When Sharon‘s friend, Chedva, contacted me to inquire about a home tour for her pal, it was an easy, easy yes. All she had to do was mention Israel, the Maharal Valley, and Paper Bella. Then there were the photos of Sharon’s home. And then there was the view.
I was hooked. And I was curious, especially, to see how Israel’s ever-changing and charged political climate affects the entire process. Turns out, that’s not even a factor – or, at least, not in the way I imagined. The view, however, is. Enjoy the tour!
Q: Tell us all about this sweet family in Israel.
A: Are you ready? We’re quite a group! I’m the artistic type, which means I’m constantly losing my glasses and then finding them in the fridge. Everyone is used to it by now and try to make up for it. My husband Alon is a businessman which should mean that he’s the grown-up in this relationship, but actually he’s a kid at heart who goes to flea markets on Saturdays at 5 am to collect old transistor radios and antiques, and rides an off-road motorbike.
Yahli, our 10 year old daughter, follows in my footsteps, which means she’s very musical and extremely messy. And then there are Ben and Daria, our twins. Ben’s highest goal in life is being Messi (as in the football player). We call him our Mowgli because he just loves being outdoors as much as possible. Daria is in charge of our family; at just seven years old, she is amazingly responsible and together.
The kids love watching TV with Alon, but their other favorite pastime with their dad is being outside in nature. With me, we spend hours on crafting websites, downloading patterns for paper-cutting projects, and things like that. As a family, we love taking trips, hikes and mini-journeys, and going anywhere where there’s water – like trips to lakes or going to the beach.
And I can’t really describe our family without mentioning our animal family! There’s Chikita the dog, who puts her life at risk every night fighting pigs and foxes. There’s Alfred, a cat who is absolutely positive he’s human. Oh, and we have five more cats who live outside on the porch or in the yard, two guinea pigs, and five bunnies.
Q: Describe your house to us. What makes it home?
A: After studying and living in NYC for a while, I knew I wanted my home to reflect the coastal style I fell in love with when we’d go on vacation and stay in charming B&Bs upstate and in Martha’s Vineyard. It was a big leap for me as an eternal city girl to move to a pretty rural area where my husband grew up. As a son of the moshav, Alon won the lottery – which meant we could choose which land we’d get – and we chose the last plot on the moshav with a forest on the north, pasture behind the house, and the Maharal Valley in front of the house.
It was clear from the starting point that the outside was going to play a huge role in the architecture of our house. We raised the whole structure so the porch would be high enough for us to enjoy the view even when we’re inside, installed ceiling fans so we can stay outside even in the Israeli summer heat, and it all paid off.
We brought a lot of home decor accessories from the States – I’m still a fan of William Sonoma and Pottery Barn – and I even ran eight blocks to Pier 1 when our apartment in NY was already all packedto get a lamp I couldn’t get out of my mind. We have a lot of thrift shop and flea market finds, but most of the furniture is inexpensive; it’s the accessories and the art that tell the story and add personality. I really think what makes our house a home is the mixture of the people and pets that live in it, the amazing feeling of being on vacation even when we’re home, and the unique area where we live.
The funniest thing is that I’d never imagined I’d live so far away from the city! I grew up in Tel Aviv and also lived in London and NYC, and always saw myself as the ultimate city girl. When we moved to Kerem Maharal, I insisted we install a top notch alarm system because I was terrified! Well, suffice it to say, the alarms only worked for two weeks and then I completely forgot about my fear and frequently even leave the front door open…
Q: What makes you love where you live?
A: As someone who has lived in places all over the world, I can say that Israelis have a really unique connection to their environment. I don’t really think it has a lot to do with Zionism; we just have this amazingly strong connection to our roots, and the history just pulls us there.
There’s something about Israel – whether it’s the political situation or the fact it’s a young state or the Middle-Eastern temperament – that makes life in it very intense. Yeah, it can be stressful at times, but somehow it just makes you feel and experience every little thing in the most extreme and palpable way, including joy and happiness and friendships, or just enjoying the view. You should definitely visit and see for yourself.
Q: How does Israel’s political unpredictability and proximity to countries in turmoil affect your daily life? Are there any safety precautions you take at home and while traveling?
A: Life in Israel teaches us to make the most of each day and Carpe Diem! We’re much more likely to jump at risks, and that helps a lot of people make their dreams come true…or at least try. There are a lot of Arab families in our area, and it’s a beautiful example of co-existence. The person who helps us to get ready for all the trade fairs and sales Paper Bella participates in is Safian, an amazing guy from a nearby Arab village who has become one of our closest friends and essentially a part of our family. And hey, the other day we got a message on Etsy from a girl in Libya who wants to purchase one of our rugs! Turns out, there’s no way to ship from Israel to Libya, but we found a way around it.
