Many years ago, Berto’s mother, the late Sima Mohadav, emigrated from Egypt to Italy, where an opportunity awaited her to apply her natural skills, and she began to “engage in the design and chiseling of marble.” After years of learning and experience, she arrived in Israel, where although the design trend was in its infancy she continued her passion, and imparted her love for designing to her children.
Berto was captured by the magic, and in 1981, he founded the ‘Semel’ company to produce Made in Israel kitchens. In the beginning, it was on the third floor of a tiny assembly factory in Giron, 100 square meters where kitchens were designed and assembled by selected professionals in the area. Soon the entire floor (3000 sqm.) was given over to the factory for a limited period, as the growth of the company forced Berto to find a larger location with easier access for trucks. Thus he arrived many years ago to a 6000 sqm. factory in Yavne’s industrial area. Today, especially in light of future development plans, this location has also become crowded.
From the day I was “infected” with this bug called kitchens, I wake up every morning with enthusiasm, as if this is my first day in the company,” is how Berto begins to recount the milestones along the way, “I’m not a carpenter and have never held woodworking tools in my hands, but I know how the power of thought and logic can achieve the best results. When I entered the field, during the period that I joined my mother in the kitchen manufacturing company even before I opened “Semel”, I was amazed at the awkwardness with which the carpenters worked. I developed a production plan that today seems natural and intuitive. At a later stage I was helped by high-tech experts who changed the manual program we used to a computerized program. ” The breakthroughs accomplished by Berto, his sisters Sabrina and Vicki, and his wife Frida, are much more than merely technical. The achievements and pinnacles they have reached at “Semel” are due to Berto’s characteristics of observation and attentiveness.
“Anything can spark an idea that I then must consider as an element for implementation. In the process of thinking, planning and implementation, I can feel if the new concept is designed for success, I get a feeling of success even before the new model is tested in the market. If I do not feel this excitement, I know that development is not complete, and I continue to seek , with the help of my sisters, what is lacking. I have not been disappointed yet. My wife has stood by my side since the establishment of the business, and takes an active part in the daily management. As I run along the sea in the mornings, she is what gives me strength and inspires me to create something new every day. ”
The first thing with which Semel surprised the local kitchen market and deviated from the norm was the use of bleached oak. The idea was inspired by a furniture door which Berto’s mother brought from the United States. ‘Semel’ was the company that introduced kitchens that were painted white, an idea that did not seem reasonable at the time. Since the success of white kitchen led to imitations, Semel decided to add golden trim to the white, and with this as well, success was not long in coming. During the interview, it was amazing to hear from Berto the source of ideas. For example, when it was decided that it would be the right move to produce a red kitchen, all three siblings were involved in choosing the right shade. Sabrina and Vicki thought of their mother’s red lipstick, and decided that this hue, the Bordeaux shade of Sima’s lips, would be immortalized in a kitchen.
Another inspiration story took place when Berto was on his way to New York, and entering the United States he stood at an Immigration Department counter and noticed the edge of the Formica was perfect, did not seem to have any lines or joins, making everything look seamless and whole. He brought the idea back to Israel, searched for the person or company that could do postforming until he found them, and was the first to market doors with a smooth, gently curved edge devoid of signs of joining. “The ideas for special kitchens just come to me, it can be something that is around me and suddenly I connect it to a kitchen, that’s what happened to me with a line of kitchens inspired by “Louis Vuitton” bags, as Berto describes the unique kitchens that seem like giant refrigerators, or vintage travel trunks. Customers looking for something special, not seen in many homes, loved this model, and although many years have passed since its first appearance, it is still a favorite.
Berto will not disparage his competitors, Israeli kitchen companies, local manufacturers and importers. In his opinion, competition is positive and essential. Competition, among other things, arouses enthusiasm every day, forcing him to think one step ahead. Kitchen design models of the future at Semel are as yet undisclosed, but during the interview Berto was willing to hint of future kitchens characterized by the most advanced technology with intriguing high-tech development. Could it be that the kitchen work surface will become in fact a giant computer monitor? The answer is not certain, and we are left waiting patiently to see what will become the inspiration for a new idea.