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Interior Design & Renovation in Israel by Jennifer Ungar

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As anyone who has made Aliyah knows, the way business works in Israel is not the same as the way it works abroad. Even though I had plenty of prior experience in business in chutz la’aretz, there was a huge amount to learn when I started my company here. After all, it’s a different country with a different culture, business practices and expectations. Here are a few examples of how building and design just work differently here. You can thank me later for finding out for you the hard way! 

 In Israel, they work with an entirely different system of building. For example, the ramifications of building walls from poured concrete rather than Sheetrock are not to be underestimated. Using Sheetrock, if you want to move or add an electrical outlet, it’s no big deal. You seal up one spot and cut open a new one. Extend the wiring, pop in the new outlet, and you’re done.  

 Not here! If you forget an outlet, you are looking at big shekels to literally carve out the concrete to move the wires around and insert a new outlet. You can’t even hang a picture on the wall without finding out what kind of nails to use or the wall will just crack!  

 But in my opinion, the biggest difference is in mentality.  

 To an American it can seem that Israelis just don’t get it. This reminds me of when I went to buy a whole turkey (for Thanksgiving!). Unbeknownst to me then, it’s next to impossible to buy a whole turkey here. After arguing back and forth in my broken Hebrew, the butcher was getting exasperated. “Giveret, you cannot fit a whole turkey into your oven,” he insisted. “It’s too big!” With a big smile I told him, “Don’t worry, I have an American oven.” This time he also laughed and replied, “Why didn’t you say so?” 

 Moral of the story: If you want the size of oven you are used to, you need to know that “standard” in the U.S. is not “standard” here. And this goes for virtually everything! Small ovens, small washing machines, small furniture, small beds, small bathrooms, small fixtures, small kitchens…but all with big price tags! And if you make a mistake, stores and showrooms do not take returns, only credits, and fixing it will cost you a small fortune.  

 Given these often unanticipated challenges, a professional interior designer can find and implement solutions that ultimately save clients money and keep them from making costly mistakes. I am experienced in working with contractors and tradesmen in Israel and can anticipate and solve problems that most homeowners would overlook, particularly chutznikim who are not familiar with how things are done here.  

 Imagine you paid extra for an apartment with a view and you want to install large windows to emphasize and enjoy the scenery. In Israel most apartments are only made with small windows (and no screens). You want to install large windows (and/or screens)? Good luck. (Call me. I finally figured out how to get it done.) 

 You want individual room air conditioners? The units here are not simple plug-and-play units like in the States. They are big monsters that have to be mounted on the wall. You have to figure out where to put them without ruining your room design. And don’t forget that you will need a pipe buried in your wall to drain the water outside, as well as a convenient location for the noisy outdoor compressor that will certainly not endear you to your neighbors if not carefully selected.  

 Then your technician comes out and he says you have planned for too much air conditioning. Since you didn’t hire me, you listen to him! Big mistake. He’s Israeli.  He loves the heat and “fresh” air. Two months later your sweat is dripping on your keyboard as you try to work. You call him back and you faint when you find out what a mess it’s going to make and what it’s going to cost you to add another unit. It’s always more expensive after the initial installation. Now they’ve got you! 

 You don’t have the same amount of choice as you do in chutz la’aretz. And when you do find what you’re looking for, it’s still not simple. Say you’re in a showroom and find a tile that you like. You want to take a sample home to check. “I’m sorry, we do not give out samples,” is the common refrain here. This attitude drove me nuts. But over time, as suppliers got to know me, a number were willing to loan me samples for my clients. Similarly, because I bring in business, the suppliers give my clients a significant discount, so they don’t pay retail. I have also built up a network of suppliers who can help me and my clients find locally available alternatives for those hard-to-find items. 

 Learning the ropes and building my contacts and resources took time. But that is why people hire me. Whatever my bill comes to, it’s cheaper than someone doing it themselves and making costly mistakes. I’ve already done the hard work so you don’t have to.  

 Forewarned is forearmed! 

 So don’t hesitate to give me a call or drop me an email.  I would be happy to give you a free consultation. 

 

Jennifer Ungar has been designing beautiful spaces for 25 years and has worked on large and small residential projects in New York, New Jersey, Miami and Ramat Beit Shemesh. By listening closely to her clients’ needs and desires, Jennifer transforms their concepts and vision into a design reality. Her specialty is creating interiors that are comfortably sophisticated yet, relaxed and inviting; interiors that turn your space into your home.  

Jennifer can be reached at 052-448-7050 or jenungar@gmail.com. 

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