It’s not surprising that Na’ama Steigman Gavish and Ailon Gavish installed an astounding array of light fixtures to carefully illuminate their Jaffa apartment. The newlyweds are both lighting designers, which is, in fact, what brought them together.
Just over two years ago, Steigman, who had recently returned from six months in Australia, was seeking work and love in Tel Aviv. A friend put her in touch with Gavish as a possible work contact, and she sent him an extraordinarily long email, detailing her globe-like light fixtures made from the ground pages of her architect mother’s leftover blueprint paper and delicately studded with the dried ivory blossoms of the bar gavia, a summer wildflower found in the fields behind Moshav Sejera, the northern community where she grew up.
The light fixtures are a kind of recycling romance, an ode to environmental sculpture. Like Steigman Gavish, they are one-of-a-kind. As are her emails.
“It wasn’t an email, it was an article,” said Gavish.
“I got him curious,” retorted Steigman Gavish.
They met in person soon after. From afar, Gavish caught his first glimpse of her in a green sundress — “it was summertime, late in the afternoon” — while she took one look at him when he opened his studio door and thought, “Wow, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to bring children into the world.”
They were married just over a year after they met. In the interim, they threw themselves into renovating the Jaffa apartment that Gavish had previously bought. What he loved about the rundown, two-room, 65-square-meter (213 feet), top-floor apartment that had previously housed a large family was that it hadn’t been touched since it was built in 1963. That made the gut renovation all the more enticing.
Situated at the top of a corner building that houses a cafe on the ground floor, their building is entered by way of a double-wide, turquoise green metal door that brings visitors into a downstairs courtyard, a nice touch for the otherwise nondescript building.
Having arrived at the stripped-down metal front door, visitors enter the apartment by way of a relatively short hallway that ends in a T, with their bedroom to the left, a guest bathroom straight ahead and the all-purpose living space to the right. After deciding to create just two rooms — a larger room that contains the kitchen, dining table, living room and work corner, and the bedroom/bath suite (as well as a guest bath, an important element given their frequent entertaining) — the pair extended the living space all the way to the sliding balcony door, opening the entire room to the cityscape beyond. Over in the corner of the living room, just above one end of the couch, is another good-sized window that grants a view of the cypress tree outside, a tall, full specimen that lends some green to their urban setting.
The main room, about three quarters of the entire apartment, isn’t all that large, but it’s nicely proportioned and boasts well-defined spaces, particularly for the kitchen where both like to putter and cook. They wanted a kitchen that could remain fairly small — albeit with a 90-cm (3-ft.) oven, large by Israeli standards — and open to the rest of the room. There’s always a well-stocked glass jar of Steigman Gavish’s grandmother’s date cookies, which go well with an espresso prepared by Gavish (who collects macchiato machines and lines them neatly on top of the kitchen cabinet).
One of the room’s mainstays is the dining table adjacent to the kitchen, a slab of glass placed on top of a refinished carpenter’s work station that has corkscrews and corks tossed into the carved out spaces in a kind of haphazard exhibit, and with Steigman Gavish’s first light fixture hanging above.
“We love hosting, and we wanted to be able to sit and cook and see our guests and see the TV,” said Steigman Gavish, pointing to the flat screen on the other side of the room.
But it’s the lighting that dramatizes the space. There are more than 16 light fixtures, each one serving a particular purpose. Long fluorescent bulbs hidden in a ceiling niche of the living room offer inexpensive, diffuse light, while a swinging lamp is turned on with an industrial switch that Gavish rebuilt using parts gathered from around the country. The corner desk is illuminated by a lamp rebuilt by Gavish, and spotlights in the kitchen, as well as three black ceiling fans, strategically brighten and cool off the room.
“Quality of light is so important,” said Gavish. “We never put them all on together. We mix smart bulbs with halogen for soft, quality lighting.”
Both come by their inventiveness honestly. Gavish began tinkering with fiberglass when he was a teen living in Herzliya, surfing every afternoon and fixing his friends’ boards. Eventually he used fiberglass to construct furniture — their TV stand was his first piece — and went on to study interior design in Israel before living in Milan and then Sweden, where he worked and studied until returning to Israel to open Twilight, his own architectural lighting design firm.
Steigman Gavish studied sculpting at Holon’s Institute of Technology, and was an artist’s assistant when she began working with the reams of blueprint paper she discovered in her mother’s office, later moving on to the thin foam sheets used in packaging electronics and kitchen appliances. She’s also a trained silversmith and is skilled at wiring electrical appliances.
It clearly helps to be handy when you’re redesigning your own place and want to keep costs down. Gavish and Steigman Gavish built their own closets — including one in their entry hallway that hides all their extraneous junk, although the sliding doors have yet to be built. Other smart decisions include their en suite bathroom/laundry room combo, with a small-sized European washer sharing space with their toilet, shelves bearing laundry detergent and other bathroom necessities, and a shower stall that is large enough for two and includes a metal clothes hanger for wet laundry. No dryer or bathtub just yet. Steigman Gavish said she figured they could last a year in the one-bedroom apartment with a small baby.
Until then, it’s a welcoming lover’s loft, spacious enough for two, especially considering that they also share a 100-square-meter (328 square feet) studio nearby. They relish sitting in chairs by the sliding balcony door, looking out at the oversized stencil spot they’ve reflected onto the outside wall of a neighboring building that provides a nightly light show for them and the public at large.
“It’s our space,” said Steigman Gavish.
The Steigman-Gavish apartment will be open to viewers for Batim Mibifnim (Houses from Within), which will take place May 2-4.