There's Nothing Standard' Here

Floating bathtubs and Tuscan-style wine cellars - such are the design elements being used by people with deep pockets in their home `refresher' projects

Moneyed folks with dispensable income to spend on entertainment, shopping and various acquisitions don't renovate their homes - they "refresh" them. Designers and architects replan their homes to suit the latest fashion and make use of newly imported building materials. Carpenters are enlisted, and fine craftsmen of all sorts are employed to realize the whims of the masters of the house. The cost of such work is, of course, in keeping with their owners' ability to pay: While several tens of thousands of shekels are typically spent by those of moderate means to paint, install a new floor and perhaps redo the kitchen, these wealthier owners transform their entire home, at a cost that often reaches hundreds of thousands of shekels.

For example, a couple in Ra'anana decided to renovate their older 850-meter home, located in the center of the city. They contacted the Even Al Even Company, experts in the management and supervision of building projects. They defined their expectations, including a meditation-yoga corner in the center of the home for the mistress of the house. The house was redesigned according to the owners' demands: A zinc roof replaced the former ceramic tiles. The windows were framed in aluminum and wood, and a Japanese Zen-inspired garden was installed. The home was utterly transformed in the seven months required to complete the project. The final cost of this renovation: $120,000.

Rotem Fried, assistant marketing director of Even Al Even, says that many now prefer an upgrade of their current home over buying a new one. According to Fried, "It isn't possible to find valuable real estate everywhere. There is sometimes a shortage of it. So people prefer to improve the site that they own."

Meital Tzafrir, an architect at the Yam Architects firm, says that the thought process behind the design of a home for those of extraordinary means is entirely different. This is because the budget is usually a central aspect in design, especially in terms of raw materials and the finish. According to her, the wealthy rarely limit the budget of the architect and designer because they have unlimited funds and are more concerned with the unique qualities of the design. "A person with money looks for something that doesn't exist, another standard, and he enjoys the search for something unique," she says.

Tzafrir adds that the wealthy do not cling to a standard of design. "The term `standard' does not exist for them. They look for something that is unavailable in the marketplace, so that only they will have it. It's a search for something uncommon. This goal mainly arises from the fact that they can afford to indulge in this without doing damage to their bank balance."

Hila Caspi, interior designer at the Hila Caspi Architectural Firm, says that people with a large budget are not willing to compromise on detail and finish. "I had a very large budget to design a 280-meter duplex at the Sea Sun project in Tel Aviv," she says. "Despite the fact that the design area was considered small, the investment was very exacting."

According to her, the duplex design included purchasing furniture abroad and transforming the basement into a wine cellar with a Tuscan ambience. Caspi notes that it is very important to maintain proportions in design, and this is what requires the greatest investment on the part of the designer so that the project will show that attention has been paid to every detail.

Differences in design are not limited to the planning and approach of the designer, of course, but include the materials used in the renovation. Metal and aluminum roofing materials replace tile, exteriors are sealed in smooth cement, and specialized carpentry and exquisite marble floors grace these unusual homes.

"The sky is the limit in terms of the range in prices for various materials used inside the home - kitchens, floors, sanitary fixtures and details in the living room," says architect Tzafrir. "One person might pay NIS 3,000 for a bathtub, and another might pay NIS 40,000. There's no limit to the unique design elements, like bathtubs that seemingly float above the floor."

According to Caspi, "the higher the standards, the more pedantic and creative I have to be. A person who has NIS 100,000 to spend on design is more concerned with function than a person willing to spend $100,000 with more exacting demands. That's why you can find people who invest $1,500 per meter, $5,000 per meter and millions of dollars on the design of an entire home."

"The home reflects its owner - it's a metaphor of one's self," Caspi continues. "I become knowledgeable about their lives and their professions, and I give them my own professional input."

There are many who might disagree with the assumption that the home and its design reflects the personality of its owner, but few would argue with the conclusion that the design reflects the depth of the owner's pockets. However, Caspi maintains that the wealthy also are divided into two camps: "Those who want you to come into their house and say, `Wow!' and those who want to say, `Wow!' themselves." According to her, people in the first group renovate mainly to justify their own reputations. They invest more in the cost of the project, in financial terms, and less in the collaboration with the architect.