Stairway to heaven

This owner used her own skills to design her dream home.

sofas 88 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
sofas 88 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
Miri Neumann studied interior design, lighting and Feng Shui and worked for many years as a graphic artist, so when she and her husband acquired their unusual penthouse three years ago, she brought all these skills together to create a home where the "wow" factor is very much evident. The building in a Tel Aviv suburb was already standing and the very high walls and ceilings were what appealed to her most. "The light flooding in and the space which is spread over two floors just made me feel good," she explains, "especially as the previous apartment had been facing north and was rather dark. I love the light; I never close the blinds and I chose the most transparent curtains I could find." The two-story-high walls are painted in a delicate apricot shade, while the wall in which the plasma screen is set is done in a slightly deeper shade and the decorative cornices way up on the ceiling are painted in a third shade of the same basic color. "I sat and mixed the colors until I got exactly the shades I wanted," she says. The extraordinary height was something she felt should be emphasized, so the central wall, which is "floating" away from the actual wall, was built at the same height with concealed lighting which creates patterns on the wall when lit. Underneath the plasma is a small storage cupboard which she also designed, and the whole unit is painted in contrasting matte and shiny finishes to add interest. One is not surprised to discover that in her previous work as a graphic artist she specialized in stairs and banisters, and she threw all her creative powers into producing a very distinctive set for her own apartment. "Because the rest of the room is basically square and straight, I decided to make the banisters very decorative in contrast. There's not one straight line in them, I'm pleased to say." Although made from iron, she points out how fine they are in order not to overwhelm the room. Two small sparrows are perched on the very top, adding a whimsical touch. The lounge is furnished in rich wine-red sofas and several white easy chairs, while a black Le Corbusier recliner completes the seating arrangements. "I don't like black - I never wear it - and that's the only black in the house," says Miri. "I added the recliner more because of the shape, as it blends in so well." Beyond the windows with their frames of Ionic pillars is a large balcony, big enough for a ping-pong table, a barbecue and a separate complete kitchen built into a wooden niche and tiled in lively shades of turquoise and green. Fairy lights have been threaded between the window boxes of luxuriant plants and flowers. Back in the lounge, one glances up at the small sitting room built onto a gallery on the second floor. Two vividly colored glass vases perched at the top of the staircase determined the cheerful orange and yellow color scheme of the curtains, while the green of the vases is reflected in the plants. "I got the vases first and built the room around them," says Miri. "I often do that, I go around the shops and find something that really appeals to me and later find a use for it." The main bedroom is off this sitting-room and separated from the children's quarters downstairs. "It's very practical, as I can work undisturbed," she says, "and if they come home late they don't disturb us." Lights have been set into the wall at every possible place, since hanging lights were out of the question with a ceiling that far away. The kitchen is visible from the lounge but cleverly designed so that the eating area is around the corner. A rounded half-wall conceals a small kitchen office where Miri can sit and plan menus or write. She intends to put mosaics - another of her artistic talents - here and in other places around the apartment. The area under the stairs has also been used to best advantage, with all the wiring hidden there. When she wants to change the channel on the television screen she points the remote, somewhat disconcertingly, at the stairs! At present Miri works as a sports teacher in Shazar High School in Bat-Yam but with her evident talents, she hopes to branch out into interior design. She certainly has an eye for color - even Shushi the cat, with her gingery cream fur, blends into the d cor. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail