Best of Both: Kim Sacks' Parktown Ridge Home
Kim Sacks Gallery on Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg’s Parkwood has been loved by the city for almost two decades now, as much for its trove of handmade African objects as for the gallery’s iconic, sculptural architecture. And Kim’s own home, just a short distance away on Parktown Ridge, translates the gallery’s best elements into a domestic environment where the objects are used daily, and lived with simply.
As a ceramicist herself, and long-time ceramics and craft educator, Kim has always referred to the gallery as a ‘vessel’ filled with things she loves, and laughs about the fact that the space, which she designed, was once voted ‘one of the ugliest buildings in Johannesburg’. ‘When I look back over my shoulder, I’m often amazed that I had the audacity to build that crazy edifice on Jan Smuts Avenue 20 years ago,’ Kim says, ‘because it is kind of outrageous. But I love it, and my home is very similar, so I don’t know what that says about me?’ she asks, smiling.
Kim shares her home with her husband Cornelius Lehr, an antiquarian horologist, and two daughters, Maia and Tali Lehr-Sacks, and the structure features the same smoothly sculpted, curvaceous terracotta walls as the gallery. Timber window and door openings (constructed by Cornelius) have been outlined with geometric relief sculpture as seen in the gallery, and dotted among the exterior spaces are the exquisite pots and carvings that Kim Sacks Gallery has become famous for, often hidden by a profusion of plants in the property’s wild, tumbling garden.
The now multilevel house was purchased shortly after the gallery was built in 1998, and has since been radically transformed from the original cold, facebrick unit into an organic, ever-evolving home inspired by the ancient building traditions of the continent. It is in part also an art studio for Kim’s daughters and a separate cottage in which Kim creates her own ceramics.
‘It was the ugliest house I had ever seen, in a state of total disrepair,’ Kim says of the original. ‘There were wires hanging from the ceiling, gaping holes in the floor… it should have been condemned, really. But we just loved the unpretentious quality of the Parks, and the interesting people who live here – and I love making spaces – so we took on the challenge.’
To decorate the surfaces of the exterior walls, Kim began by attaching a piece of chalk to a feather duster and drawing on the base plaster itself, working later with a master plasterer to layer the designs up from the drawing. The earthy colour palette of terracotta and concrete grey was inspired by Mashamba, a potter’s village in Giyani, Limpopo, as well as by Kim’s years of research into the clay works of Africa.