HER ART COLLECTION RUNS THE GAMUT, FROM RAUSCHENBERG TO YARD SALE CASTAWAYS. HER NEWLY RENOVATED HOME IS A DE FACTO GALLERY WITH ITS OWN CREATIVE FLOURISHES. FOR LYNN HEITLER, THE WORLD IS ALL HIDDEN BEAUTY AND OPEN CANVAS.
WORDS: Charlie Keaton IMAGES: Daniel O’Connor
VIEWED FROM A DISTANCE, LYNN HEITLER’S ENTIRE LIFE IS ABOUT ART. HER EYE FOR THE BEAUTY OF EVERYDAY THINGS, HER KNACK FOR PAIRING DISPARATE ITEMS IN INTERESTING WAYS, HER NEED TO CREATE AND CAPTURE AND RECONFIGURE … THESE ARE THE TRAITS THAT SUFFUSE HER WORLD IN WAYS SHE DID NOT EXPECT. THEY ARE THE VERY SAME TRAITS THAT MADE HER A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR AND THE PROUD OWNER OF AN IMPRESSIVE AND ECLECTIC ART COLLECTION—A COLLECTION SHE TOOK CARE TO CONSIDER AND ENHANCE WHEN RENOVATING HER 1942 HILLTOP HOME. LIFE IMITATES ART? OR THE OTHER WAY AROUND?
Heitler operates and co-owns Lynnel Art to Form, a Denver-based company providing original, customized digital art for commercial and residential clients. However, she’s done more than make a business from her passion. Heitler embodies the belief that incorporating art into one’s daily surroundings has an enormous impact on overall quality of life. She spent a lifetime curating her personal collection, and she takes pride in the fact that not every painting comes from a high-priced gallery exhibition; not every sculpture was shaped by a titan of the art world. In fact, she places greater emphasis on surrounding herself with pieces of distinct personal significance. “Some of these I’ve gotten by trading with other artists. I go to yard sales; I buy street art. I go to printers and see what their inventory looks like, sometimes galleries,” she said.
For Heitler, the art adorning her walls does not exist as a symbol of status or sensibility. It exists as a living testament to her travels and experiences, her memories and aspirations. She sees no value in limiting her options. Tibetan jewelry that recalls a specific moment in time. Glass cubes to capture and refract the morning sun. African art gifted from traveling family. They all have a place; they all have a story. “I went to an estate sale about a month ago, and I bought a photograph for five dollars,” she said. “And I love it. I value it as much as some of the things that cost me a lot of money.”
Some of these pieces did, indeed, cost a good deal of money—her collection is hardly a hodgepodge of thrift-shop tchotchkes. Scattered here and there you’ll find a Chagall, a Dali, a Bertoia, a Rauschenberg. A sitting room corner boasts a Siamese standing gilt bronze Buddha dating back to the 17th century. An upstairs office is home to a lovingly maintained Eames chair. Some of these she purchased, and some she inherited from her parents. Her mother, Dorothy, was a lifelong collector and a woman whom Heitler describes as having “the eye of a genius, but also the capacity to collect and get rid of.”
For Heitler, whose collection also features several Colorado artists and more than a few of her own pieces, there is great value in looking beyond aesthetic trends. She doesn’t over analyze the importance of matching specific styles or placing high-profile works front and center. The fit, she insists, is the thing. Pairing the Chagall with a Vance Kirkland? Positioning a favorite piece high on a bathroom wall so that it can be seen while relaxing in the bath? Flipping a vertical painting horizontal, and in the process creating a whole new perspective? There are few constraints when you feel no pressure to conform to the standards of others.
Nevertheless, the cohesion of Heitler’s diverse collection is hardly an accident. When she set out to transform her once- Colonial home into something with more mid-century modern flavor, she did so with clear intent: to create space for the art to flourish. Heitler tends to view everything as an art form, and she’s especially sensitive to the opportunity that architectural design provides. With a vision in mind and a checklist in hand, she hired local firm Design Platform to devise and execute the perfect renovation.
When Heitler asked Design Platform Founder and Creative Director Jonas DiCaprio to open and pull an abundance of natural light into the home, he made it happen—but not without a little problem-solving. “That house was built with a lot of intermediate structure, and it’s a shallow-depth house. So the challenge was to open up the main floor, which was nearly impossible because almost every wall on that main level was load-bearing. We had to add a gigantic steel beam so we could open up the kitchen and dining area.”
In addition, Heitler wanted clear, open views with minimal obstruction. “There are two or three sightlines through the house—from the front door out to the back yard, and from the kitchen into the sitting room, that also reflect a very thoughtful design that created an open space—but not so open that it wasn’t meaningful,” she said.
Heitler also made an unconventional choice when it came to color scheme, opting for white walls throughout. This allows for balance and versatility, leaving virtually any wall, in any room, in play. “Her house is such a gallery,” said DiCaprio. “It just made sense to let everything else fall away and allow the art to stand out.” To complement that smooth interior, Heitler and DiCaprio devised a bold, textured cedar exterior in the back yard. Seen from the clean expanse of the living room, it adds a dash of rugged Colorado to a house that would fit comfortably in any major metropolitan city.
In the end, Heitler’s home is a perfect reflection of her life: a creative extension of seemingly unrelated art forms. Some pieces come with prestigious pedigrees, but the greater value is the meaning she derives from their individual stories and from the story they tell collectively. Surrounding yourself with art, it seems, is a recipe for riches beyond monetary means. Building a collection is only the beginning.