Otherwise, life in Israel is pretty normal, safety wise, and we don’t need to take any precautions normally.
Q: How would you define your style? Did it change when you added kids to the mix?
A: My style is inspired by American coastal living and based on a very easy-going lifestyle. I learned a lot from the American building style, which unlike the local building, dedicates a lot of the space to vast shared rooms rather than dedicating most of it to private rooms like bedrooms. Merging the inside and the outside is a huge part of our house. The kids’ rooms are all on the ground level, and almost all the rooms look out to the porch and the yard.
Q: You’ve got a gorgeous company! Tell us what you do!
A: Thank you so much! Ever since I was a really young student at Oxford, I used to spend the little money I had on old books and catalogues and technical brochures or science charts. No one was really interested in those at the time, and they cost mere pennies. I didn’t really collect them with an intention in mind; I just enjoyed the aesthetic side of it.
When I moved to NYC to study at Pratt, I continued to scour flea markets in search of what I now know is called “paper ephemera.” We returned to Israel after I left a career in high tech, and I started taking on decorating clients. I soon discovered that I always got stuck on the last step of the process when the time comes to add that layer of personality – all those things that actually tell the story of who lives there. A house can be perfectly designed, decorated, and styled, but as long as the walls are bare it’s lacking something. That’s how I feel.
Anyway, it was hard to find affordable art that doesn’t look cheap, and so I found myself getting back to my vintage collection. I looked at the magazines and catalogs, and added my own interpretation and design point of view to the mix. I had them printed and then used them in my home, in clients’ homes, and even in stores I’d style for photo shoots. At one point almost two years ago, my house was photographed and published in a design book and I started getting a lot of questions and requests for those prints, first from the employees at the publishers’ and then from other people.
Around that time I met Tal, whose twins attended the same school as mine, and she brought a whole new perspective of finding exciting and innovative ways to print my designs on self-adhesive murals, rugs, and more. Thanks to our partnership, we were able to take Paper Bella to the next level. What’s really important to us is the constant search for solutions and products that are attainable and easy to use but not flat – something that would really add a depth and a story and help make a house a home.
Q: Tell us about how starting your business affected your family.
A: Paper Bella is actually a family that consists of four parents, two couples, and six kids…including two pairs of twins! My business partner, Tal, and I only met because our twins go to the same school. Our work is divided between two houses and two families, and that means not only assigning tasks for work but also carpooling, babysitting, trips together, and clothes swapping. (Tal just dropped of a huge bag of clothes for Daria). We also go on trips together every summer; this year it’s going to be Greece! I don’t know if it’s the fact that we have similar views or that we’re just in the same stage and place in life right now, but we have an amazing symbiosis.
Q: How do you try to merge motherhood and running your home with your design life? What tricks keep you sane even when your schedules get crazy?
A: It’s impossible. The guilt is constant. I have no doubt that merging motherhood and work is a huge part of my life story. When I had the twins, I stopped working and only got back to work when they were five years old. My tip for newly working mothers is that I was amazed to discover how the shift from me being only with them resulted in a newfound independence on their part.
How do I actually make it work? I work at home so I’m always there. I do work very long hours but I’m always present. The hours do become pretty bizarre because I’m known for being a night owl. Yeah, one of my eyes is always on the kids while my ear is in the phone and my fingers on the keyboard, but they know I always stop everything else if they need anything.
It’s like the command chain in the army! I oversee everything but I don’t have to have a lot to do with every little detail. And I’m always there with a hot meal and to help with homework or just talk and hang out.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What do you already miss?
A: I already know I’ll miss our bedtime rituals, when the kids tell me I’m the best mommy in the whole world. I was single for quite a time before settling down, and so I know how it is to feel alone. Something about having kids, even more than being in a loving relationship, makes you feel like you’ll never ever be alone again.
Q: What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned as a mother? What’s the one part of parenting you adore…and the one you don’t?
A: What really surprised me is that I can be the type of mother I wanted to be. I think as young kids we all say to ourselves “When I’m a parent I’ll never do that” but somehow you always end up raising your kids just as you were raised. I was really surprised by how I managed to stick to my values and beliefs in parenting, and how it really works. As a very sheltered city kid, I now raise a free-spirited, country clan, and I’m discovering that both ways are great.
My favorite part of parenting is having in-depth discussions with my kids and hearing some mind blowing insights from them. My less favorite part is the logistics of it all…You already know that I’m not the tidiest person.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: I wish someone had told me that I’m responsible enough to be a mother of three! Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible that I have a 10 year old daughter. Maybe it’s because I never gave up my kid spirit and I’m still living with my dreams.
Also: It’s possible to raise twins. I did it!
Sharon, thank you so much for letting us peek into your life! And a special thanks to Chedva for nominating her friend! It was fascinating. I love how you describe life in Israel somehow giving everyone the speed to chase their dreams, no matter how great the risk!
