Wide open spaces

The kids have flown the nest so their folks found a new roost.

house int 88 224 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
house int 88 224
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
The children have grown up and flown the nest. Retirement looms. Life is about to begin at 60. But suddenly the two-story villa is too large, you really don't want the headache of a garden, yet you still want space. What do you do? In the case of this Petah Tikva couple, you buy a penthouse in a new building in the up-and-coming wide open spaces of Kfar Ganim Gimmel, one of the first planned neighborhoods in the area. Then you employ young designer Romy Black, recently returned from working in New York, to decorate it for you, help you choose furniture and sort out which old possessions to keep. She will also, if necessary, wrest them away from you if they are falling to pieces and you still resist. "People can be very hung up about their stuff," says Black, "so in some cases I really had to put my foot down." Being someone's interior designer is "90 percent psychology and 10% project management," she says. "You are leading the whole project with the couple - not just finding fabrics, lighting and furniture, but scheduling the production work so that everything falls into place at the right time." She works with her own carpenter, welder and upholsterer and is quite handy at turning a piece of furniture herself if need be. "The first thing is to establish priorities," Black says. "Which is the most important room, do they entertain a lot and do they want to keep the TV out of the living room, how much storage for books and utensils they will need." She also insists on working within a budget - "even the super-rich have a budget" - and tends to put durability high on the list of desirable qualities in what she buys. The nearly new apartment was transformed into an open plan with the taking down of walls blocking the kitchen and what is now the dining room. "I felt that opening up was more appropriate as it would bring them light and space and there are no small children, so it could look neat all the time," she says. The dining room was created from an old storeroom and a bathroom. Colors throughout are gray, dark brown and honey, which sounds dull but the end results are tasteful and soothing. The long honey-shaded table has a slightly distressed look, while the metal-framed chairs made by Black are light but sturdy. In the alcove a 100-year-old vitrine, one of the items the owners were allowed to keep, blends seamlessly with all the modern furniture. Touches of turquoise from picture frames brighten up the scene, while on the end wall is a striking round, wrought-iron candleholder. Above the table, an ornate rounded chandelier, brought from New York, casts interesting shadows on the ceiling. The wide-open spaces of the kitchen are made cozier by having some of the walls lowered to form a cornice with concealed lighting, while the back wall is covered in a small mocha-shaded tile and cabinets are mainly kept at the lower level. The kitchen table is stained walnut with an aluminum frame to match the tiles. Between the kitchen and lounge, Black has left glass shelves - "I didn't want it to be too open," she says - while the supporting column has been papered in a bronze textured paper and a vase of bare branches placed in front of it. An unusual feature of the lounge is the two low tables set next to the fabric-covered sofa. They are actually covered in a durable synthetic material in chocolate brown which Black assures me will never show any stains. Against the window stands a rustic bench which makes a perfect window seat. Cushions on the sofa match the dining-room chairs. The master bedroom has frosted glass wardrobes from Ikea. "When you are working on a budget, Ikea comes in handy," says Black with a smile. Next to it, the bathroom is tiled completely in bronze tiles which change color according to the light and furnished with some old vanity units, one adapted to a sink unit. Brass fittings and brown shower curtains complete the picture. The second bathroom has a sink carved out of a slab of rock, butcher-block countertops and an unusual rounded gray and white tile. A flight of stairs leads up to the second floor where the library, study and television are situated and the view across the red roofs and skyscrapers of the surrounding area is stunning. On a clear day, you can see Tel Aviv. Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: [email protected]