fireplace + barnwood


I’m often asked, “How do you work?” or “What is your process?” or “What does your ring have written on it?

So, as 2012 wraps up, I wanted to share the process used on a small project completed earlier this year.  A fireplace dealer in Marin asked Torbit Studio to design a hearth and surround to show off one of the beauiful fireplaces in their showroom.  I was delighted to have the opportunity to push the boundaries of fireplace design. On the left is a snapshot as the project started.


Working closely with the client, we discussed the many possibilities.  We landed on the idea using some kind of old, worn lumber that would hint at an earlier life or two, lives exposed to the elements.
I wanted to pair the lumber with a material with a very different texture, and thought the smoothness of a ceramic tile would contrast well with rough, weather-worn wood.  But we needed a tile with a highly varied finish for it to work nicely next to the color variations of weathered wood.

As the design developed, I presented the client with a series of hand-drawn sketches, along with materials as seen above.  We narrowed down the concepts and I created the 3-D drawing for a clearer picture of the final concept.

Once the final design was approved, it was time to source and locate the materials.  A five-inch hexagon tile was sourced from Heath Ceramics in Sausalito.  Then, I drove north to a salvage yard to hand-pick the perfect barn wood planks for the job.

Once at the salvage yard, it was pouring rain, and I was wearing a cashmere sweater. At least I had my trusty leather work gloves and a man in the yard to help be gather the fencing.

I hand-picked 35 linear feet of fence planking that started out as walls of a chicken coop, and was now going into service as a fireplace surround.  But first the planks had to be pulled apart and loaded up. The nails had to come out and then into the wood shop, where the old barn wood was scrubbed clean, twice, and cut to size. A natural stain was applied bring out and smooth out the patina.  Then the planks and tiles were delivered on site.

Because each plank was unique, I was careful to arrange them with the final composition in mind. Then, a carpenter installed the planks on site.  An expert tile-setter laid the handmade five-inch hexagon tiles.

Heath Ceramic Tiles and Barn Wood surround    followed by a few final touches and…Voila!