View from the top

Stunning in design and yet cosy, this Givat Shmuel penthouse answers all its architect owner's needs.

outdoor 88 298 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
outdoor 88 298
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
An architect who is used to designing homes for clients from Europe and the United States, Shlomi Lieberman was faced with the challenge of making his own home, a penthouse in Givat Shmuel, homey enough for his family, yet, at the same time, a showplace for his designing skills. With two small sons, the kippa-wearing architect who studied in England has managed to combine his two aims: designing a home which is stunning in its d cor, but still reflects the cosiness of a family home. One of the reasons for choosing Givat Shmuel, near Bar-Ilan University on the outskirts of Tel-Aviv, was the large number of other young religious families, and availability of synagogues and religious services. The choice of penthouse rather than cottage was dictated by the desire to avoid stairs. On Shabbat the way down and up is by Shabbat elevator, a fixture today in any building of 6 floors and more Shlomi tells me. The entrance into the living space is blocked by a curved wall which is clearly a feature the architect added after much thought. "Everyone else was against it, including my wife, but I wanted several things: to make the entrance more interesting and to create a kind of lobby so one doesn't walk straight into the living room." The curved line was chosen for softness, and on the other side a niche was created which is perfect for the family piano. All the walls have a fine plaster Vega finish which adds interest and relieves the large amount of space. "It's durable and not as flat as paint," explains Shlomi. "It can be messy to put on but I had a good painter." All the wall cabinets have been edged with a decorative profile in a kind of corrugated wood which gives an attractive finish. Display cabinets were designed without a central seam for maximum visibility so that items like a splendid silver candelabrum can be seen uninterrupted. For the dining room he broke one of his own sacrosanct rules. "I always tell my clients to avoid a glass table for practical reasons, but because I had a wooden table outside in the garden, I thought it would look wrong to have two wooden tables so near each other - like a showroom, not a home. So I ended up with glass." The dining room fitted cupboards are fronted with mirrors, a feature he often uses so that people sitting with their backs to the garden can still enjoy the view. "Another two places I like to add mirrors are along a sea front and in Jerusalem to reflect the light," he says. A gleaming modern light fitting is suspended over the glass table, while beige and cream satin drapes pulled back add a touch of luxury. A planter in the corner is intended to create a link with the blooming L-shaped garden outside. Much use is made of special light effects, often concealed as in the curved wall or placed inside book shelves to add discreet hidden lighting. From the living area a corridor leads to the children's bedrooms. On the way he has created a niche for an old Singer sewing machine, proving that even in a contemporary home there is respect for old artifacts. The room of the two small boys is cheerful with a study area, kiddy drapes - "I love curtains," says Shlomi, "and I put them on all the windows" - and a cupboard finished in different colored squares. The master bedroom is in its own separate wing with a private balcony and is decorated in romantic white throughout. The entrance to the apartment is also worth a mention. A door to the right leads to the office while the left leads into the apartment. The walls are pale maplewood and the room is decorated with maroon glassware on specially built stands. In the lounge the brand-new suite is beige and all the colors in the sitting room are fairly muted. "I'm not afraid of color," says Shlomi, "but sometimes, especially with American clients, I have to fight with them not to overdo the color. In this climate and with the smaller rooms we usually have, it's better not to put too much ornamentation." The neat kitchen is the one they got from the builder. "We'll keep it until it falls apart," says Shlomi. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: