Debby Schor Elyasy
When Debby made aliyah from her native Milan 14 years ago, she was delighted. What the qualified architect hadn’t banked on, however, was a difference in mentality and approach from some of her Israeli colleagues in everyday life and in the building and retail industry, which sometimes made her working life difficult.
Debby has turned her experiences of the gap between the European and the Israeli worlds to her advantage, offering her services as an architect and interior designer to clients abroad or in Israel.
These clients have perhaps bought a plot of land and are about to build a house in Israel, or want to renovate a property there, while working with honest and reliable tradespeople.
“My clients are mainly non-Israelis (speaking Italian, English and Spanish),” she writes on her website. “They appreciate my style and my Italian aesthetic with an emphasis on precise execution along with our shared language.”
From her initial consultation – conducted face-to-face or online – Debby will, figuratively speaking, hold the hands of a client and see their project through from the initial planning stages to completion, taking care of the big – and little – details along the way. This problem-solving and hands-on approach eases the pressure on her clients, whom she keeps updated at all times, and ensures the project is completed to their satisfaction.
“I deal with aesthetics, space, functionality and I design homes the best way I can to fulfil my client’s desires, like many other architects,” she tells me. “But my USP is that I also deeply understand my clients’ world.
“Their fears are same ones I experienced previously, and I understand that apart from wanting a nice home, they have concerns relat- ed to the fact they are not Israeli. They want to be sure that they are paying the right price and that they are in good hands.”
Debby also has ‘green’ credentials having studied green building at university and is certified by the Standards Institution of Israel to accompany green building. This means she makes it her aim to make less use of sources of non-renewable energy, while taking maximum advantage of clean, renewable energy such as sun and wind, as well as of features of the local environment.
As a teenager, Nickie Kantor travelled with her family to Japan, falling in love with the Japanese culture and aesthetic. This sparked the desire to explore further and she went on to study Japanese at university, spending time in the country. She loves minimalism, which she says is intrinsic in Japanese culture, both emotionally and visually.
“I can really relate to the use of natural materials and functionality in design in Japan to create an outcome that is highly practical and aesthetically pleasing,” she says.
It is this aesthetic Nickie’s clients appreciate, along with her ability to understand how to get ahead in Israel, having made aliyah from England 25 years ago. Israelis can be more direct and brash, she says, which sometimes causes problems if you’re not used to their way of thinking – but she is able to walk that tightrope, having experienced it herself.
“People here say what they think and this can be offensive if taken out of context. English people are used to polite service and the maxim that ‘the client is always right’. The fact that I connect with English and Israelis equally has been a major advantage.
“In this industry in Israel, working with workmen, however skilled, you need to be very assertive especially if you expect attention to the finest details and implementation of design features according to the plan,” continues Nickie, who is fluent in Hebrew and is therefore able to minimise misunderstandings. “I ensure the communication is productive and enjoyable for both sides.”
Nickie also has an MBA specialising in marketing and prides herself on her eye for design, which she also honed in the London fashion world. With an Israeli diploma in interior architecture under her belt, she is able to draw up comprehensive plans including electricity, air conditioning, building and carpentry.
She is involved throughout the design process from conception to completion, and this often includes accessorising a client’s home and helping to incorporate pieces they have brought with them. For intensive design sessions, she has even met clients in London.
However, she strives to maintain the balance between aesthetics and practicality. “In designing a contemporary home in Israel, with practicality in mind, it’s important to use materials that are suitable to the climate and way of life,” she explains.
“I work with my clients to incorporate their own tastes and preferences at the same time as ensuring that the outcome is highly aesthetic. I am a perfectionist and I work really hard to ensure that no two projects turn out the same.”
With a meticulous eye for a beautiful but functioning aesthetic, boutique agency Jerusalem Design offers full-service support to clients wanting interiors and exteriors that are bold and stylish. But while the execution of this type of brief might, in other companies, cause the spiralling of costs, the co-founders of Jerusalem Design take extra steps to ensure their clients are not left counting the shekels.
US-born operations director Yoav Ehrenhalt and creative director Chezi Spero combine many years of experience and talent to provide architectural, interior design and project management input from start to finish, all the while remembering the all-important budget sheet.
As Yoav explains: “Aside from having a strong emphasis on quality, our firm is very budget conscious. Our process is to plan, design, and price out the project to a 95% resolution before starting any work. This allows our clients to stick to a budget and not overextend themselves.”
The pair tackle projects of all scales, from apartments of 50 sqm to full homes and buildings, mainly in Jerusalem but also in the surrounding area. The team are particularly proud of the renovation of the three-floor Shaarei Chesed penthouse, which was completed within just three and a half months and required input from various tradespeople in the same place at the same time – normally, a logistical headache.
“When a team moves as one – as this one did – it allows a normally stressful project to turn into an adventure with beautiful results and happy clients,” explains Yoav.
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