Friends, wouldn’t you kind of love to have a company with a good friend? Or would you be scared of ruining the friendship? To me, there’s something so fun about working with friends and family, so I know where I stand on this one! How about you?
P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.
[ Update: As you can read in the comments, some thought the post was ill-timed, others felt like it was more than appropriate. A big enough variety of opinions have been shared that I think it’s best to close the comments now, as I’m afraid I won’t be able to monitor them appropriately this week. Thank you to all who participated in the discussion. If you have a compliment for Sharon or her home, feel free to email it to me and I’ll add it to the post! ]
73 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Sharon Miller”
I love your living with kids series but this one seems poorly timed. This family seems wonderful and they have a beautiful home but highlighting an Israeli family’s design choices etc when so many Palestinian families have died in the last several weeks feels off somehow. Makes the whole world of design/lifestyle blogs (which I love) feel cheap and irrelevant.
Hi Brooke. Thanks for the kind words about the family featured here and their home. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.
I completely understand how you feel. Of course in the scope of hardship and trial on the world level, the decorations and design choices in one’s home seem irrelevant. But that’s always true. Not just today, not just this post.
I really don’t want this post to be political, and I don’t want the comments to be political either. There has been unrest in Israel and Palestine for centuries. If I waited until there was decided peace in the area, perhaps I would never get to feature either Israeli or Palestine families on the blog.
I’m sorry the timing bothers you. From my point of view, the timing is actually good. I think it’s easy to imagine war torn areas and the people who live there as “other” or abstract. A house tour like this shows a real family living in the area and makes it easier for people to imagine themselves there and to relate to what is happening.
Note: If comments do get political, they will be taken down.
Actually, the timing of this post could not have been more perfect. I actually cried when I opened up this post and read it today. Thank you for having the courage to post this. Without going into detail, you have done more to open people’s minds than a thousand angry op-eds. Thank you for using your forum here to bring good to the world.
I thought this post was well-timed too, for the reason you mention. And I LOVE that she mentioned the coexisting – I think that’s important anywhere! Keep them coming (from Palestine, Iraq, anywhere!)!
Thanks for your response to my comment. I think the main reason I commented was not to be critical but more to try to process my gut reaction to the post. I LOVE your blog and design blogs, I think for some reason this morning my instinctual reaction to the post prompted some internal reflection about my place in the world, my priorities, etc. I think this raises a (different) issue, what is the role of lifestyle blogs in such a difficult world? How do we balance our love of design, home renovation, fun projects with kids and so on with deeper/more spiritual concerns. Again these are just thoughts about my own life, not meant to be criticisms of others. Thanks again for your thoughtful response!
I agree, as well, about the good timing. It’s always so important and necessary to unmask the “other,” even if it’s by way of their design choices and thoughts about daily life!
Hi Gabrielle, I have to agree with Brooke. This post seems really off with what’s going on at this moment. Hundreds of Palestinians children have been killed in recent days and to highlight the lifestyle of a family in Israel seems really tone deaf.
I second the above comment. There’s an undeniable and extraordinary beauty in stripping down political, religious and racial barriers. Because we get to see people for who they are–rich, complicated, amazing individuals with families, work and routines. Like all of us. But at a time of such incredible loss, when, according to the Center for Constitutional rights 215 children (!!!) have been killed and 1,358 have been wounded, this seem very poorly timed. I couldn’t quite stomach reading about her design choices and parenting revelations when a few hours from her, mothers JUST like her have watched their children die.
“I couldn’t quite stomach reading about her design choices and parenting revelations when a few hours from her, mothers JUST like her have watched their children die.”
Realizing it’s not your intention, to me, this comment makes it sound like you expect Sharon, and all citizens in Israel and Palestine, to put their lives on pause while their governments fight; that you judge her for caring about design, instead of talking about the conflict 24/7.
When I last shared a U.S. home tour, no one was upset that we were talking about design, instead of talking about the thousands of child sex slaves in U.S. right this minute. Obviously, the child sex trade isn’t making news headlines in the way that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, but just because we’re not talking about it, doesn’t mean the sex trade is any less real. I feel like asking people to stop living their lives because horrible things are happening around them is not realistic or helpful.
For many readers of this blog, I’m betting that when they hear about the current conflict, and picture an Israeli or Palestinian family, they aren’t picturing someone that knows about Pottery Barn and Etsy. They’re picturing someone far different from themselves. I hope this post helps demonstrate that the people who live in the area are very real, that they have lived with major conflict for years — not just for the last little while — and as citizens, have to figure out ways to go about their lives and raise their kids and bring beauty to their homes, in spite of the war.
I didn’t even read the post. I came straight to the comments. Because as soon as I saw this was from Israel, I thought, oh someone is going to post about the conflict.
