph. For the two children, a playroom was built under the roof where they can happily spend time and not be in the way when formal gatherings are taking place downstairs. Jessica studied public relations but tells me she never worked in it. However, she loves to paint and several of her paintings hang on the walls. In an outbuilding she has a studio where she paints and is also working on renovating an old dollhouse she found in a flea market for her little girl. She and her husband are sure that their stay here will be an enjoyable and memorable one. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: