The apartment that the couple purchased was “stuck” in the 1970s, and included dark spaces that closed off the view of the nearby Carmel beach. To realize its inherent potential, they recruited an architect who turned the planning on its head, and created for them and their children a designed house that makes spectacular use of the nature that surrounds it
“Since I was a child, I dreamed of being an architect. I used to build palaces in my head, for real,” declares Michal Matlon (50), married and mother of three. Malton came to the field of design about 14 years ago, after a career as an engineer in the high-tech field.
“When I was twenty years old, on the advice of my father, I met with an architect who is a friend of the family, who pretty much ‘took’ me off the profession. She told me that it was an extortionate position, in every way.
Total dedication to clients at one of the most challenging moments in their lives. From the distance of time, I know that everything she said was not Far from the truth, but it suits me,” she says. “I learned to love the profession on all its levels.”
As she also did in the project in the photos. The couple who recruited her for the mission purchased an old property in Haifa – an apartment built on the Carmel ridge over 35 years ago.
“The challenge is to turn the weaknesses in the space into the strengths of the design, like a puzzle that needs to be put together correctly,” says Matlon. Indeed, beyond the dilapidated condition of the property, which required the replacement of all the various systems and their renewal, Matlon was impressed, just like the owners of the house, by the spectacular view of the sea that looked out from the windows, and wanted to incorporate it into the interior spaces.
“The apartment was divided into closed rooms, as was customary in the past, including the kitchen and the living room, but what surprised me the most was the fact that there was no reference in the planning to the view and the sea that the house and balcony face,” she recalls.
The owners of the house did purchase the old apartment, 100 square meters in size, because they saw potential in it. Despite this, Matlon says that it was difficult for them to break free from the arrangement of the existing space.
“It was clear to them that if the kitchen was in a certain area, that’s where it would stay,” she says. “It happens many times when you come to carry out a renovation. Homeowners want to expand the space, to see the view, but it’s hard for them to open their minds to real change, and it’s a process that takes time.”
The designer explains that after seeing various sketches, the property owners realized that this was the right step for them. “It was hard for them to imagine what would happen if the kitchen moved to the opposite side of the house and the bedroom in its place, but it was clear to me that the right thing would be to switch between them and place the bedroom suite in the old kitchen area, where it would have direct access to the bright balcony,” she says.
The designer adds that the exchange of the rooms, which have such a different character, made it possible to create an extremely large public space, also open to the balcony and the view.
Matlon notes that the main goal in the renovation was to adapt the property, which seems to be “stuck” somewhere in the 1970s, to contemporary life. “As a first step, we ‘shaved’ the property down to the level of the skeleton and made sure to replace everything: plumbing, piping, electricity,” she explains.
“Secondly, it was clear that it was necessary to open the walls. That the kitchen be wide open, and not closed behind a door. In fact, we hardly left any interior walls in the apartment.” According to her, one of the challenges was in the form of constructive columns, which, in consultation with a constructor hired for consultation, were removed, with the exception of one.
Smell the sea
The existing openings in the apartment were enlarged and expanded, in order to bring in natural light, ventilation and a view of the sea. The designer states that she wanted to establish a sense of space and continuity in the apartment by integrating the large balcony of the house into the space.
This is a gray stone canopy, identical to the interior flooring in the public space, which helped to blur the division between the two spaces, and as if turned them into one big space.
The blue sea that can be seen from the windows was also referenced in the interior of the apartment, with the help of a flattering and matching palette of blue and gray tones. These, combined with oak, bring warmth and a sense of home into the spaces of the house.
“The contrast between the cold gray in the flooring and the warm oak color that repeats itself in the spaces of the house, in the wall covering of the living room and the kitchen island, creates a precise balance in the spaces of the house. On the one hand, it gives warmth to the space, but also ‘lightens’ it in a modern and pleasant way.”
According to Matlon, the most significant space in the house for the tenants is the kitchen, and as such she designed it as a central junction between the living room and the dining area. She points out that she saw the utmost importance in opening the kitchen and enlarging the windows in order to create a close connection between it and the outside.
Accordingly, a smoky blue shade was chosen for the fronts of the cabinets, and a central island was designed in it, with a tight iron profile that surrounds it, turning it into a kind of jewel in the center of the space. “This island was created by my carpenter and joiner, and it creates a real ‘show’ that makes it look less cliched and banal,” she explains.
Bring nature in
The front door of the house leads to a tiny foyer space before entering the public space of the house, which includes the living room, kitchen, dining area and balcony. On the left is an electrical cabinet covered in oak, a carpentry element that continues to the left, to the central wall in the living room.
On this wall is fixed the television and the entertainment system, it is elegantly hidden behind a grooved and ventilated element, and in it is also embedded a door that leads to the master suite. Under the TV is a sideboard designed with the same covering as the one on the wall, with “reinforcements” in black, in the form of legs and storage drawers.
To the right of the front door is another small foyer, with a large storage closet that keeps order and organization upon entering the house. To the right is the entrance to the guest bathroom, and to the left is the entrance to the children’s room.
Another children’s room is located further down the corridor, with a huge window with a wooden frame in carpentry, which frames the view outside and at the same time provides a seating and storage area.
The wide window divides the space into two: on one side is a sleeping alcove with a carpentry bed integrated into an architectural niche, and on the other a spacious work area.
Next to the children’s room is the utility room, on a level two steps higher than the level of the entire apartment. In this room, there are black and white tiles, which stand out against the clean whiteness of the appliances.
The washing machines were placed ergonomically and correctly, to prevent prolonged bending and stooping. Ventilated drawers were designed for the dirty laundry, one for the colored laundry and the other for the white laundry.
The parents’ bedroom suite is a kind of private oasis in the house. The window openings in this room were lowered, in favor of an enveloping feeling of nature. “It was important to me to create an experiential feeling even during rest and sleep,” Matlon says.
“And the windows were lowered so that even when lying in bed you feel surrounded by the amazing view of the Carmel, and it seems that it literally penetrates inside and enters the room.”
The green color outside corresponds with the frame of the double bed and enhances the feeling of natural warmth in the space, next to the wooden items in the room, starting with the parquet and ending with the ceiling fan. A floating shelf with drawers was placed next to the window, which serves as a make-up and storage area.
The soothing greenish shade continues in the bathroom as well, where it was integrated into the bathroom cabinet in the form of rounded pieces of wood. A sitting bench in the continuation, made of wood, maintains the feeling of warmth in the wet room, and corresponds with the element of hanging shelves, in carpentry.
Huge coverings measuring 3×1 meters give a clean, homogeneous and spacious appearance in the wet space, as well as the integral sink from Corian, without connections, which helps establish the feeling of cleanliness in the space.
Michal’s tips for adapting an old property to new owners:
The most important tip is not to be fixated, and especially in the planning phase to try to “open your mind” to all the options, and be able to choose the best option for you. Even if you’ve lived in this house for 30 years, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to the original design.
It is important to look at the space with different eyes, “visit” the existing and offer alternatives that will meet your exact needs.
The more the space is lit, ventilated and brings the outside in – the better it is. Accordingly, Matlon’s recommendation is to open the windows and bring the view into the house, in a way that also brings in maximum natural light.
Planning is like a Hungarian cube that requires cracking. Even if you don’t have a professional, before renovating, sit down with family and friends and make a list of needs, priorities and dreams. These will lead you to the answer. In the end there is no such thing as “perfect”. We are always forced to give up something in favor of something else, so wisdom is correct and wise prioritization.