Big thanks to Ottawa Magazine and Rafia Mahli for the beautiful feature in the Spring Interiors Sourcebook!
Full text by Rafia Mahli and gorgeous photos by Andrew Szeto below.
The house that woodworker and designer Nick Barna built and lives in—situated in the Chelsea hills—is a living testament to his breadth as a craftsman. Among the many beautiful structures within are an eat-in kitchen complete with a massive island perfect for gathering around; comfy dining chairs with woven cord seats around an airy yet solid dining room table standing on gently tapered legs; and a long, low-slung, white oak credenza with chevron-panelled doors.
Nick takes a door out of the credenza and shows me the crucial detail: carefully inset roller bearings hidden in the base of each door that allow them to slide smooth. Every detail in Nick Barna’s work is thoughtful, nothing is a frill, and function never takes a backseat to form. Look a little closer, and you’ll see whimsy and delight, too: his HiFi Crates elevate the humble plastic milk crate into an object of beauty.
There’s an irony to them that embodies Nick’s ethic: here, a hardwood rendition of a disposable object, both with inherent utility, but Nick’s version more likely to stand up toconstant use and be treasured for years. They also continue a theme found throughout his work, of combining traditional woodworking joinery with contemporary tools and materials.
Each design has a purity and a clarity of purpose. The Cord chairs reference Danish paper cord chairs, replacing the woven seats with colourful military-grade parachute cord. They are “the most technically challenging pieces to make...a chair has to be beautiful and light, but comfortable and strong.”
He is constantly coming up with designs that are “waiting for the right client to come along.” He finds that “my best designs come when a client presents a very specific challenge, but allows me to be creative in designing a solution that works.”
Nick’s work carries a distinct impression of giving something back to people; an ease and a simple, unencumbered pleasure in everyday living.
Nick views his work “as inspired by the way the Shaker and Japanese woodworking traditions viewed their work as an extension of their spiritual beliefs.” He goes on to say “I share with them the idea that honest work and the creation of well-crafted, thoughtful designs—in harmony with the lived environment and unembellished by ego—can be a kind of spiritual practice.”