How ridiculous to comment about what’s going on in Israel. Is every Israeli citizen at fault for the actions of her government? Is every US citizen at fault? Should Gabrielle have stopped posting any houses in the US while we were at war with Iraq out of respect for the Iraqis we killed? No one would have said that. Anyone who thinks this post is poor timing should consider whether she might be holding Israel to a higher standard than any other country. As an American Jew, I am supportive of Israel but deeply, deeply disturbed by what’s happening in Gaza and I am absolutely not supportive of these actions. However, that does not change the fact that Israel is a country — a democracy– with people who live there. I’m so tired of every Israeli being attacked as if her mere existence were a problem. I don’t want to throw out the anti-semitism line, but when you see this happen over and over–this double standard applied only to Israelis (who are predominately Jewish) you really just can’t help but think that.
Thank you Gabrielle for posting this. For showing that Israelis are people just like everyone else no matter the terrible things its government is doing.
The question isn’t at all if Sharon deserves to have a beautiful home and family. Because why ever shouldn’t she? This is not a criticism of her. My concern centers around Gabrielle and questions of empathy and tact. If a dear friend experienced a miscarriage, that same week I learned that I was expecting, I would (and who wouldn’t?) tread oh-so gently with my good news. And if a friend faced bankruptcy or some other financial disaster just as I was given a job promotion, I would think carefully about how (and when!) I would share my good news. In the face of other people’s loss, I wouldn’t cringe at sharing good my news, and no one would deny that I deserved my happiness, BUT I would take care about how I would share my fortunate circumstances. Showing how Sharon lives her life is a great thing. But to do so RIGHT now, in the face of the fact that so many in her region are losing theirs at this very moment, seems like a tactless choice of timing. I doubt that those in Gaza are reading your blog, and perhaps because they aren’t, it shouldn’t matter, but I am reading it, we all are, and this seems like an indifferent and tactless approach to an very heartbreaking situation.
Thank you for your thoughtful response Gabrielle. This was never intended to be a criticism of Sharon. Even though this should be a fallacy, governments are not their people, and Sharon deserves every happiness she has, because why should she not? This was a criticism of your choice of timing, which I found unfortunate and indifferent. To address your human trafficking comment, I think the sex slavery example is a very unequal comparison . In the spirit of what someone commented further down below, having a beautiful home and an appreciation for aesthetics is a great thing, but in the immediate wake of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, most people would have balked at showing a house tour of that one unravaged house in the neighborhood. No one would have blamed the owners for their good fortune or the fact that their lives were going on as per normal, and no one with a heart would have wished them less, but to celebrate good fortune at a time of such loss would have been galling. I don’t think anyone would have been happy about it. Your timing choice to me is very similar. I know that nothing ill was meant by it, but it feels callous and tactless.
I’m unclear on how the sex trade example is unequal, and why you feel the Hurricane Katrina example is better.
This is a beautiful home and a lovely family. But, I must say that I agree with your first commentator, too. Had this post come at any other moment in time, I would have found it to be charming and revelatory in a way. Like humanizing a news story. Which is SO important. But I don’t think this was the right time and your comment on how design choices relative to the greater struggles in the world are always going to be irrelevant doesn’t ring true to me. This isn’t about a woman’s aesthetic choice in London or New York, but about a home in what is a war zone. We are asked to her Pottery Barn while thousands are losing their homes and dying in the process right next to her.
I don’t know. I feel like if I follow that logic it’s saying: It’s okay for Americans to talk about design because the wars we’re involved in aren’t happening on our soil. But if war is happening geographically near you, then you shouldn’t talk about design, or really, about anything other than the war.
As for my comment on the importance of design choices versus world conflict, perhaps I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t saying that design choices are always irrelevant, but that they can seem that way in certain contexts.
Beautiful home, beautiful family, bizarre timing. I’m really a bit shocked to be honest. Hadn’t quite expected something like this from you.
What a beautiful family and home. Thank you for sharing!
I’m curious what the people making comments here would have said about a house tour coming from Russia? Or Turkey? Or Qatar? Are you aware of what’s going on in Syria? I think this house tour gives a face and name to the people who have suffered daily for years from rocket sirens, dragging their kids out of bed in the middle of the night to take them to bomb shelters. Israel deserves as much Living With Kids facetime as any other location.
Well, I can see some of you think the timing of the post is awful, and some think it’s ideal. I’m aware it may be a big mistake, but publishing the post right now was intentional.
My hope was to humanize the people that live there. Sharon and her Palestinian friends and neighbors have to navigate their lives and daily schedules while their governments make headlines around them. I think it’s important to try to picture the families that live in the region.
I’m at Arches National Park today with my family and won’t have much time to moderate comments. I realize I may need to clean things up when I get back to my laptop this evening. But I hope you’ll place nice in the meantime.
