Basic designs combine in a home that is anything but.
By GLORIA DEUTSCH
An unconventional family is likely to live in an unusual home and this is certainly the case here. This striking house with its Bauhaus and Japanese influences is home to a couple with two small children plus two older children from the husband's previous marriage. Another two teenagers from the first marriage spend every other day and every other weekend with their father and his second wife.
"They have accepted me with lots of love," she says. "I do not take the place of their mother and they feel secure here; there is no tension."
However, the location of the house was dictated by the unusual family set-up. The husband, Avihai, wanted to be close to his children, who live in Ra'anana. The wife, Michelle, wanted to live in the countryside. They found the perfect compromise in a quiet corner of Ramot Hashavim, surrounded by fields but with the old Tel Aviv/Haifa highway not far away.
They built the house three years ago on about a dunam of land. Michelle turned to an old school acquaintance, architect Orit Savitsky, to translate her very definite ideas into bricks and mortar. Although she was born in Australia, Michelle came to Israel as a small child.
"I did all my growing up here," she says in accented English.
Michelle knew she wanted a clear demarcation between the family area and the more formal area used for receiving guests. She knew she wanted simple straight lines without too much ornamentation. And she wanted to emphasize five basic geometrical shapes which first appear on the metal gates outside and reappear in various guises inside the house. The shapes are circle, square, spiral, triangle and X. Glancing around the house, one sees many representations of these forms. While horizontal lines are ubiquitous, the lines are frequently broken with a circular window here, a spiral pattern there.
Seven horizontal windows run the length and depth of the house, each one with its own window sill. Frosted glass was put in the upper windows after Michelle realized there would be no privacy from the street with the original clear glass.
The central staircase is more than a way of getting up and down the stairs; it's a feature in its own right. Says Michelle, who studied interior design but today works in computer software with her husband, "I think of it as a sculpture, not as something functional. In a way it's a waste of space but it had to make a statement. In terms of safety, it would never be allowed in a public place - the horizontal bars, the solid wood steps - but I have strict rules and the children know they are not allowed to climb on it."
Visitors automatically gravitate toward the family living area with the large, well-equipped kitchen where family members congregate and like to cook together.
"I wanted the kitchen open so I would not feel isolated, as though I'm being punished for having to cook," explains Michelle. The vast counter is used for buffet suppers rather than for sitting around. Meals are eaten around the rustic wooden dining table.
The formal lounge on the opposite side has white walls and white furniture, with floor-to-ceiling windows letting in light from two sides and a view of the pool with the surrounding fields beyond. The dominant feature is the log-filled fireplace with a glass door, set into a rectangular wall. The whole effect is of a conscious desire to create an aesthetic scene, almost like a painting.
Out in the back, a long blue pool glistens temptingly in the hot sun. Michelle likes to swim in the part which extends for 25 meters. She keeps a watchful eye on the children when they are outside playing, armed with a lifeguard course which she had the foresight to take.
Besides being a great way to cool off, the pool provides the water element of the ideal Far Eastern home. Huge Japanese lanterns in the kitchen add to this mood. Michelle wanted the Japanese experience in the bedrooms too, but it didn't work out.
Originally I had all the children sleeping on mattresses on parquet floors," she says, "but they objected so I had to elevate them to beds."
The large patio is furnished with more squares and horizontals in natural wood, with two tables put together to create a rectangle. Nothing in the house bears any flower images or anything to soften the severe lines.
"I love flowers - but alive, in vases," explains Michelle.
As I take my leave, she points out the intricate pattern cut into the small front gate.
"It's a Japanese happiness symbol," she says.
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