A Home in Israel, With Eastern Influences


“We see eye to eye on many things,” Kedem Shinar said of her mother and Mr. Woo.

Mr. Woo, a longtime New Yorker, loves lofts and wanted the airy, spacious feeling of a high-ceilinged loft in the country. He is a tall man, and did not want to feel cramped in any space. Finally, the couple are writing a novel together and wanted to be sure to have plenty of nooks that would encourage creativity.

What they created was the sum of all those parts. The square, spare house, 350 square meters on a half-acre plot, is large and airy, but not too big, which settled Ms. Shinar, who has lived most of her life in fairly small spaces.

The double-door entrance on the eastern side of the Bauhaus-inspired house leads into a spacious public space, divided into an airy living room and dining area furnished with Eames-inspired pieces, including a comfortable, twill-covered L-shaped couch, Turkish rugs and a long plank dining table. The focus, however, is on the interplay of walls and windows leading out to the garden, with double-height windows and sliding doors open to the garden and the forest of cypress and fir trees beyond.

“I was scared stiff of double-height windows,” Ms. Shinar said. “I was brought up in Israel, where you don’t open big windows to the sun.”

The house has a northern exposure, however, with sun coming from the east in the morning, but never any direct sunlight. The wraparound sliding doors offer complete exposure to the garden, creating one of the house’s many frames to the garden, Mr. Woo said.

The open kitchen is on the other side of the public space, taking up a spacious corner by the back door that opens onto the kitchen garden, planted with herbs for easy picking. With the burners set into the kitchen island and liberal use of wood and metal in the cupboard doors and surfaces, Ms. Shinar has the efficient, attractive work space that she lacks in their New York apartment, while Mr. Woo has the right kind of space for cooking Chinese food, which can create a lot of smoke.

An upper gallery houses the floor-to-ceiling library and office, with a wood-and-iron bridge that floats over the double-height living room. And while the palette of the house is mostly neutral, from the poured concrete floors and wooden elements to the iron doors and stair treads, there are many touches of color, from the area rugs, textiles and bright orange barstools set at the kitchen counter.

Ms. Shinar also preferred creating a modern interpretation of something local, whether it was her kitchen window designed with glass squares framed in metal, known as a Belgian window in Israel, or the iron staircase, in homage to the ironworks seen in many Israeli homes.

Photo

The house is respectful of nature, but it’s not an environmental house, Ms. Shinar said; it’s a more of a philosophical approach.

Credit
Amit Geron

“If you’re in Jerusalem, you have to use Jerusalem stone,” she said, referring to the city’s law requiring facades of the creamy limestone, “but for me, stucco is Israel, and so are Belgian windows and cement floors, because that’s what Israelis use. You want to be able to live in it, and put things down on the counters and tables, without ruining some composition.”

On the west side of the house is the iron staircase that leads up to the master bedroom, also offering a full view of the garden and forest beyond. Downstairs is a guest room and on the side of the house is another apartment with a separate entrance that can be used for guests or family. Like all the other rooms, it faces the forest, said Kedem Shinar, pointing to the wraparound windows.

“We’re always oriented toward the garden,” she said.

For Kedem Shinar, it was important to include those elements of Eastern influence, although she is aware of how much she has to learn from the enigmatic culture.

“I’m careful when I mention being influenced by Japan,” she said. “It’s not about copy-and-paste or planting bamboos. I consciously tried to take some of the elements that I had deeply learned and understood.”

One of the elements she included is the concrete and wood deck that leads from the living room — a mix of materials that was cheaper and more practical, and also blended with the colors of the garden — and floats, Japanese style, over the garden. It is a concept found in traditional Japanese houses and shrines, creating a strong connection between inside and outside, she said.

Mr. Woo said, “If we wanted to build a house that was totally integrated with nature, we could have lowered the house to the level of the garden. I think the reason the Japanese create a little distance is to allow you to contemplate nature and enjoy it. It’s not totally being part of it, but it’s a reverential thing.”

The garden, which slopes down toward the forest and is divided into different zones, has areas where Mr. Woo and Ms. Shinar can sit on a bench and contemplate their surroundings, work on a tale or weed in the garden. There’s an English-style garden outside the front door, with tall, colorful flower beds of Mediterranean flora, a fruit and olive tree orchard and a grape arbor being developed toward the back, near the secret door leading to the forest.

The house is respectful of nature, but it’s not an environmental house, Ms. Shinar said; it’s a more of a philosophical approach.

Mr. Woo said he often wondered if, like them, Ms. Nudel, the Soviet refusenik, preferred the forest to the mountainous side of the community.

“I’m sure she did,” Ms. Shinar said. “The mountain offers drama, the forest offers peace.”

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