Birds of a Feather
Creative family flocks to native habitat
The Hamilton home exudes an air of Martha’s Vineyard,
where Paul has done much landscape painting.
It is often said that our homes are extensions of our personalities. In the case of homeowners Amy and Paul Hamilton, there’s no doubt that artistic temperament drives their home remodeling and design decisions—it shines from every angle and corner of the old house that they’ve worked to restore over the last 13 years.
Amy and Paul met at the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) in 1987. They recognized each other immediately as kindred spirits. Along with a creative bent, they shared a love of vintage treasures and nature. While in school, they explored the surrounding countryside, picnicking and photographing their way through small rural towns. They imagined fixing up and living in an old farmhouse, pursuing their artistic endeavors in a converted barn.
Paul proposed to Amy in a sandwich shop in Granville, Ohio. One wedding and two small children later, they wanted to move further out—into “the country country.” Paul, primarily a plein-air landscape painter (along with still life, portraits and abstracts), was searching for the perfect setting to provide him with year-round subject matter. Amy, while studying fashion design at CCAD, had developed an interest in hat making, realizing the potential hats had for “topping” her clothing with the definitive accessory.
Portraits (by Paul) of the couple’s two children hang in the dining room.
Initially they planned to head to the east coast after graduation, but Granville was as far east as they got. A dilapidated farm outside of town caught their imaginations. Built originally in 1859, it had been a working farm kept in the same family until 1985, when it was purchased by a photographer and his wife, who were aiming to retire there. The photographer had managed to install plumbing and transform a small root cellar into a full-fledged basement before his wife died unexpectedly. Not wanting to handle the daunting task on his own, he put the property on the market.
Amy comments that most people who had seen the farm considered it a teardown, its condition was that far gone. When Paul first drove up to the old house, his mind was made up. He jokes that he wasn’t sure if it was bravery or stupidity that prompted their decision to purchase the six-acre farm with two barns and an outhouse.
The first order of business was to make the house livable. They had sold their house in London, Ohio, and needed to vacate quickly. They had two weeks! The walls had been stripped down to the studs. Floorboards were missing, and you could look up between the floor joists into the second floor. When it rained, it poured (inside)! They slept on the floor on a blue shag rug. One night they left the windows open, and woke to find the house full of moths and beetles. Paul recalls, “It was messy, messy, messy.”
An upstairs sitting room showcases several of Paul’s landscapes.
The house has gone through two major renovations since the Hamiltons took possession. The first began with the initial emergency triage and continued over the course of ten years as they worked to add bathrooms, a functional kitchen, a generous wraparound front porch and all the amenities that make a house a home. The oil-stained gravel driveway was blacktopped up to the house and the rest was covered with monumental slabs of black slate that form a large, striking patio on the side of the house on which rests a vine-covered pergola. In 2005 they tore off a second-floor addition and expanded the upstairs.
The family has spent many summers in Martha’s Vineyard, where Paul was commissioned by a local art gallery to provide landscapes of the island. Reminiscent of Cape Cod, the house is covered with sand-colored cedar shakes, and lush beds of immense, white Annabel hydrangeas line the yard.
Paul is handy with power tools and has done most of the carpentry work in the house and studios. Because Amy was able to set up a workroom in the house for her hat business, he rebuilt the cow barn for his studio first. The barn was in even worse shape than the house, but undeterred, Paul had a new foundation poured and reconstructed the building. He paints in the lower level of the barn and uses the upper level as a gallery and for painting classes. Once his studio was completed, he tackled the horse barn, converting it into Amy’s studio. Paul’s comfort with tools is exhibited by the garden shed and the numerous birdhouses scattered about the property. He collects old wood from torn down buildings and repurposes it into vintage structures of varying size and function.
Gallery of Paul’s studio
Recently, Amy and Paul have focused on their enterprise, Skipping Rock Farm, founded to provide artists the opportunity to congregate and share ideas and inspiration. They offer workshops in painting, hat making and upcycling, flower making and knitting. Amy also teaches Millinery Arts at CCAD. Along with his painting and painting workshops, Paul is the Creative Director of Granville Studio of Visual Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the artistic experience to art students of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
But creative souls are restless souls, always seeking a new challenge. On the horizon, another concept is percolating. Amy and Paul envision adding an artists’ retreat, where guests reside in diminutive, Waldenesque cabins—to paint, write, enjoy the beauty and solitude of nature, or commune with other like-minded souls. The first cabin is built. They’ve cleared overgrown brush, and built firepits and footbridges. The plan includes a community center containing a kitchen, bathrooms, storage areas and several architecturally unique cabins for guests.
Given all they’ve accomplished so far, and their affinity for dramatic transformations, there’s reason to believe that their vision will be reality in the foreseeable future.
Editor’s note: The exhibit Metaphors and Modernism, An In-Depth Look at the Life and Art of Paul Hamilton opens in November at Hammond Harkins Gallery. Amy is participating in Wearable Art: Interpretations of Museum Masterpieces of Fashion Show at the Columbus Museum of Art on September 16.
For more than 132 years, the Columbus College of Art and Design has been preparing students, like the Hamiltons, to take their creative talents “out into the world with purpose and impact.”
Currently, more than 1,400 individuals from 40 states and 35 foreign countries are enrolled at the college. The campus, as an entire district of downtown Columbus, consists of 14 buildings including two residence facilities.
Undergraduate majors include advertising and graphic design, animation, fashion design, fine arts, illustration, industrial design, interior design, media studies, and photography.
Notable alumni include:
Dreamworks effects animator —Nick Burkard, ’07.
Editorial cartoonist for The Columbus Dispatch —Jeff Stahler, ’77.
Pixar technical director and character animator —Mike Altman, ’00.
MacArthur Foundation (“genius award”) artist recipient —Aminah Robinson, ’60.
2011 Grammy award winner —Michael Carney, ’04.
“CCAD is by its nature concerned with fostering innovation, or what we call ‘applied creativity,’” says CCAD president Denny Griffith. “Our graduates can be found across the country and around the world, in businesses large and small, in the entertainment and fashion industries, in print and broadcast media, and in galleries and museums. In every way, CCAD alumni shape culture.”