Project: Modern Farm House
Where: A village in the center of Israel
For: A couple in their 40s and their three children
Plot area: 1.350 dunams
House area: 650 square meters, on 4 levels
Planning and design: Interior designer Keren Niv-Toledano
Photo Credits: Itay Benit
It is rare to encounter an Israeli-built house that looks as if it was taken from the cover of one of the world’s most prestigious magazines. The house, planned by interior designer Keren Niv-Toledano in a village in the center of Israel, exactly fulfills that definition thanks to experiential living spaces in which attention has been paid to every detail, combining perfect functionality and visuality of exceptional quality – a perfect balance of masses and dimensions that exist together harmoniously.
“This is a renovation project of a house that is more than 40 years old, the childhood home of the mother of the family. Her parents built a new house nearby and passed on to her the right of a continuing daughter,” explains interior designer Keren Niv-Toledano who is responsible for the planning and design of the project. “Both of the couple come from the field of building. The specification was to thoroughly renovate the old building. We carried out a fundamental change of the facades, the openings and the interior and exterior design. A licensing architect accompanied the process.”
“The main theme was to create a modern farm house that retains the rural atmosphere, in a rougher interpretation, with industrial and modern touches. The result is a space that characterizes the studio’s design language. This is a modern farm house without compromises, it has no main actors or minor actors: all the spaces were treated as a holistic entirety and every level was examined in detail and treated with love and precision,” she adds. “The house is rich in state-of-the-art technologies and systems, all items were planned and custom-made in detail – from cut-to-size stone carvings to the details of the woodwork, the furniture and the textiles.”
“The external envelope was planned precisely. The original arches and protrusions were squared. The location of the windows and openings were changed, and so were the locations of the entrance gate and door. It was important to me to create large openings and an optimal flow from the interior to the balcony and garden, perfect congruence between the functions in the house itself and those waiting for the family and its guests outside it.”
The entrance story is particularly spacious and well-lit and it contains the living room, dining area and kitchen and the guest washroom. A natural-stone-faced and granite-floored entrance hall leads to a high, impressive black iron entrance door with brass handles. Beyond it is the heart of the public space. Niv-Toledano has managed to create an axis that defines the functions and the spaces in the story well and at the same time enables continuous views and eye contact without limitations or distractions. The mezzanine level, in which the family area and the children’s rooms are located, is defined as the main axis around which the home revolves. It enables a continuous view of all the wings and as such, impressive cedar wood roofing was planned for it which creates a fold in the ceiling that emphasizes its being a real focal point. The designer chose to cover the floor of the mezzanine level with natural rough oak in straight planks and the upper level with the same parquet, laid in a fishbone pattern.
Minimalistic aluminum window frames were installed in the openings throughout the house, divided into squares that unite and combine the modern and rural styles. Natural Israeli stone covers the facades of the entrance story and the children’s story and penetrates inside as an accent wall in the living room spread over 7 meters. On the wall are black minimalistic bookshelves surrounding a powerful bay window that looks out over the cared-for garden and orchard. This raw, crude impressive item meets a dark bluestone floor. The color scale is linen and the soft materiality in the living room that Niv-Toledano has chosen is based on velvets, natural fabrics and soft flowing drapes. In the center of the space is an artistically carved oak table, placed on a straw mat. The impressive accent wall is lit from above by a linear light fitting made of a brass pipe and ceramic spotlights.
The spacious kitchen is also planned with perfect symmetry. Two bay windows fill the space with natural light and enable a wonderful view of the garden. Niv-Toledano planned 3 parallel strip lights next to a high black oak facade, containing a niche faced in Carrera stone with a set of brass display shelves for a coffee machine. The other facades are made of natural oak, on which Carrera stone work surfaces with an inlaid brass detail have been installed. Each function has been defined by decorative lighting, so that for example a linear brass lighting pipe floating above the dining area creates quiet and defines the area. An ensemble of five brass light fittings with a raw appearance and a flowing composition has been installed above the island.
