She knew it was the one the moment she stepped through the door.
“The minute I walked inside I said — this is my happy place, this is where I want to be,” says Tracey Heitritter of the townhome condominium she’s lived in for just over a year now.
Born and raised in Indiana, Tracey has lived in several other places, but always had a strong connection to the Iowa Great Lakes.
“My grandparents always had a place on West Lake on Arrowhead Beach so I’ve been coming here since I was just a baby,” Tracey said.
After graduating from nursing school at the University of Minnesota, she moved to the Lakes area permanently in 1993 to be closer to her mom.
And though she passed away in 2014, Tracey sees her mother every day in the artwork she has hung all over her new home.
“She was an artist her whole life,” Tracey said of her mother, Patricia Leigh. “She was really involved at the Pearson Lakes Art Center and took classes all around here. She was really into stained glass, oil painting, tiling and almost everything in here is her artwork.”
Tracey knew it would all fit perfectly in her new home.
“Most of her beautiful pieces come from the lake home and they’re here as a tribute to her,” Tracey said. “I love and cherish each and every piece. There are lots of memories in here.”
The first work of art guests will see as they walk through the front door is a large oil painting of beautiful, brightly colored tulip beds.
“That was in our house in Pennsylvania. I just love the colors and it’s great in here because I always have fresh flowers on the table,” Tracey said.
The dining set those fresh flowers adorn has its own story as well.
Her father, Robert Leigh, enjoyed woodworking and actually made the table himself. It was the family’s nightly dinner table for many years.
The chairs? They came from an old bar in north Milford.
Tracey’s brother, John Leigh, remembers them from the 1950s and their old home in Chicago.
The dining room, kitchen and living room all flow together in an open floor plan.
In the living room an eclectic mix of new and used furniture is highlighted by more artwork while bright accent pieces such as a patterned rug and stylish throw pillows bring the space a vibrant touch.
“It’s cozy and I really like that Bohemian style. I like mixing bright colors with natural tones and mixing old and modern pieces.” Tracey said. “The pillows are from Midwest Modern — I love the style she has there.”
A couple blue-ribbon-winning works of art grace a corner of this room as well.
“She submitted a lot of work to the county fair contests and took classes all the time. This one is a grasshopper and these here were our cats growing up!” Tracey said.
Another mosaic in the main floor master suite is an extra large mosaic of the sun that has hung in four homes across three states according to Tracey’s brother.
“I know we had this in the Indiana home when I was a baby. I think it says 1952 on the back. That means everything to me,” Tracey said.
While the basement level is unfinished there is another piece of family history that sits above the staircase landing. Intricate and smoothly detailed woodwork highlights three generations of family items including their dad’s old pipe from college, their grandfather’s initials, tools from their great-grandfather’s jewelry shop and much more.
“Everyone loves that piece. Mom, the artist put it all together,” Tracey said.
On the way upstairs another staircase landing showcases a series of oil paintings of flowers all set in ornate frames.
A bonus room on the upper floor sits above the garage and is one of Tracey’s favorite places in her home.
It doubles as her home office and an upstairs living space with a sitting area and game table.
“It’s a peaceful place to me with all the artwork. It’s practically a museum to my mother and father,” Tracey said.
A black surf table dates back to the 1950s.
Patricia’s collection of African masks adorns one wall.
A table in the corner holds a chess set and belonged to Tracey’s great-great grandmother.
The entire room encapsulates Tracey’s style of blending family heirlooms with new, modern pieces and a general Bohemian style.
Two bedrooms, including the spacious master suite make up the rest of the upper floor.
As you make your way from the bonus room to the master bedroom you pass one of the few pieces of art that wasn’t done by Tracey’s mother.
The twist is that in this particular painting she’s the subject.
“Her best friend did that one and my mom was pregnant with me! I love that picture,” Tracey said.
Tracey is a bit older in another painting hanging above the bed in the master suite.
“I was maybe two years old in that one,” Tracey said. “She probably had to take a picture and paint from that. Can you imagine a two-year-old sitting that long?”
An aging rocking chair once belonged to her great-grandmother but this is one room where most of the furniture is on the newer side.
“When I add something new I like to add something bright to otherwise neutral pieces,” Tracey said. “I don’t want to have all old furniture that’s not comfortable so I add more modern furniture and incorporate the other pieces around it.”
And right now she’s found the perfect balance of both throughout her home.
“I’m just thrilled and I’m pretty sure this is going to be my forever home,” Tracey said. “I love the openness and the location is great. I’m here to stay!”