Small is beautiful

Aviva Marks and her miniature palace.

Aviva marks 224.88 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
Aviva marks 224.88
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
I've lost count of the number of times my editor has gently pointed out that for some people an 80-square-meter apartment is not considered small. And one reader even accused me of being a snob for drooling ecstatically about some huge mansion or other. The fact is that it's all relative. And when you are being shown around a thousand-square-meter home, where space is simply not used for anything, the average three-room apartment does seem small in contrast. This wordy preamble is all to preempt any criticism that might be coming my way for describing this apartment as "small." Well, it is. The two-room Tel Aviv dwelling has been home to English-born actress Aviva Marks since she acquired it in 1968, a year after making aliya. When I wrote about Marks as a veteran some weeks ago, she told me a few people called to express wonderment that she hadn't bettered her situation in the last 40 years. "A couple of people called to say they couldn't believe I'm still here," says Marks. "Well for me, working in my profession and having someone to love were always more important than money." She shares the 60-sq.m. apartment with her husband of 25 years, Col. (ret.) Alush Noy, and the thought of the rugged holder of Israel's highest military award, the medal of valor, living amid all that pink and green is quite incongruous. But it suits Marks's Dresden-like beauty perfectly. On entering the first-floor apartment in old North Tel Aviv one is immediately struck by the view from the large windows of a positive jungle of old trees almost jostling with each other to be seen and appreciated. "They were beautiful even 40 years ago," recalls Marks, "and the inside had to be an extension of that beauty outside." She tells me that the trees were planted a hundred years ago and in many cases the roots are as deep as the tree is high. The living room is always filled with plants, flowers and light, while outside a sturdy iron frame holds window boxes in place. "I didn't know much about plants when I started - I'm a Londoner remember - but I learned as I went along. It's like acting, where you need to convey a trade or skill, so you learn it. I just knew I wanted as much green as possible." The colors which dominate are pink, white and green - actually the colors of the Duomo in Florence - and when Marks visited the cathedral years later she said to herself, "Gosh, they've copied my colors." The forest green tiles were put down years ago - "to extend the feeling of being outdoors" - in the days when everyone else had white or beige, and a green floor was practically unheard of. She had the Jaffa-made table and chairs painted a different shade of green and put in a green sofa, but it's the pink satin striped armchairs that are a focal point of the room - very soft, roomy and comfortable, a chair to sink into and gaze out at the wonderful view or sit and translate poetry or learn lines for her next performance. White, lacy organza place mats are used as antimacassars adding to the very feminine look of the room. A light Spanish sideboard with painted panels and a matching footstool cover one wall, and the rug is from England and has the same pinks and greens that are everywhere. The coffee table is a sheet of oval glass, a shape she felt suited its position in the room, perched on a hollow stone Grecian urn filled with ceramic lemons and grapes. A built-in storage cupboard has the same white lattice work doors as the kitchen. About 20 years ago, after three years of hassling with the municipality, they got permission to add a balcony and another 10 square meters. They threw the wooden shutters that had been across the small window into the garden, where they were immediately picked up by children preparing for Lag Ba'omer, and they installed the long, narrow balcony which goes across to the other room, the pink-and-white bedroom. It's tiled in white with the odd touch of pink and the window boxes are a riot of color. Two carriage lamps sit on either side. When asked if she uses it much, she answers "The cat does." The home has twice been featured on the cover of Hebrew design magazines, and one writer said to her "I've visited mansions and palaces, but there's nothing greater than this." Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please