I loved the post. I appreciate the timing. Mostly, I am amazed at your grace and tact in responding to comments. You are a blogger that many need to learn from. Thank you.
Also, thank you to Sharon for sharing their beautiful home. I often wonder who lives in Israel and how. This gave me a glimpse.
I’m with (most) everyone else that the timing of this post isn’t the best.
You wrote in the comments above:
While it’s true that conflict in the region is nothing new, it has, obviously, come to a very violent head recently, and you cannot possibly expect your readers to ignore that. It is an inherently political and emotionally fraught topic, and asking your readers to refrain from discussing it is naive. If you don’t want politics discussed on your blog, refrain from baiting your readers with poorly timed content.
You’re right of course. If I intentionally share a house tour of an Israeli family during this time of huge conflict, I can’t expect people not to comment on it. And to be clear, I don’t want people not to comment on it.
But I was hoping people wouldn’t try to take sides. Sharon, and the Palestinian friends in her neighborhood, are not good guys or bad guys in this conflict. And I don’t want anyone to leave a comment painting them as such.
That’s what I meant by political comments. I should have used words that were more clear.
I also agree with almost everyone above who finds the timing off. I don’t think any of the commentaries above are painting Sharon and her lovely family as bad guys, or good guys for that matter. Or politicizing their beautiful lives. I think the core issue here is your choice of timing which was off.
“I don’t think any of the commentaries above are painting Sharon and her lovely family as bad guys, or good guys for that matter.”
Agreed. That’s why I’m letting the comments stand.
Thank you for posting this. And thank you for posting it now.
I loved this Living with Kids post! I dream off and on about moving to Israel (my dad was born there, and I’ve visited once)…and this just gave more fuel to my dreams! And I LOVE that wraparound porch! My favorite Living with Kids posts are always the ones abroad. :)
Thank you so much for choosing to post this now.
Long time lurker, first time commenter. With deepest respect – awful timing on this post, Gabrielle. You generally show impeccable judgment but IMO, you are way off on this one. I think you are offending many, clearly without meaning to.
I guess I just don’t see why anyone’s being punished because she has other interests (like design) rather than talking about the “bad” parts. I wish I was as eloquent as Gabrielle, but I’m not. The US has killed plenty of civilians during our last 13 years of war (which luckily we’ve not had to live in the middle of), and the whole time we’ve all gone about our business shopping at Pottery Barn; I hope that doesn’t make us bad people, and I certainly hope that we don’t forget all those that have sacrificed (including innocent people on both sides). I can appreciate why some people think now is bad timing, I’m just saying it would be hard to decide when a “good time” is to post this.
All that said, so sorry to Sharon for everyone making this the focus of the comment thread! I loooove your home and your family dynamic; as a messy -err, creative- person myself, I REALLY enjoyed the part about you wish someone had told you that you were responsible enough to have kids. Gives me hope!
I think you are very eloquent. I tried to say something similar in my post below, but you nailed it. I feel very hopeful after reading this because I want to believe that Israel and Palestine is made of loving families on both sides and that this war will never end if we don’t believe this.
Thanks Gabrielle, I think this post is as well timed as any other post you have published on your site. In fact, those who think the timing is wrong might want to consider that posting anything at all could be offensive or poorly timed for some random individual out there in the world. Therefore, perhaps we should stop posting things all together for fear that someone out there might be offended or implicated in some way or other. Why would posting about American families be better than an Israeli family? While the US has been out fighting in war torn regions we should probably refrain from posting about American families and their homes because of the civilians that die in those situations.
Another long time reader here. While I do completely understand your intentions to portray the realities of countries such as Israel, and to not let ever-constant world conflicts prevent us from seeing the beautiful things in life, this still feels very poorly timed. Yes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is long-standing, but there is actual war raging right now, with hundreds being brutally killed. You cannot pretend that the current situation is the “norm”, as it were. The post reads like a political message to me, even though I’m sure you don’t mean it that way. (None of this is personal to Sharon or her beautiful family of course). To me, this is akin to posting a home tour in NYC right after 9/11. Yes, they are completely different situations and backgrounds, but both involve a devastating loss of life. Ultimately, the decision to post this shouldn’t have come down to right or wrong, or rationalisation. It should have come down to sensitivity.
Jumping in to say I really appreciate Gabrielle’s timing and her thoughts about them. It is valuable in times of conflict to remember that real people do not stop living real lives. My prayer for the world is that one day not too long from now, we’ll be able to see a Palestinian Living with Kids tour from a family in Gaza, too.
Let me add my matching prayer to yours!
I agree, PC. To those who say Gabrielle’s “timing” is terrible, can’t you see that by saying that, you’re politicizing the very existence and daily life of anyone who happens to be Israeli or live in Israel? How is that fair, whatever your opinion of Israeli politics?
