Henrietta Heisler’s mother sensed early on that her daughter was destined for a career in interior design.
“Even when I was little, maybe 6, I would walk in somebody’s home and say, ‘That sofa doesn’t fit that room,’ ” Heisler recalls.
As is often the case, it took Heisler a little longer to discover what her mother already knew. She studied painting instead, but soon learned she was too social for the solitary life of an artist.
“I took my mother’s advice and went back to school,” she says.
That decision paid off. Heisler, now an award-winning interior designer, has been helping residential and commercial clients in Lancaster County and beyond transform their spaces for the past two decades as head of her own firm, Henrietta Heisler Interiors.
Her projects range from designing the luxury condos at 101NQ and the new Our Town Brewery, 252 N. Prince St., to doing kitchen and bath remodels and helping retirees downsize to smaller spaces.
One day she even hopes to design a cat tower that’s both pretty and functional — a homage to her favorite feline, Sammy, a long-haired black cat that she rescued from the Brooklyn Animal Shelter.
“I liked to be challenged,” Heisler says, “and by doing different things you learn new things.”
Favorite room: The sunroom
Heisler found her home on a quiet street in School Lane Hills 22 years ago. With one son at Lancaster Country Day and another at Manheim Township at the time, its location was a big selling point.
Although she added a master suite, bath and office in what was once the attic, she admittedly has other projects she’d like to tackle. Not surprisingly, she’s often too busy perfecting other people’s spaces to work on her own.
“I don’t spend a lot of time in my house,” she says.
When she does, she likes to spend it in her sunroom, a sunken room that at one point in the home’s history was a porch.
“It’s the only room that’s not messy,” Heisler says wryly.
The room has an almost Mediterranean feel, with faux-painted columns framing its entry and faux-painted walls creating a Venetian plaster look.
A wood-plank ceiling and slate floor bring a feel of the outdoors inside.
With backyard access available from another room, Heisler chose to treat the sunroom’s glass doors as a wall of windows, expanding her options for furniture placement.
“I wanted it to be interesting, as well as cozy and comfortable,” she says of the room.
For cozy and comfortable, she chose a white sofa in a soft, textured fabric and two navy blue chairs in a plush velveteen fabric with gold-finished frames.
She loves to sit and read in one of those chairs while propping her feet on a coffee table made from two massive slabs of fossil stone. “If I sit on that deliciously soft sofa,” she says, “I fall asleep.”
Although Heisler enjoys spending quiet time in the room, it was also designed with enough seating and surface space to entertain a small gathering of friends, she notes.
With “cozy and comfortable” under control, Heisler added plenty to make the room “interesting.” She may have given up a career in art long ago, but she’s clearly maintained her love of art in many forms. And her sunroom — as well as much of her home — is a showcase for her collection.
The sunroom has a small stone gas fireplace surrounded by built-ins on either side, each featuring softly-lit glass-fronted upper cabinets that display treasures from her eclectic collection, from pieces picked up at local craft shows to a wire-sculpture self-portrait created by her son.
Heisler’s tastes are a mix of everything from antique to modern. You’ll find a pair of lamps made from antique Oriental jars and a fun “Rock, Paper, Scissors” metal sculpture — including a giant pair of scissors — by local artist Roger Dorsey.
There are paintings of bugs on wood by artist Gigi Spratley on one wall and a giant tribal mask from Papua New Guinea on another.
An antique end table comfortably shares space with a modern glass-top end table whose base is a dark and fanciful scene sculpted in relief by Pennsylvania ceramic artist David Stabley.
Heisler included her own handiwork as well — quite literally. Sitting on the fireplace mantel, beneath a stone arch and the glow of its own accent lighting, is a bronze sculpture of Heisler’s hand, which she made at the Keystone Art and Cultural Center. The hand is wearing a ring carved with an elephant.
“The elephant is my animal sign,” she says. “Elephants are family oriented and take obstacles out of the way.”
Speaking of family, they’re on display, too. There are framed snapshots atop the built-ins and two childhood portraits of her sons by local photographer Donna Wilcox on the wall.
“I like photos of my family around even though it’s not considered a design thing,” Heisler says, as if she needs to explain. “But I like my family.”