The kitchen — its design, functionality, location, and view — is often the selling point of a home. It is the command center, the main gathering area, workspace, and a vital hub of sustenance, creativity, and connection.
“Israeli kitchens work very hard,” says Yael Steinberger, an interior designer with 25 years of experience working in Israeli homes and hundreds of kitchen redesigns under her belt.
The Israeli kitchen “has to maximize storage in the space. And it has to put up with a lot of cleaning. The Israeli kitchen is not for show,” Steinberger told The Times of Israel in a recent interview.
Families tend to eat together and host often, she noted, but kitchens tend to be small since many people live in apartments rather than single-family residences. For some, keeping kosher means finding extra accommodation for additional dishes, utensils, and pots.
Neutral palettes have long been common in the Israeli kitchen, but interior designers are seeing new colors, textures, and technologies making their way into this most critical of home spaces.
Israeli kitchens need “heavy-duty materials, especially for bench tops,” said Yakov Cohen, one of the team of brothers leading Gefen Kitchens, an Ashkelon-based custom kitchen and furniture company that has been operating for close to 60 years. He notes that his customers are showing interest in sturdy wood surfaces.
Alyssa Magid, an interior designer based in Modiin, told The Times of Israel that she has been experimenting with finishes that make wood surfaces easy to keep clean, and with new looks and textures for those ready for some color.
One client was redoing the kitchen to include an extra large island, and “wanted to focus on function, and a warm but minimal appearance,” she described.
Magid went for white cabinets and drawers, a wall of cabinets faced in wood, and an island that incorporates bolder color.
Perhaps most remarkably, Magid has also been working with black materials, formerly unheard of in Israeli kitchens, as the color shows dust and limescale from the country’s hard water. As appropriate cleaning products have become available, the designer said black is coming into its own, even in kitchens.
In one Ramat Beit Shemesh home, Magid combined charcoal with white, in an otherwise traditional kitchen, to dramatic effect.
Nicole Lehrer Nakash has been designing homes across central Israel for over 20 years. She believes the look of Israeli kitchens is undergoing a drastic change.
The range of materials available in Israel is also expanding, with new finishes available that require zero maintenance. Traditional painted services that may chip over time are being replaced with tougher, more resistant materials with different textures and bold colors.
The vague, generic look for kitchens and apartments “is dead,” said Lehrer Nakash. “People still want something neutral, so that they don’t get tired of it, but they are now looking for contrast, color, textures, and lighting effects that humanize it and make it comfortable and allow it to feel like home.”
Vibrant secondary colors are therefore being incorporated with the dominant gray, white, and cream shades, and the luxury element is increasingly being dialed up — with copper and rose gold handles and taps, like discreet jewelry against a deceptively simple look.
Vered Dror Nevii, a Ra’anana-based designer who works on homes in Israel and the United States, recently designed a kitchen in baby blue for a young American family that had asked for something colorful that would feel both classic and modern.
“I chose Shaker-style cabinet doors with brushed gold handles and a granite countertop,” she said.
Perks and new tech
When it comes to flooring, all the designers interviewed agreed that there was a clear shift to wood, often continued throughout the home. The shift has been made easier by the arrival of high-quality, water-resistant wood parquet that can endure buckets of water being poured over it daily, also known as sponja, Israel’s preferred method of mopping.
Steinberger said that she is also seeing a trend toward environmentally friendly features and incorporated technology, such as smart appliances, drying ovens, and space for growing herbs and vegetables.
Lehrer Nakash is especially enthusiastic about incorporating induction hobs that can directly heat worktops and allow surfaces to be utilized in other ways when not in use for cooking. She also champions the hidden warming drawer, suitable for use on Shabbat, hidden extractor fans to disperse the smell of frying, and a single tap that delivers water for hot, chilled, or sparkling drinks, replacing machines that take up precious counter space.
The designers also agree that a kitchen island often functions as a serving counter for buffet dining — an increasingly popular option for entertaining guests — and also delivers extra under-counter storage for the many sets of plates and cutlery in use, especially in kosher kitchens.
In the latest contemporary designs, an island may conceal a dining table, which can be extended to accommodate family and guests.
“It is part of Jewish culture to eat, which is one reason why the kitchen island remains a popular element, allowing family and friends to gather there,” Lehrer Nakash. “It’s important there are comfortable chairs alongside it, so people can hang around and chat.”
Natalie Sher, who regularly fits islands into her kitchens, believes that clients will increasingly look for individuality in the spaces they use.
“In the past, strict conformity ruled,” says Sher. “Increasingly, going forward, everything will not match, and contrast and surprise will inject more fun into living areas.”
Kitchen remodeling is traditionally high on the list of popular home renovations, and though the recent drop in home sales is likely to impact the delivery of new kitchens in 2023, enthusiasm for new kitchens is expected to remain high, given the high value of these spaces in the Israeli home.