This reminds me of when I was with a class of high-school students at World Youth Day in Toronto, and the organizers asked some Israeli Catholics present to stop carrying their flag as if “being Israeli” was intrinsically a political act. For some reason, nobody objected to the groups carrying French or Italian or Canadian or Argentinian or U.S. flags. A Jewish student of mine was deeply hurt and offended, and I totally understood why.
It seems to me that these commenters are doing exactly the same thing: acting as if somebody’s very existence is a political statement.
That was very well stated and I completely agree.
Totally agree – well said Anna!!
I’m so glad you posted this, Gabrielle. Poor Sharon. Her lovely home is getting overlooked by this post.
Somehow I think we would NOT be imputing the actions of Hamas, a terrorist organization whose CHARTER states its directive is to wipe the Jews from the face of the earth – if you featured an Arab family? There is a war going on between a recognized terrorist group and the only western country in the middle east, Israel. The only nation who provides and recognizes women’s rights, gay rights, HUMAN rights. Would readers object to the “timing” of that feature? When so many Arab women and homosexuals are mistreated, punished and persecuted without due process?
As a Jewish-American and a supporter of the only other country in the WORLD that accepts me as a Jew (I would NOT want to be in France right now – are you hearing about the riots against Jews likened to Kristalnacht? Actually, I’m not too thrilled in NY these days – these anti-Israel riots are getting violent), I’m just sad.
I appreciate the timing of this post as well, and I think Gabrielle’s intention of humanizing the “other” and also normalizing a region we Americans can only really picture in conflict is crystal clear. Bravo for not being hamstrung by what is or isn’t politically correct at a given moment – God knows somebody is always going to be offended by something. And to the above commenter who wondered whether a post featuring a Syrian or Ukrainian family would garner such mock outrage from some readers: spot on.
I’m quite frankly flabbergasted at the gall of the commenters who are criticizing this post. It’s not our blog. It’s Gabrielle’s and if she thinks the timing is right, then it is. It really doesn’t matter if it sits well with anyone else. As far as I can tell from looking on the map, Sharon is not living in a war zone, any more than I was living in a war zone in California when the September 11 attacks occurred. I love that the post humanizes Israelis. The current conflict may be bigger than some in very recent memory, but if we were going to wait for a week when rockets are not fired, than we have a long time to wait. The implication from many of the posts seems to be that since more Palenstinian children are dying in the current conflict, it is inappropriate to show happy Jews. I find the undertone disturbing.
This timing is truly nauseating. Of course Israelis are human, I don’t think any of the commenters who are questioning this post are in need of reminders of that. It is great that this family has a nice home. However, if you truly want to show a balanced view of the area, I suggest that you seek out a home tour from a Palestinian family as well.
Amanda, perhaps the reminder isn’t for you. There are about 125,000 people who will see this post this week. A tiny fraction will comment. Some readers will be acquainted with what is happening in Israel and the Gaza strip, but many will not, and perhaps this post will help them start to care about it.
And I would be over the moon to share a Palestinian home tour.
It is heartning to know that many Israeli families have, as you say, figured “out ways to go about their lives and raise their kids and bring beauty to their homes, in spite of the war”. The problem with the timing of this post is that right now it would be even harder that usual to find a Palestinian family who’s home is a) still standing, b) full of Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn, and c) ready for a photoshoot, given the acute life and death issues affecting their days.
This. Exactly this.
Yes! Exactly. This so much more concisely summarizes my ill feeling at the timing of the post. Very well articulated.
Succinctly stated, Nancy.
I hear you. I suppose I just make different assumptions than you do. I read about the Palestinian friends that live in Sharon’s neighborhood and assume they have houses equal to hers in beauty and comfort.
Maybe I take issue with the term “even harder than usual”. It makes it sound like living in Palestine is always horrible, and even worse lately. No doubt it is awful to have the conflict come to a head, but I don’t think it’s always a horrible place. I’m afraid if I were a Palestinian, I would feel shame about my home when reading your comment.
I’m no expert on the semantics of this conflict, but I was referring to Palestinians living in Gaza, the area under attack. Sharon says, “life in Israel is pretty normal, safety wise, and we don’t need to take any precautions normally”, and very likely her neighbours, Palestinian and otherwise, also have lovely homes. This is not the case for those in the Palestinian territories. Any coverage of that area that I have seen suggests that living there is generally horrible, and indeed worse lately. I would think that at this point there are few in Gaza who have the luxury to feel “shame about their homes”.
As Gabrielle said, if she waited for Peace in the Middle East we would never see how an Israeli family lives. I wonder if you could pair this post with a Palestinian family post? I have friends who live in Israel who have dear friends that are Palestinian, as this family does, yet this is never shown in the news. There are many Israelis and Palestinians working together for Peace despite there polarized governments.
