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A Local Craftsman Refreshes a Tired Fireplace With a Wall of Ebonized Oak

The Black Arts fireplace by Nicholas Hamilton Holmes makes a good case for getting to know your millworker

By Tory Healy
Photography by Natalie Hayes

Before you hire a woodworker, do your research. A background check would be smart, not for anything nefarious, of course, but to carefully consider their artistic past. See, many times, woodworkers supplement their earnings with, well, run-of-the-mill millwork jobs, building traditional cabinets and standard shelving units when they’d much rather be crafting contemporary furnishings. If you ask the right questions, your experience with a woodworker – and the resultant project – can exceed expectations.

Take this commission Nicholas Hamilton Holmes recently completed, for example. The Hamilton-based artisan was hired to reimagine a focal wall in a home office where a tired fireplace with a heavily moulded taupe surround stood. The easiest solution: replace this with a simplified version. But, with it being one of the first things guests encounter upon entry, there was an opportunity to go grander. Holmes shared his previous design work with the clients, particularly his “tubular” Black Arts collection of chair, tables and “useless objects” made from painstakingly turned ebonized oak. Out went the transitional-style sketch, and Holmes was free to craft a curvy piece that would amplify the proportions of the room.

The new blackened ash fireplace spans the wall. Its flush-faced cabinetry on either side of the granite hearth and surround stores copious office supplies. Thick legs at the hearth taper as they rise, culminating in sculptural balls at the mantel shelf. The functional piece does its job – as did Holmes, by creating a timeless work of art from an everyday commission. HAMILTONHOLMESMILLWORK.COM

Originally published in our 2020 Reno Issue as “One Thing”.

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