A 250-Year-Old Stone House in Israel With a Surprisingly Modern Interior

This historic home by Henkin Shavit Architecture is reimagined through a modern lens.

From the street, this 18th-century stone residence blends in inconspicuously with its neighbors in the old city of Safed in the north of Israel. Architects Henkin Irit and Shavit Zohar preserved the historic shell, while introducing contemporary elements to the interior including concrete, wood, steel, and glass. After navigating an arduous documentation process to move the project forward, the architects went to great lengths to preserve and embrace the rich history of the home, while pushing design boundaries on the interior.

The original home was built in the shape of the Hebrew letter "Chet," which wrapped around an open courtyard. The courtyard was closed off to become flexible public space, and now lies in between two private living areas. A steel and wood bridge connects the private wings of the home, which consist of bedrooms, bathrooms, and working spaces for the residents.

The walls are made of recycled limestone sourced locally from dismantled houses. The stone staircase, original to the home, was kept intact and wrapped in tin boards. Though it used to lead to the home’s roof, it now connects the kitchen and dining area with a new addition above. The door frame of the guest unit is fabricated in varnished steel to complement the natural beauty of the surrounding stone.

Irit and Zohar imagined a space that would be a cohesive blend of old and new. Stone, metal, glass, and wood intersect in the interior courtyard. Large skylights bring light in, and play upon the indoor-outdoor functionality of the courtyard space.

Warm and casual furniture is favored in the courtyard. Colorful seating, wood stools, and smart built-in shelving complete the space. The expandable table by Henkin Shavit is flanked by seven hanging pendant lights, symbolizing the branches of the Menorah. To the right of the table, the original stone arch leads to the home’s wine cellar.

The master suite is housed in a cozy ground floor nook that takes advantage of the home’s original archways. Transparent and semi-transparent glass are used to create privacy without sacrificing scarce light. Understated sunken floor lighting adds a subtle accent to the perimeter.

The master bathroom is framed by a glass and varnished steel doorway. Minimal white tiling and concrete floors allow both the original stone walls and graphic geometric glass openings to take center stage.

The historic facade blends in with the new stone of the addition. Several balconies on the upper level encourage outdoor living, and enable movement between the two private wings of the home. Situated on a hill in the old historic district, sweeping views are enjoyed from these private outdoor retreats.


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