Yes, please! The number one way home tours come to me is from readers submitting their own homes. The second top way, is when readers recommend a friend’s home. If there is a Palestinian reading who wants to feature their home, I warmly welcome them to reach out. And if you have a Palestinian friend who’s home you want to recommend, please do.
I also agree with the comments about this being poorly timed.
Your blog doesn’t have to be political to think about the hundreds of children dying in Gaza. Not to mention thousands injured and displaced.
I’m quite upset this was posted.
I don’t understand how Sharon’s home’s proximity to the conflict in Gaza makes the sharing of this post distasteful. If readers are so galled by her good fortune in the face of so much loss elsewhere at this moment in time, then there should probably be a similar response to any beautiful home we see profiled, in any location, while so many are suffering. Blinders don’t make the situation any different – celebrating a lovely home in New York or Idaho or France is great, but the conflict rages on. I would suspect that many of these dissenting readers are living in beautifully designed homes themselves – perhaps your good fortune should be decried as well?
I find this post one of the nicest I have ever read on your bog, because it is a very beautiful home and because I find the timing very courageous. It puts something back in balance by standing up for a family that can be an easy target by all the generalization and instead giving it a face. It doesn’t matter how much you feel with the Palestinian families and how much you condemn Israel for it’s action, this family is living close to what most people think are their enemies and they get along just fine. This war has not ruined everything.
I am from Germany, we are one of the countries with the highest number of profit from arms exports, I am sure, a lot of the horrible things in Gaza are caused by German weapons. Should I also not make a tour on Design Mom?
Shouldn’t we let Sharon decide on the timing of these things? Wouldn’t she be the best in saying, you know what – this crisis is devastating and having a huge direct impact on me and my family and I couldn’t possibly do a post on my home or design choices right now…
It reminds me of the time when I was singing with a choir in a church, which happened to belong to the same religion as I was at the time – in contrast to about 95% of the choir who belonged to a different religion. After the performance someone was sitting on the steps to the pulpit and some people in the choir started rebuking the person as not having respect. I told them that I could assure them that sitting where they were was in no way offensive, but they insisted. It wasn’t until I told them HEY, this is MY CHURCH and probably 99.9% of people don’t care if you sit on the stupid step up to the pulpit!
I’m not trying to trivialize what is happening in the middle east in ANY WAY but I am trying to point out that Sharon is in the middle of the region, in the middle of the conflict, and she and Gabrielle have both assessed that not only are the okay but they can discuss other things.
There are always ALWAYS going to be situations that people say you should be sensitive too (my nephew was born on Sept. 11th and people told his parents not to celebrate his birthday…) but we must keep on living even in the wake of these awful situations. I, for one, felt that this was incredibly eye-opening and nothing at all like I would’ve pictured a home or family in Israel. I was enlightened as well as inspired, and I think that was probably the very point of the post.
I love the living with kids series and look forward to it every week. I actually appreciate the timing an thank you for sharing Sharon’s lovely home! As a creative messy type (who is always trying to do better) I can appreciate the probable late night scramble to make her home ready to photograph! Oh the pressure!!!!! I’m with you girl! Your home is beautiful and the view looks absolutely stunning. I’m curious about this lottery process and bring able to acquire a building lot. I know it is a politically sensitive time in Israel and we are all hurting as we see the news. But Gabrielle thank you for sharing this beautiful family and their lovely home. People in war torn countries have to live with courage and conviction every day. Living in the suburbs of Arizona I find it hard to imagine living in Israel (except for sharing a climate!) I love seeing this family. My heart hurts seeing what is happening in Israel/Gaza. It’s been a difficult region forever and will continue to be so. But moms have a sacred responsibility to nurture their families and create a haven, no matter where they live or what is going on around them. Thank you for being so brave Sharon and also Ganrielle!
Her husband won the figurative “lottery” because they are ethnically Jewish. This wasn’t a lottery where a random number was pulled out of a hat.
I have no idea where Sharon stands on these issues. She seems perfectly lovely and probably is. I hope her friend Safian has just as lovely as a home.
Lena, that is an incorrect comment. Many moshavs in Israel allocate land lots through a lottery system. From my understanding of what Sharon wrote, it sounds like her husband grew up on this moshav and therefore got first choice as a reward for returning to raise his family. No need to jump to conclusions.
Palestinians can’t participate in the “lottery” and remain at a great economic disadvantage to provide for their families. As the United Nations recognizes, Israel does not provide ethnic Palestinians who live in the boundaries of what is now Israel, with the same rights as people who are ethnically Jewish. So, if I were Jewish, I could migrate to Israel today and have more rights than an ethnic Palestinian who lived on the same land for centuries.
