In case you missed the story in the Weekend Argus HEART OF THE HOME supplement yesterday, you can read about Dan Saks’s corner shop here.

Saks House in Observatory is a little corner store on the border of Salt River, where owner Dan Saks is putting his mid-century stamp on this bohemian neighborhood.

It is here that one finds Dan’s creations modeled on the gentle, well-made designs of our own modest domestic pasts: those oval or palette shaped tables with black glass tops and slanted legs in solid wood or veneers and the sleek buttoned-back sofas on similar legs.

It is here too that you’ll find originals of the armless chaises with diagonal backs and the zodiac chairs manufactured in South Africa and till their recent increase in popularity, fairly easy to find. This is the furniture from a time before the local love of Victoriana or Cape Cottage took an earlier generation from cool to cluttered twee.

Dan’s stock of original pieces mixed with his own creations modeled on 50s wooden furniture is a happy mix of affordable restored and original pieces without the gimmicks that make some “up-cycled” designs destined for design brevity.

The seeds of this store were sown years ago when Dan worked the markets throughout Cape Town, trading in frames made from salvaged wood. A decade ago these pieces were not as popular (or as overtraded) as they are today and it was difficult making any sort of living.

For a while he worked with his wife Jill in her fashion accessories business while buying old pieces of furniture on auction which he fixed or repurposed, mainly for his own home. A favourite piece at home remains a salvaged old industrial wooden window frame which he filled with photographs of his family. “I never tire of that,” he says .

Out of this passion for furniture from bygone eras, Dan’s love was distilled to a focus on mid-century design which he favours for their simple lines, and the way they were built to last.

Along with the realisation that working on handbags could never really excite him, came the certainty that trading in furniture and furniture designs from this period was what he really wanted to do. As luck would have it, the shop on the corner was available for rent and Dan was convinced that it was what he was meant to be doing.

Persuaded to exercise caution, he took two months to work in a friend’s factory, building up his stock and when, at the end of this period, the shop space was still available, he dived in and launched  Saks House, purveyor of mid-century modern furnishings.

Dan’s first customer at Saks House was a man called Hercules (how can you forget a first customer with a name like that?) from the neighbourhood, who bought a large art deco wardrobe that Dan had repainted and fitted on castors. The castors came in handy as “the delivery required Herculian (ugh)strength”. As Dan reflects, “Art deco wardrobes were not made sparingly,” and, after delivering another three-door art deco piece to a roof conversion “on the hottest day in summer”, he decided that three-door wardrobes would not be the signature pieces of Saks House.

instead, it’s  the long button back sofa that has become his stock in trade. Made by Dan in the style of 50s sofas with their slanted legs, he recently delivered his 14th one – not bad going since his production of these started only six months ago. Built with the next thirty years in mind, Dan uses hard wood and quality fabrics. He sees these products and the coffee tables he makes as the start of a  range that he dreams will be the direction his business takes.

Dan, an inhabitant of Observatory with his young family, admits that the first year and half in business was tough. But he loves the neighborhood and and its sense of community and is  grateful that it seems to love him right back. His customers are mainly faithfuls from Observatory, young couples building up homes, creative types who often gather round Saks and whose energy Dan feeds off. He also loves they way his customers come in and share stories of the history of the little corner shop.

His future dreams are vested in this space and what he’s doing here. “Ideally I see myself producing a range of high-end mid-century style furniture  and also creating an exclusive range of repurposed pieces.”

“I’m very hopeful that all the activity from the Biscuit Mill will start moving to this area,”  he muses.

In the meantime, Dan’s  latest venture,  a collaboration with Heather Moore of Skinny LaMinx, sees the  button back sofas he produces covered in Heather’s fabric and featured at Skinny LaMinx’s outlet in Green Point.

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