Online | Interiors

Urban Refuge

Tel Aviv, Israel

Baranowitz + Kronenberg’s one-bedroom home in an art deco block in Tel Aviv employs a cocoon of Douglas fir to soothe the senses of its cosmopolitan owner

When Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg, co-founders of architecture and interior design firm Baranowitz + Kronenberg, first stepped in to this Tel Aviv apartment, it was a blank canvas, waiting for a new identity. But someone else had taken up residence already: the homeowner’s daughters, who had built a play-fort from colourful blankets within the space. The sight turned into the germ of an idea for the project: a home that could be a cave-like refuge, an escape into another world.

The one-bedroom, 47 sqm apartment is part of an art deco building in the city’s Levontin neighbourhood, and is owned by a businessman who “who seeks peace and quiet while remotely running his world-embracing affairs,” according to co-founder and creative director Alon Baranowitz.

The pied-a-terre was inspired by spaces that are inward, rather than outward looking, “ones that erase any trace of their physical context in favour of an introverted spatial experience,” Baranowitz continues. “We were fuelled by the desire to eliminate any possible design ‘noise’ and leave ample space for interpretation.” This also needed to be a place of work for the homeowner, so there are some clever space-saving tricks, including a kitchen that can be completely hidden away so that the room can be repurposed as workspace.

The use of a single material, Douglas fir, helps to realise the design concept, used across all the internal surfaces to create a cocooning effect. Like any successful minimalist interior, what appears effortless as a finished product takes a lot of painstaking effort to look this simple. “This space couldn’t have been achieved without the talent, dedication and passion of some very great craftsmen,” says Baranowitz. “Considering the entire space was executed with solid Douglass fir boards, ‘taming’ nature was actually our biggest challenge.”

He describes the furniture (there’s not much of it) as “monochro-monastic”: it acts as a continuation of the interior architecture and amplifies the sense of calm. It would be wrong to say that the apartment was entirely inward-looking, however: “The main spaces had a beautiful natural light from the south and west, so we wanted to especially hone in on this and make the best use of it,” says Baranowitz. “The spacious feel is revealed through order, openness, natural light and a minimal curation of objects.” Fluted glass doors separate off the bathroom, which is equally pared-back, with a timber vanity unit distinguished by its striking grain that swirls across the front.

After dark, the place has a cosy character all of its own. In the bedroom, curtains can be drawn right across the walls (not just over the windows), softly enveloping the room. Baranowitz + Kronenberg worked with lighting design firm RTLD to create a beautifully effective lighting scheme. This includes LED lighting concealed within a rhythmic line of notched grooves on the timber walls, close to the junction with the ceilings – the light is directed upwards so it washes over the ceiling, catching the grooves in the fir boards. “The wood become a lighting source as well, annulling any fixtures present and allowing nature to glow,” says Baranowitz. Complementing the upward thrust of this lighting, floor lamps cast pools of light downwards to theatrical effect.

Thanks to its limited palette of material and colours – and that warm, comforting lighting scheme – tranquillity suffuses from every part of this compact but clever apartment. Baranowitz says that the aim was to “conquer our client’s heart every morning anew, and nourish his mind and soul while running his business.”