For many, a casual drink at a favourite bar can be one of life’s great pleasures. It’s a simple indulgence that was largely taken for granted in the days before COVID steamrolled our sense of normalcy and relegated the consumption of libations to the confines of our own homes. But one creative couple was determined to have the best of both worlds by enlisting one of Ottawa’s finest makers to bring the bar of their dreams into the comfort of home.
Rob and Allison O’Reilly had been feeling the home improvement itch for some time but had been limited by the usual factors like budget and time. But halfway through 2020, after realizing how much money can be saved by not going anywhere, the couple decided to put their plan in motion for a basement upgrade that would elevate their den from bland to bold. And they knew just the man they wanted for the job, craftsman Rob Reitsma.
Rob Reitsma’s custom fabrication company, Burnt Wood Bent Metal, specializes in a raw, industrial design that brings together the warm, natural tones of lumber with the pale, blue-green of cold-rolled steel. It’s a stunning contrast that comes together beautifully in the O’Reilly’s custom bar.
The couple says that they were able to work with Rob Reitsma to find a design that both satisfied their dreams and met their budget.
The real show-stopping feature of this build is the single-piece, solid bar top. This is likely not something you would ever see at your local pub; Rob Reitsma says it’s special even for his own builds, noting that, “just the width and the length of that bar top is pretty unique. Most tables and bars I build are all laminated, so a couple of boards glued together to make a larger piece, but this is all one plank.”
Burnt Wood Bent Metal was able to locally source an entire tree to make this project come together, and Rob Reitsma was even able to get the backstory on this particular American elm. The O’Reilly’s bar top was a former resident of the Byron Linear Park in Westboro. The tree was cut down as part of the ongoing LRT construction, which involves digging a trench through the existing park that will later be covered back over and reforested. But don’t blame the train for this particular tree’s demise; Rob Reitsma says that he found a city tag still attached to the branches that marked the tree for removal because of disease.
“It’s very rare to be able to pinpoint the location like that, to have the tag on the tree still, and to be able to have the story behind it is very unique,” says Rob Reitsma.
As for the O’Reillys, don’t get to thinking that they’re now running a speakeasy out of their suburban Richmond basement. The bar is serving as a family hub where they can share time together in a beautifully crafted setting that feels like a night out on the town but retains all the comforts of home.