The ‘smart’ house

With all the new gadgets available to man, this domicile is not just clever, but also beautiful.

Ra’anana home 311 (photo credit: Uriel Messa)
Ra’anana home 311
(photo credit: Uriel Messa)
The Vagos, Hannah and Steve, live in Ra’anana, in a house which could be described as a push-button paradise.
Steve is immensely proud of the amount of thought and work that has gone into making his “smart” house, where a built-in music system in the basement means six stations are available in all eight rooms and seven bathrooms 24 hours a day, where the blinds are set to open or close at just the right moment and where the coffee machine is programmed to have piping hot, delicious coffee the moment the owners are down in the morning ready for that first heavenly sip.
But the house, built on a small plot in a quiet corner of the busy town, is not just clever, it’s also beautiful, with an interior which flows seamlessly between each of the four levels and a perfect finish in all the small details.
Says Steve, who was born in Hungary but moved to the US as a child, “We didn’t want the typical Israeli look, which can be clinical and cold. We were looking for charm, detail and warmth.”
Every ceiling has been finished with white moldings, every door frame has wooden panels with a three-line vertical motif which gives a very English look, every join between wood and stone was finished with a custom-made saddle. The stairs of the spiral staircase have been slightly beveled for a softer look, and between each staircase the walls have paneling made of specially imported Belgian bricks.
All the panels between the floor and the wall, so essential in Israel where quantities of water are traditionally sloshed around to clean, have a “bull-nose” finish, which makes them less prone to catch dust than the traditional square ones. Recessed mezuzot are set into all the doorposts.
The floors are all done in Turkish travertine stone, a warm pink stone which can be cut in different forms and finishes. So in the living areas huge squares are used, while out on the patio, next to the pool, the stone has been kept unpolished and is used in small rectangles creating a herringbone pattern.
On the interior walls too, several imaginative finishes have been used to create original looks. One wall has straw embedded in the plaster; another has been touched after painting to give a textured, spongy finish.
For building the house, the Vagos had an external architect, an internal architect and an interior designer. Because of the large amount of woodwork, Steve used four carpenters simultaneously and the house was finished in a little over a year.
As it’s a smallish plot, the house is built on four floors, but the boxy look is avoided by having rooms in every shape but square. The living/dining room is set at an angle overlooking the pool and is furnished entirely with the furniture they had in the States.
“We built the house around it,” says Steve. “The aim was to bring the outside into the living space, which is why all the windows are floor to ceiling.”
At the entrance to the lounge an inherited collection of antique Middle Eastern oil lamps is displayed in a glass cabinet. Outside, next to the covered pergola, a built-in barbecue has its own sink and refrigerator.
On the first upper level the master bedroom looks out over the pretty garden. All the bedrooms have rich parquet floors and blinds set to open automatically for a prescribed hour. The master suite has a dressing table area, walk-in closets which are air-conditioned (“Our Israeli friends really can’t understand that,” says Steve) and a bathroom with a huge tub, two shower heads in the shower, one at a higher level than the other, and all the fittings raised off the floor to give a cleaner line. Like the other six bathrooms in the house, this one is also decorated in neutral pinky-beige stone, but every bathroom has a different mosaic pattern.
The children’s bedrooms are, of course, smaller but each has its own “Juliet” balcony, a kind of built-in window box blooming with flowers and surrounded by wrought-iron railings.
One teenager is living at home and the other rooms are kept ready for when the older children come to visit. The married daughter still has her own room decorated primarily in red, with red hessian curtains behind the glass doors of the closets, and another bedroom is kept permanently ready for visitors. The older son, studying at a rabbinical seminary in New York, has his own room for frequent visits. Decorating his room are pictures of his father and two brothers, who all have black belts in tae kwon do.
The basement houses the laundry room with American-size washer and drier, a shower for anyone coming straight from the pool and two guest bedrooms with a light well, so although the room is below ground light flows in. The den, which is also the TV room, seems to have every possible electronic gadget ever invented with a universal remote control to simplify all the watching, listening and computing.
Steve, who has many business dealings with China, finds living here anasset from the point of view of time zones and convenience.
Hannah,who used to run her own business, is enjoying life to the full. Thefamily has made many friends since their aliya and enjoy entertainingin their home.
Steve, unlike many people traumatized by buildingtheir own home, enjoyed every minute of it and took any obstacles inhis stride “I’d do it all over again,” he says.