Jews are very diverse and not everyone is a militant zionist. If people want to learn more about some amazing women in Israel, I would suggest reading “The Faith Club”. I attended an author’s Q&A and it was a very civilized and deeply touching discussion.
Lena, your comment describes an imperfect country. I don’t know where you live, but I do know it’s also an imperfect country. If you live in the U.S., as I do, then your country doesn’t extend equal rights to homosexuals. Technically, it offers basic human rights to all races, while in practice, the U.S. is oppressively racist. Yet no one gets upset when I feature U.S. homes.
The more one studies the Israel-Gaza conflict, the easier it is to realize the situation is crazy complex, and that trying to find the good guys or bad guys doesn’t work. When you state facts as if it’s a totally clear cut situation, that’s disingenuous.
It was such a treat seeing Sharon’s home tour went up! It was definitely surreal seeing this just minutes before I had to lie in a ditch because a siren went off while I was on the road… Hopefully, soon enough mothers on both sides will be able to be less afraid for our kids’ lives and work together for building a better place for them. Thanks, Gabrielle! x Chedva
thank you Sharon for opening your home to us all, setting the table and allowing us into your private life. your design choices are beautiful and calming and your family is beautiful too.
I am praying that Hamas changes its mantra of hate and death and that all people can live in the world together – this is all that the Israeli people want. anything else is the mis-portrayal of the media and the spin that the media put on every story. It is Hamas who is throwing the rockets at Sharon’s homeland, Hamas who is forbidding the residents of Gaza to leave and Hamas who is using women and children as human shields thereby increasing the civilian deaths.
If rockets started raining down on your hometown what would you want your government to do? Israel is defending itself and trying to make sure that terrorists cannot have their way. It will have to continue to defend itself for as long as there is more hate in their hearts for others than love for their own.
and as for boycotting that some other commenter mentioned- I would think that everyone should rush to support Sharon who is a fellow mother trying to best support her family and do the best she can – she is not the one who has done anything wrong by being Israeli.
Gabrielle – thank you for this and all your posts. you are a daily inspiration and deserve only accolades for your vision of a kinder world – one in which we can appreciate others even if they are different from ourselves – especially because when we look closely we have so much in common.
Design Mom is a place I visit to get away . Some of just need a break from all of the heartache going on around us. It certainly does not mean we don’t know or empathize with others. We. Just. Need. A. Break.
Sharon, your home is beautiful. It has such a relaxing aura to it – I could imagine myself in such a house, padding around barefoot with a mug of tea. I especially love how you have achieved a seaside asthetic in such a subtle manner. Although I grew up in a very small town, I am an avowed “city-girl” – but homes like yours make me yearn for country living. So happy for you that you have found a happy home there.
I understand the strong feelings this post has engendered, however, I agree with a previous poster who made the point that because this is Gabrielle’s blog SHE gets to decide when to publish posts.
And, Gabrielle, your responses have been measured and gracious. I applaud your ability to take a stand and respectfully disagree with those who have a different point of view.
I agree it would be great to profile a Palestinian family and I hope a reader will step forward or suggest someone. Not only would it provide the balance some seem to seek here, it would further humanize the people who live in a very conflicted region.
As for this house, I love how Sharon and her family are able to incorporate outdoor living into their home. If I were building a home, I’d want to do the same.
I updated the bottom of the post with this message, but I’ll leave it here as well:
As you can read in the comments, some thought the post was ill-timed, others felt like it was more than appropriate. A big enough variety of opinions have been shared that I think it’s best to close the comments now, as I’m afraid I won’t be able to monitor them appropriately this week. Thank you to all who participated in the discussion. If you have a compliment for Sharon or her home, feel free to email it to me and I’ll add it to the post!
I think Sharon’s home is beautiful. I love that she has found a way to maintain a consistency throughout every room, it really ties the whole house together without making everything look ‘matchy’. It feels comfortable and cozy.
Your home is beautiful! Thank you so much for letting us see it and take decor notes. My favorite have to be the dark wood floor against the white walls and the piano! Gorgeous!
What a beautiful family with such a beautiful home! I love how she described herself as a city kid raising a country clan!
I thought the home was absolutely lovely. I’d like my future home to be as connected to the outdoors. She’s finally given a name to the design style that I’ve been gravitating to — American coastal living.
Thanks for sharing Sharon’s home with us, it is lovely. Is the cow a pet too? I hope so!
The view is similar to one I have just spent 3 days looking at while staying in a small town at the bottom of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia (where I am working on a local community project). I could not get enough of it and took every opportunity to pause and bask in the wonder of it. Do you ever become immune to a view like that if you see it everyday? I hope not.
Thank you for the beautiful beautiful glimpse in to a lovely Israeli home & family. The news right now dehumanizes both sides and it was refreshing to see something non-political for a change. I pray for her family’s continued safety and for it to all end soon.