Also in the kitchen, a large glass door leads to a roofed pergola and a well-equipped outdoor kitchen. Another exit to the impressive garden is through the living room, where a Provencal-style outdoor living room made of rusty-looking iron and furnished with fabrics imported especially from abroad awaits the family. These two glass doors enable optimal access to the garden lung that was planned entirely on the basis of wild Israeli plants. They face a vine pergola that stretches along the length of the building and lightens the mass. Niv-Toledano has included many elements that give the wonderful entirety its unique appearance, including wooden swings, many fruit trees and above them, cedar panels and hemlock beams combined with rusty construction metal that adds an additional dimension to the romantic rural atmosphere.
The rich language of this story also continues in the guest washroom for which the designer chose green tiles with a special glaze in a fan pattern. The sink cabinet combines a natural stone trough placed on a stand made of rusty iron transmission bars.
The stairs, which lead to the upper levels, are accompanied by a delicate console table, which serves as an interlude, made of a combination of iron, brass and green Verde Guatemala marble. The stairway is open and airy and is accompanied by an iron railing crafted in a barcode pattern. The stair treads, which look like floating cushions, were created by Niv Toledano from solid bluestones milled to a special basin-like model. A pair of large, impressive artworks made by an Israeli artist who created them especially for the project accompany whoever goes up the stairs and emphasize the height of the double space. Three lighting circles made of Parisian rattan floating above emphasize the double roof and illuminate the space with a delicate lace texture.
The mezzanine level, where the family corner, the children’s rooms and the guest suite are located, serves as a central strategic axis, overlooking the different parts of the house and enabling continuous eye contact between the family members. In the center of the family corner, which serves as a meeting place, are a green wooden piece of furniture, small tables on a soft carpet and velvet soft furnishings. The children’s rooms were designed according to their taste in delicate color scales and relaxing pastel hues. A light wood wall covering, matching carpentry, delicate pieces of furniture and soft art were planned for each of them. A communication closet was planned between two of the rooms, which the designer chose to cover with light-colored slats that blend in with the wall and create an interlude from the pastel colorfulness in the children’s rooms. The washroom was designed in a monotone pallet of black and white and is also an island of quiet compared to the colorfulness that rules in the other parts of this story. The guest suite contains a spacious well-lit bedroom in the center of which is an accent wall covered with raffia wallpaper in a chevron pattern. Elements such as furniture and textiles in aqua, blue and gray hues give it its hotel appearance.
The next flight of stairs leads to the parents’ wing in which there are five functions: on the left, the home office, in the center the master bedroom and on the right, the washroom, the walk-in closet and an equipped gym. The office was planned as a well-lit, pleasant and cultural space and the entrance to it is through a large, impressive glass door The space is floored with a natural stone mosaic in black and white hues. On the right are a natural oak bookcase, a desk and a pair of leather chairs. Above is a solid wooden ceiling painted dramatic black and at the end, a pair of exit doors to the hanging balcony overlooking the impressive garden.
The couple’s master bedroom was planned in perfect symmetry that gives harmony and a feeling of perfect calm. The space is especially large (approximately 40 square meters) and above it a linear roof made of cedar wood and hemlock beans slopes in four directions. In the center of the ceiling are two dominant and impressive light fittings made of antique steel that were imported from Europe. The pampering bed in the center rests on a banana silk carpet, on it are linen fabric and a set of pillows with tassels of various sizes and on both sides iron nightstands that incorporate Verde Guatemala stone. At the end of the bed is an oval brass bench and beyond it a commode in a bluish aqua hue made of Parisian rattan, next to a coffee table and a cloud armchair.
Two white closets with a Parisian rattan facade stand in perfect symmetry on both sides of the two-wing door – on the left is a hanging closet and on the right harmonica doors that reveal a pampering boudoir corner and an impressive mirror. Beyond is a door leading to a washroom with a waterjet floor made from impressive, powerful lava stone. In the same space there are a dominant shower closet in an aqua hue that is also present here, towel warmers, an English-style suspended water closet and a set of velvet drapes that include a skirt.
The basement story is planned as a practical and experiential space and contains a music studio and many other functions and treats. The father of the family, a musician who plays in a band, received this space as a man cave and it has a stylish masculine music studio, a washroom, a kitchenette and a snooker table that is located under a roofed balcony. The old house had no secure space and therefore the couple and Niv-Toledano created a well- equipped secure unit containing all the functions necessary for an emergency: a shower, a kitchen and a sleeping area that can also be entered from the parking area.