Towering Tel Aviv

A look inside the much-talked-about Yoo buildings.

re interior 88 224  (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
re interior 88 224
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
The Yoo buildings, designed by Philippe Starck, which now tower over the northern entrance to Tel Aviv constitute one of the most talked-about real-estate developments in the country of the last few years, so when my friend, designer Selwyn Elkin, called to tell me about an apartment he had just finished in the completed first building, it seemed an ideal opportunity to get a closer look at the work of the legendary Starck. Neither designer disappointed. Starck's vision of super-luxury living in the shared public part of the 37-floor skyscraper includes a crescent-shaped pool over which hangs a massive chandelier with changing colored lights projected onto it, white marble walls and Venetian glass mirrors in the changing rooms; and a lounge fitted out like an English aristocrat's club with dark wood walls, parquet floors and brown velvet drapes, the whole furnished with Starck's slightly surreal decorative works, like silver-colored stools which bear his likeness and a table supported by the brass limbs of a woman. The owners of the apartment are a middle-aged couple with two grown daughters who lived for years in a part of Tel Aviv where the children could play outside but who decided it was time for a change of lifestyle. Anyone buying into the Yoo project acquires a certain amount of space - in their case 167 square meters - and can divide it how they like. They chose to have the entrance straight into the lounge with the kitchen placed so that anyone cooking, cleaning up or eating breakfast has a clear view of the expanse of sea across the wide avenue of Derech Namir below. There are two separate wings, one for the daughters off the lounge and a complete suite for themselves at the opposite corner of the living area. Elkin, who has designed interiors for this family more than once, points out that although the building is cylindrical, the only place one feels it is in the rounded wall which faces the sea. Balconies outside ensure that most inner walls are straight. Although the owner prefers a closed kitchen, Elkin decided that the view of the sea on entering the apartment outweighed any other consideration, and the owner tells me she got used to keeping her kitchen impeccable. The polished wood exterior and matching breakfast island were painted to tone in with the neutral wall color which Selwyn tells me is called "quilter's thread," one of a myriad evocative names the paint companies come up with to describe what is basically beige. The marble floors are a similar shade and the designer points out that he prefers a neutral background to set off the furnishings, many of which were brought over directly from Italy. "The owner told me she wanted a big choice, so we decided to go to the furniture fair in Milan a year ago. There are 2,000 exhibitors and you can walk around for five days. If you're not with a designer, you can go crazy. We looked only at the traditional manufacturers, excluding the modern completely." As soon as they saw the shape of the sofa which they eventually chose they both knew it was right. "I liked the fact that the arms are low and the back is curved, it meant it would not overpower the space," says Elkin. They chose a fabric of damask embossed with silk velvet and chose a number of toning cushions. The coffee table of a wooden bronze-finished frame with two glass surfaces was made-to-measure in Milan too. Two Perspex side tables on either side of the settee were made to the exact height and depth of the seats and two glass lamps were perched on these. The whole stands on a neutral Ziegler carpet, a modern reproduction of an original geometric design. "Carpets shouldn't make a statement," says Elkin. "They should fade into the background as though they are a part of the suite." To complete the lounge, two old family chairs upholstered in brown velvet stand in front of a walnut chiffonier which was set into a niche with display shelves on either side and a wall cupboard which is "almost painted away" into the surrounding wall. The master bedroom has a delicate satin striped wall paper and a striking headboard covered in an exquisite flower-embroidered silk. At the end of the bed stands a white velvet ottoman. The large plasma wall-mounted screen has been set in a frame so that no ugly wires are visible. Over the bed hangs a series of botanical prints, not individually framed but all put together in one large frame - an attractive idea anyone can copy. Many floors below, the traffic hurls along Derech Namir night and day - but up here, thanks to soundproof windows, silence reigns and the blue sea beckons. Who would have thought Tel Aviv could be so idyllic? Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: [email protected]