Quaint quarters

The antique charms of the English countryside showcased in a Netanya home.

liv room 88 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
liv room 88 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
The contents of this Netanya house were transplanted, "lock, stock and barrel," as the owner put it, from the English countryside. He had been a hotelier in Berkshire, running one of those wonderful inns so special to England, set in rolling parkland, with fitted floral carpets, coal fires and real antique furniture. He and his wife lived in a house within the grounds of the hotel, surrounded by antiques they had collected over the years. To transpose all that to a small Mediterranean town takes a certain degree of courage. Amazingly, it works. The owner wanted to retire to Israel without giving up on the gracious living he had enjoyed in the UK. He preferred Netanya over Herzliya Pituah or Kfar Shmaryahu because of the large Anglo community already settled there, since part of the retirement plan was to become a member of the local synagogue and play an active role in it. "We looked at many properties until we found the right house," says the owner. "Every house I went to see, I could tell the furniture wouldn't look right." Then, in 1986, he found the house, which had been built five years before. It was the perfect shape to contain the beautiful things he'd brought from England. "We even brought a dried-flower arrangement," recalls the owner, who lost his wife four years ago. The house had plenty of room for the many large pieces of furniture he brought, and even has an elongated living room with a section used simply to display his things. And what antiques! When the owner points out a Victorian piece, he dismisses it as "only" 19th-century, as though this is too recent to be of any value. With Sheraton and Chippendale chairs lying around and museum-quality tortoise-shell Boulle cupboards inlaid with brass standing against the walls, the house is a joy for any antique lover. The lounge is furnished with a white three-piece suite from London and has a striking fireplace with a carved wood mantelpiece. The owner tells me he got it for a fiver (five pounds) many years ago and it was cheap as chips even then. He stripped off the dirt and paint to reveal a beautifully carved 18th-century piece. Another great find was an Art Nouveau silvered box of exquisite design found in someone's garbage. The dining room has a long, extendable table and genuine Regency chairs. A 1950s cabinet made by Epstein of London is what he calls "an antique of the future." "It was the last period when furniture was made from solid wood," he explains. In a corner next to the beveled glass enclosure which he added to make the house more cozy stands "the best piece of furniture in the house," a French 18th-century ebony sewing table with brass inlay. On this stands a lamp made from an Art Nouveau vase. Many fine paintings hang on the walls, including works by early local artists like Abel Pann, Nahum Guttman and Anna Ticho. In the white Poggenpohl kitchen, also brought from the previous home in England, the paintings are colorful primitives from South America, while a threesome of flying ducks from Columbia brightens up one wall. The backs of the chairs around the glass table are made from industrial springs. Up the carpeted stairs the landing is covered in white paneling with concealed doors in identical design set into it. The master bedroom has silk wallpaper on the walls, some in a delicate butterfly design, some in a rich sand color, all toning in with the curtain and bed fabric. Even here the antiques are exceptional, including a Chippendale chest, an Edwardian seven-day chest and a Victorian easy chair. The long mirror is lit with two pretty cloisonn light fittings attached to it. The main bathroom has just been decorated in a striking black and cream color scheme with touches of bright red. "This is the piece de resistance," says the owner proudly, pointing to the lavatory seat which closes automatically, powered by a hydraulic mechanism. The attic, reached by another small flight of stairs, has been turned into a bar cum billiards room, and the owner often holds parties up there for 50 people or more. He has quite a reputation as a gourmet cook. Back in the kitchen, we drink a cup of coffee served in exquisite Crown Derby china. "I like to use them for every day," says the owner. "As you get older you stop keeping things just for best. Anyway, every day is an important day." Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail gloriadeutsch@gmail.com.