The Art on the Hardwood Floor

Katherine Burrows

Donna and Delbert Adams, owners of Sheffield Hardwood, a hardwood flooring contractor in Tamworth.

[This article appears in the December 2019/January 2020 issue of The SCOOP.]

Your hardwood floor is the largest piece of furniture in your house. Have you ever thought of your floor as a unique platform for a work of art? Your existing floor can be a blank canvas that is just waiting for the artist’s creation to be realized.

That is the viewpoint of Donna Adams - Floor Artist - the creative core of Sheffield Hardwood. She observes and evaluates the site, then creates a design that works for the homeowner’s lifestyle and budget.

Her husband, Delbert, prepares the “canvas” either by installing new wood or refinishing the existing floor by removing the existing finishes. During installation, Donna takes over with the selection and placement of boards, followed by tinting or staining. She says she feels energized when the finishing process begins. “That’s when the hard work is done, and the art begins to emerge.”

Donna’s father was a master cabinetmaker. Growing up, she helped him build furniture. He instilled in his daughter his craftsmanship approach, patience with materials, and attention to detail. Donna went on to study graphic design and fine art. She combines the artistic skills from her professional training with the practical skills she developed alongside her father and applies them to the hardwood floor design process. Her background as a painter, stained glass artist, furniture designer and graphic artist brings depth and wisdom to her floor designs.

Delbert had worked in flooring with his father, a builder, during and after high school, but when construction slowed down in the 1980s, he turned to tool making and engineering. His first love was woodworking and he continued to work with wood, making furniture for his and his family’s personal use. In 2015, Delbert’s father passed away and Delbert inherited his woodworking tools, the catalyst for starting the Sheffield Hardwood business as an encore career.

Donna’s background in graphic design and fine art, and expertise in watercolour and acrylic painting provides a strong base for hardwood floor design and for working with stains and finishes on hardwood flooring. She often blends standard colours to create a custom finish. Hand tinting the floorboard by board or creating new colours are two techniques she uses to match existing flooring.

Using different species of wood is another way Donna creates effects and colour variety in a floor. Red and White Oak, Brazilian Tigerwood, Black Walnut, Red Maple, and Hickory each have their own distinct grain pattern and colour. She has even used a red-coloured wood called “Padauk” from Africa.

Creative inspiration comes from many places. One of Donna’s designs includes playful otters, such as she might see frolicking in the lake near the couple’s home.

Another project looks like a patchwork quilt set into a log cabin border. In this design, the natural colours of wood species define the quilt pieces. Delbert made sure each piece fit properly, while Donna maintained the overall view and orchestrated the entire design. He notes how important it is for him to make sure everything is flat and square, so Donna’s designs look their best. The result is a stunning eight- by ten-foot centrepiece of art on the hardwood floor of a guest bedroom.

A Niagara Falls job took them from forest to floor. On a sixth-generation apple farm, deep in wine country, they were hired to install and finish custom flooring using wood from hundred-year-old walnut trees planted by the homeowner’s grandfather. They worked with local (Stone Mills) people to kiln dry, mill, grade and cut the wood.

Tired of traffic lights and speed bumps, Donna and Delbert moved to their current location in 2013, prior to starting the Sheffield Hardwood, which allows them to earn a living while being able to live a cottage lifestyle in their off-grid, lakeside home.

While living and building a business in Stone Mills, the couple have enjoyed getting to know their neighbours. They find local residents “so welcoming and inviting.” It is refreshing to see people in Tamworth out walking and kids riding their bikes, especially in the Canada Day and Santa Claus parades. They enjoy the TECDC Concert Series, appreciating that they can be home ten minutes after the concert ends without fighting traffic.

They enjoy shopping local and have found Kulwant Singh, the owner of the Tamworth Pro Hardware Store and A 1 Corner Restaurant and Store very friendly and helpful. She has been very accommodating when Delbert has been looking for hardware supplies, especially on short notice. She has even been known to lend out her rubber boots to visitors.

“That’s something you don’t find in the city,” Donna observes. “We want to keep Stone Mills the way it is. Really, that’s what makes it so great to live and work here – it’s the people.”
This floor was inspired by the playful otters that frolic in the lake near Donna and Delbert's home.