If Jerusalem is the religious tourism capital of Israel, the streets jammed with coach buses going from holy site to holy site, then Tel Aviv is its less-earnest doppelganger: a beach town that trades kippot and tour groups for suntans and nightlife. But there’s a lot more going on in Tel Aviv beyond the massive hotels of Hayarkon Street. The city is the center of Israel’s financial industry, a hotbed of high-tech startups and, increasingly, a flourishing community of designers. To get a sense of what’s happening, visitors should check out the Noga neighborhood, just south of the center of Tel Aviv on the way to Jaffa Port. There they’ll find coffee shops, cafes, DIY workshops and designers like Ofer Shahar of Bloomfield, a high-end furniture and product design brand, hard at work in their studios. Along with his business partner, Itai Cohen, Shahar designs products he describes as “minimalist, very loyal to the materials, elegant”, like a bench table made of pine and iron and desks made from white oak and leather.
Bloomfield recently rolled out their first large-scale project, a collection for the rooms in a new boutique hotel in Nahariyya in northern Israel. For Shahar, the spirit with which the products are made is as important as the materials themselves. “Our goal is to create a ‘blooming field’, which is many flowers”, he says. “We believe there is an abundance of really creative people, very creative designers here in Israel, but they are working in the military designing weapons or medical equipment — these are the jobs for designers in Israel.”
By creating an atmosphere of exploration and collaboration with other local creative types — and by manufacturing everything in Israel — Shahar hopes that his business model can offer an alternative for local designers. “We have a responsibility”, he says. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the Bloomfield workshop on Nahum Goldman 3 and their gallery on Ruhama 9.