Raising the roof

After the birth of their seventh child, an Australian immigrant couple decided to expand their home with a touch of pizzazz.

bedroom wood 88 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
bedroom wood 88 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
It's hard to believe this huge sprawling house started out life as a small three-room dwelling for a couple of new immigrants who settled here from Australia in 1966. He is a physician, she a psychologist and in the years since they acquired the house in 1968, they produced seven children and even, for a time, raised a monkey. In the 1980s plans were mooted to have trained monkeys to help disabled people, and the owner of this house found herself in the middle of the project. As the family grew so did the house which is situated in Tel Ganim, a garden suburb of Ramat Gan. In 1974 the government was giving financial help to build a security room and, as there was some money left over from the grant, they decided to add a dining room. By 1980 when the seventh child came along, they added a second floor with more bedrooms, and 10 years later they undertook a huge renovation to make the house look like it does today. "We had a houseful of teenagers and nowhere for them to take their friends on a Shabbat afternoon, and the designer and I came up with the idea of removing the overhead storage (boydem) and putting a gallery in its stead," says the owner. Together with Sabina Gorsky, the interior designer, they came up with a look which the owner describes as "sophisticated country style with pizzazz," whatever that is. "She liked modern, I wanted informal and rustic," recalls the owner. "Also I wanted plenty of windows to bring the garden in and make it a part of the house, and I wanted a kitchen you couldn't see when you walked in the front door as I'd had before." The result of their joint brainstorming is a striking feature which is also extremely functional. The gallery is reached by an iron stairway, painted a deep forest green with a railing in the same design and color. The sitting area created has a wood floor and ceiling, making it a particularly cozy corner. Off this room they have a guest suite which one of their friends nicknamed "the yacht room" as that is what it looks like - compact, with wooden walls and a small bathroom next door. "The whole gallery feature gives a feeling of space," says the owner. "It has a double ceiling, and the second ceiling is exceptionally high." What used to be the home of Isa the monkey, a balcony off the lounge, was incorporated into the living room, and the whole area designed with angles to break the boxy look. The dining room has a large expanding table made by someone who specializes in tables for religious and usually large families. A raw brick wall set with a huge window looks onto the wild garden. Behind a closed closet hides every religious woman's dream, a small Pessah kitchen. The entrance to the house is dominated by a grand piano covered in family photos. Other interesting objects add to the way-out d cor, such as a very old Singer sewing machine, transformed into an occasional table, and an old carved trunk from Shanghai. A free-standing pillar with a plant stands in the small entrance hall, while on the marble floor two matching red rugs add a flash of color. The kitchen has every possible feature a religiously observant family could want. In its long, thin shape it manages to contain a large parve oven, a large meat oven, a small dairy oven, two microwaves and two sinks, one on either side. "Being a working wife I need plenty of help, and it's simpler to explain dietary rules to non-Jewish helpers with the kitchen set up like this," says the owner. Up a flight of winding stairs one comes to the master bedroom with the bed set against a window and a tree in full green splendor acting almost like a headboard against the glass. More stairs lead to more bathrooms, all decorated in local beige stone. The house also contains two studies, one for the husband and one for the wife, and both are able to see patients at home without going through the family living quarters. "It's getting a bit big for us now, as the children have married and moved on, so we will probably sell it, but it will be hard to part with a home we have put so much into," says the owner. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: gloriadeutsch@gmail.com.