Friday, April 19

A magical makeover

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A Cape Town ceramicist gives insight into the DIY renovation of her Newlands Village home and studio

Ceramicist Sarah Walters has hand-crafted the alterations to her Newlands cottage studio/home. Every piece, from doors to floors, has a story.

Walters is familiar with sharing working and living space after sharing a studio with her father, Franschhoek ceramicist David Walters, while living in a house on her parents’ property.

“It was lovely working with him and living on site, but it was time to move on,” says Walters.

“I wanted my own place and with my parents looking to scale down, I sought the right house. This ticks most boxes. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it’s getting there.

“A friend gave me my front door, saying he hoped it brought lots of customers. It used to be the door to his father’s successful shop in Joburg.”

The good luck door has replaced a large window on the corner property.

After locating recycled floorboards and parquet floors on Gumtree, Walters laid them herself, and made green subway tiles for her bijou kitchen. Walters is a hands-on, DIY type of potter.

The new modern wooden staircase. Picture: Melanie Farrell

“I didn’t want visitors entering through the existing front as it leads straight into the lounge. I have two entrances – one for the shop and one for home. They help to define space. When friends visit, it’s to my home, not my shop.”

The new door leads into an L-shaped space where she knocked down a wall and replaced the floor with tongue-and-groove boards, also from Gumtree.

“I learnt how to install the tongue-and-groove myself. It’s not easy, but at least it was just one room,” she says.

The showroom space displays her fine porcelain. Her studio next door offers a view of Table Mountain.

“This is where I want to sit all day, working at my wheel.”

Walters stops working her clay to walk me through the property.

Previously owned by a Chinese medical practitioner, the tiny corner property is a historic building with unusual architectural features.

“There was a spiral staircase leading up to the second floor, but it has been replaced by a modern, clean-lined laminated wooden staircase.

“A friend, Mario Dieckow, originally from East Germany, made the staircase from laminated pine in his workshop.

Picture: Melanie Farrell

“We had to push the long sides into the house through a kitchen window. Then he slotted in the steps and lifted it into place. He is a genius. You should see the kitchen he is working on, clean lines.”

Free of railings or handrails, the staircase is poised between the lower level and the loft.

“I suppose I should put up a railing, but it looks so beautiful without.”

Her story continues in the showroom, where she points out a dark slate mantel, a gift from a friend.

“He’d had it for years. It was a perfect fit,” she says.

How Walters did it, room by room 


New bamboo floor, it was rough concrete; new kitchen unit; new sash window, all from Gumtree. I removed a spiral staircase and closed in the ceiling, removed the old fireplace, painted black ceilings white, and yellow walls white. I also put in a doorway.


Removed the entire ceiling, cutting metal I-beams, removed an old non-functioning chimney, putting a skylight in the hole. Removed arches and blocked in a doorway. Replaced rotten floorboards.

The loft bedroom and living area. Picture: Melanie Farrell

Living room

Took up old rotten floorboards and floor trusses and replaced with Japanese maple tongue-and-groove, from Gumtree. New door out into courtyard, also from Gumtree. I had all the sash windows restored – some had plants growing out of them. Put up a dry wall and made my own porcelain lampshades.

Downstairs bathroom

Removed the bath and basin and turned into my kiln room, with extractor fan.

Downstairs studio It was a yellow room. I had to replaster one wall. 

First gallery room

Opened a double hole in a wall, replaced the floor with same wood as living room and dumped lots of Chinese medicine.

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