July-August 2015 | OLD-WORLD CRAFTSMEN

Jonathan Linch and Damian McAlister of Celtic Nations



Celtic Nations’ Damian McAlister & Jonathan Linch raise a glass to toast the completion of their brand-new show space in Ocean City

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

When Damian McAlister was on an Ocean City jobsite some 15 years ago, he saw a guy wearing a hardhat that had “Limey” written on the back. Though Belfast-native McAlister definitely recalls being amused by that not-so-subtle ethnic clue, what he didn’t realize is that his life would take a different direction because of it. The construction worker with the hardhat humor was Folkestone, England’s Jonathan Linch, with whom McAlister would form Celtic Nations Contracting not long thereafter.

Certainly their shared European heritage was a springboard for the friendship that followed. But the brick and mortar that really unite these two are the philosophy and tradition of Old World craftsmanship they’d inherited as a birthright. Jon grew up as the son of a master carpenter, while Damian was making his bones on Belfast jobsites since he was 13 years old. 

“My father always preferred old-fashioned hand tools to motorized or mechanized tools,” recalled Jon with his trademark Kent County accent. “He used to say there was no mechanism invented that could communicate more precise information to his brain than his own hands and eyes.”

Damian added: “There’s only one way to build something — and that’s the right way, the first time. And if you do that, you’ll almost certainly only have to build it once.” 

To put their money where their mouths are, Damian and Jon recently unveiled their brand-new model home at 5th St. and Edgewater Ave. in Ocean City. According to them, the 500 sq. ft. condo is deliberately small, to demonstrate more dramatically that luxury and the touchstones of superior craftsmanship are not dependent on volume of space.

The condo unit supports these claims with tongue-and-groove pine ceilings and crown moldings, both in the same clear finish that are so popular in European homes. Also capturing that old-country ambiance is the stacked stone of the living room, which lacks mortar joints as a further tip of the hat to continental aesthetic sensibilities.

Popular over here, meanwhile, are the cabinetry, vanities and built-ins Celtic Nations custom-fabricates in its own wood shop. This kitchen sports Shaker-style maple cabinetry, tinted with black-smoke stain and topped off with brushed-
nickel handles. The same stacked stone used in the living room forms backsplashes that perfectly complement the white-spring-granite and quartz countertops that surround the square sink. Discreet deployment of barn-style and pocket doors throughout the unit provide both rustic style and space efficiency.

The condo’s screened porch is definitely one its chief virtues. Sporting the red-brick walls and vintage beer signs emblematic of the classic Irish/English pub, Caledonia granite for the bar’s countertop and a three-foot custom-made maple wine cabinet, this room would be a draw for any gathering. This is especially true considering all the materials Celtic Nations used for this space are high-grade, maintenance-free and weather-proof. 

The bathroom doesn’t disappoint either, owing largely to its sumptuous “archaeology-style” glazed-porcelain tile with scattered flecks of brown and white. The elegant countertop is Praa Sands quartz, and all fixtures here and elsewhere are top-of-the-line Moen products.

“Jonathan and I are proud and excited to now be able to showcase the kind of work we do and what we’re about,” said Damian. “We couldn’t have done it without Jordan Pippin, Todd Mitchell and the crew at Celtic Nations. We’d also like to express our thanks to Scott Elliott of Atlantic Stonewall, Dave Wallace Electric, Jeff Hein HVAC and Doug Lewis for their excellent work and invaluable contributions to this project.”

Celtic Nations’ beautiful bayside condo will be available as a rental unit during peak season.


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