For all its urban sophistication, there’s a warmth and eclectic charm to the cosmopolitan Cape Town home of acclaimed visual artist Galia Gluckman and her husband, Gary.
The couple, who returned to South Africa in 2010 after living in New York City for several years, share this contemporary city space with two lively children, Ella (12) and nine-year-old Levi, as well as two boisterous dogs, Rio and Verdell.
Galia, whose large-scale, multi-faceted collages are in private and corporate collections around the world, confirms what meets a visitor’s eye: there’s a bucketload of style, but very little pretension here. ‘There’s nothing fussy about this house: it’s a home that “holds” our family and is perfect for our casual and busy lifestyle,’ says Galia, who recently had a successful solo exhibition at the Everard Read/CIRCA Gallery in Cape Town.
But the abode was far from perfect when Galia and Gary bought it and it took an extensive, ‘nightmarish’ renovation to transform what was an outdated house into the spacious home it is today. ‘It had really good bones, with lovely high ceilings and beautiful wooden doors,’ explains Galia, ‘but the inside spaces were small, inefficient and impractical for the way we like to live, so we made quite radical changes.’
Using no architect, they redesigned the house themselves, with Gary – who’s a physicist and entrepreneur – doing the 3D design work on his computer. ‘My husband and I collaborate well together,’ says Galia. ‘When we were ready, we called in an engineer to make sure that the walls wouldn’t collapse!’
Key to the renovation was maximizing the building ’s ideal position and orientation: on its back doorstep is Table Mountain, while Table Bay is on display in all its glory from the couple’s bedroom balcony.
Although it’s a double-storey, the home has three levels: downstairs you’ll find expansive living areas, a guest bathroom and a home office, while the three bedrooms, two bathrooms and the kids’ office-cum-TV lounge are up a gorgeously simple flight of stairs. Then there’s the light-filled loft, which acts as Galia’s bolthole – her artist’s eyrie, where she spends hours creating her detailed paint-and-paper collages.
The house, with its dark doors and calm walls, is the perfect foil for these large, vivid artworks. And with Galia’s discerning taste, finding the right colour for the walls was crucial. ‘Colour plays a big role in my life – it can be very powerful,’ she explains. For this reason, she asked renowned Cape Town colourist Freya Lincoln, with whom she’d worked before, to help her recreate the feel of a Manhattan brownstone. ‘I wanted the look of a New York City apartment,’ recalls Galia. ‘We’d opened up the spaces and with Freya’s magical touch – and a handful of colours – the house just came into its own.’
Then it was time to shake things up a little. ‘Through colour, you can create harmony – but also tension. I do this with my art, but I also do it in my home. I like to achieve a satisfying balance by combining colours to create a sense of order – and then introduce the unpredictable!’
The result is a vibrant eclecticism that sees an indigo velvet ottoman sharing space with sunshine-yellow scatter cushions and a swimming pool-blue coffee table in the lounge. This philosophy is extended with the pieces, big and small, which are perfectly placed throughout the other rooms. ‘The most beautiful items in our home are those that I’ve inherited from my parents, who live in Israel now, and my late grandmother,’ says Galia, who grew up in a creative home in Durban.
With her curator’s eye, Galia has selected every item with love and care. Her style and penchant for mixing old and new are most evident in her beloved dining room, ‘which feels genuine and honest’. The room, with its heirloom pieces and paintings, ‘pays homage to my family’s past’.
This decorating aesthetic is very much in keeping with Galia’s objective of making her home warm, functional and dynamic. ‘It’s ever-evolving and will always be a work in progress,’ she says.
Galia’s solo exhibition will be hosted by the Everard Read/CIRCA Gallery in Johannesburg in August and September. For more details, visit everard-read.co.za
Text: Sharon Sorour-Morris; Photography: Karl Rogers