The big news is that the Chase is now the Holiday House. For the first time since 1951,
WHERE BAUHAUS GOES ALL NEON LIKE
by Anthony Grant
When you consider the colors of Tel Aviv the one that comes into sharpest focus is white—the signature shade of this Mediterranean cauldron of Bauhaus cool. But it only takes a few days in the White City to peer behind (or between) those confident monochromatic curves: there’s the flash of pink bougainvillea in the lanes of Neve Tzedek, the jungle greens of the tall trees that thrive in the sultry air and glint of parrot wings flapping improbably above them and of course, wherever the concrete ends, that serious blue shimmer of the sea itself. Beyond the unsung exuberance of Tel Aviv’s urban palette there are plenty of eclectic buildings that predate Bauhaus, greeting the streets with quirky façades in prismatic ripples of frosted pink, sky blue and mint.
It should not come as a complete surprise then that the most talked about hotel here in decades blends Bauhaus pedigree with some rainbow neon whimsy—along with a brash rooftop bar and chiseled obsidian crater of a pool so that you needn’t expend too much energy contemplating the latest twist in the Tel Aviv aesthetic. Because you are no longer stuck in one of the generic seafront blocks lamented by Simon Le Bon in song or overtly aspirational boutique inn that might really be better suited to Mayfair or the Marais: you’re inside the Poli House hotel. Or maybe outside, on the roof.
Tel Aviv is a city famously thin on history, but this property does has a bit of urban lore attached. The Polishuk House was built in 1934 and atypically for the time in a cylindrical style, with long ribbon windows and horizontal cornicing above the ground floor that together evoke an oceanliner run aground. Inside its unusually expansive quarters were offices and over a dozen shops, most notably a children’s shoe store where every little client received a shiny red balloon along with their buy. But in more recent years the edifice stood derelict and doused with graffiti, an eyesore at the very prominent point where Allenby and Nachalat Binyamin streets meet and a whisker away from the clamorous Carmel Market. The wheels of restoration began turning in 2012 and accelerated when Karim Rashid was brought in to breathe new life into the building’s intricate interior spaces.
For a designer like Rashid any reimagining is going to involve color and lots of it, as his singular feat of Day-Glo derring-do, the Semiramis Hotel outside Athens demonstrates. In Tel Aviv, things look a little different. “Instead of colors everywhere, there’s more black and white here,” says proprietor Leon Avigad, who runs two other hotels in the city, the Brown TLV and Brown Beach House. Bright hues do abound, “but in a more layered way,” he adds, “consistent throughout their respective floors: green, blue, yellow and pink.”
Rashid’s characteristically fluid lines unify custom furnishings throughout the 40 guestrooms while sleekly psychedelic paint jobs lend bathrooms restrained sizzle. If the effect leans to Star Trek chic, just as arresting are Rashid’s original sketches that enliven the walls of the ground floor entrance zone—just don’t call it a lobby.
That’s because a doorman ushers arrivals to a guest relations manager who then whisks them to the rooftop for an above-the-fray check-in experience. One look at the scene up there—black-bottomed pool, bar run by Ariel Leizgold (the “Rande Gerber of Tel Aviv,” according to Avigad) and a trio of poolside cabanas—clues you in to the eminently Instagrammable flavor of the place. And make no mistake: though Tel Aviv leans to scruffy chic, here meticulousness reigns as I learned when my premature tweet of the white curvilinear bar drew a gentle rebuke from Rashid: “be careful of placement of plants”! he chirped. Henceforth, no doubt, those potted dwarf cypresses won’t be blocking the impressive city views.
Precision doesn’t mean uptight, however. By dint of location and by design the Poli House is hardwired to be as social a hub as the “house” in its name implies, with hip locals already zeroing in on the promise of a new urban aerie both comfortably above and tacitly a part of the neighborhood buzz. The local energy seeps into the rooms as well: think highball, lowball and martini glasses atop the minifridges, indulgent Cardinal chocolate bars from Elie Tarrab (a rising local chocolatier) and signed designer condoms. “We want people to enjoy the creative things in life, not just the finer things,” says Avigad. Which you might say is a fitting mantra for brainy, zany Tel Aviv itself.
Note: This post first appeared in Greek in LIFO (Athens)