Doug Lafave decorates chimneys and fireplaces with small and large works of art

Work by Doug Lafave.Work by Doug Lafave.

The stonemason from the Great Lakes region in the north of the USA came to his current occupation as an artistic craftsman via roofing

If you drive through the small towns and villages in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, you will occasionally come across chimneys on roofs or fireplaces on house walls that bring joy to the observer – because they are witty and radiate pure joie-de-vivre.

These small works of art are the work of Doug Lafave, one of those very special stonemasons.

He actually began his career as a roofer and soon discovered that there was a demand from homeowners for repairs to chimneys and the fireplaces that go with them.

And because Doug is Doug, he soon stopped simply repairing fireplaces and added his creativity to the business model.

Customers seem to respond positively to such offers to beautify and increase the value of their homes. Doug’s webpage and Facebook page show just a small selection of the variety of work he has completed to date.

Work by Doug Lafave.Work by Doug Lafave.Work by Doug Lafave.

He sees the motifs for the artworks in his mind’s eye when he is on site, as he answers our question. He then paints them, talks about them with the customer and finally executes them himself.

We would have loved to have been there for a customer meeting like this, and there is a good reason for that: as an “ageing stonemason,“ as he calls himself, Doug did not want to enter into an email exchange with us but wanted to do the question and answer via Facebook Messenger.

We do not normally do this because the answers in Messenger are usually too short for us to write a portrait in the end.

With Doug, however, a torrent of answers poured down on us, without periods or commas, with sentences like snippets of conversation that started somewhere and hardly ever came to an end. Something like the smoke in a chimney that comes out of a fire at the bottom and drifts away with the wind in the chimney at the top…

Work by Doug Lafave.Work by Doug Lafave.

When asked where he gets his stones from, we learned that he is actually a collector, bringing them home from every building site and every walk. He is particularly fond of stones with special colors.

He also drives long distances to replenish his stock.

Arbeit von Doug Lafave.Work by Doug Lafave.

In 1980, he founded his company Upper Lakes Chimney & Masonry LLC. Today, the one-man operation has become a family business: “My son Brandon runs the business and my daughter in law Kaylynn secretary. My grandson is coming in this summer to start next to grandpa!“

Then there are Nick and Luke, who are mentioned in a customer praise on his website. His torrent of words ends with the following sentence: “I will be crawling to my site with my trowel before I quit, so this is retirement, building something that people can remember you by ! I’m in pain every day with irreversible spinal stenosis damage, but I won’t quit ! I love building with stones!“

Upper Lakes Chimney & Masonry LLC


Photos: Doug Lafave

Doug Lafave at work.Doug with his wife Heather and the grandson Landon.

(10.05.2024, USA: 05.10.2024)