As an art collector, dancer, singer and designer, Lovedy Barbatelli had spent years swirling in the eye of the art and design world, making frequent trips to Denver to get her local fix. But, as she watched the city’s creative scene heating up, she longed to be in the midst of the action.
A new modernist duplex put Barbatelli right where she wanted to be. Sleek, stylish and slated for LEED Gold certification, the home is situated on a leafy street in the Highlands, her dream neighborhood. “It’s an old community, but there’s a lot of fresh energy and revitalization going on,” Barbatelli says. “There are fabulous shops and restaurants for me, and parks and Sloan’s Lake for my dog, Michéle.” Upon meeting the building’s developer, Jonathan Alpert of Imagine Infill, she found a kindred spirit—someone with sky-high design standards who pushes the eco-friendly envelope. “The stars aligned for me, and the whole thing was magical,” says the designer.
Luckily for Barbatelli, architect Matthew Lawton shared Alpert’s eco-modern vision and created an inspirational contemporary design for the duplex; Barbatelli’s unit features open rooms, ample natural light and plenty of built-in storage. “I didn’t want to impose a particular style,” Lawton says. “I like to think of architecture as a framework for people’s lives—something that gives them the flexibility to live in many different ways.”
To that end, the main level—which houses the kitchen, living and dining areas—is one big loft-like space. “That’s where I spend a lot of my time, and it gives me a feeling of openness that I hadn’t had in a home before,” Barbatelli says.
To achieve LEED Gold certification, green products and materials were incorporated into nearly every inch of the building, including solar panels on its detached garages. “We created a super-insulated shell, used high-efficiency furnace and air conditioning systems, and the concrete in the foundation is 30-percent fly ash, which is a recycled coal product,” says Lawton. And the home is as stylish as it is green. “The developer was very detailed in picking every material and making it something special, so the backsplashes and tiles, for example, are very unique,” says builder Cindy Lizarraga, who oversaw construction with her business partner, Mark Teets.
A designer by profession, Barbatelli outfitted the interiors herself, combining luxurious sophistication with touches of whimsy. Thanks to her life on the inside track, she snared some stunning fabrics and also designed certain furnishings herself, like the coffee table in the living room. Still, Barbatelli says that being a professional designer doesn’t necessarily mean that the project was easy. “Some things I didn’t even have to think about,” she says. “It was an intuitive yes. Click. Done. That’s a good feeling. But other things I agonized over. You feel inept, because as a designer, this is what you do all day long. But there’s so much personal emotional charge. How do I perceive myself? How do others perceive me? Am I going to be happy with this?”
Barbatelli’s home acts, in part, as a gallery for her diverse art collection, which has earned her a spot on the Denver Art Museum’s Salon Series tour. A self-proclaimed “closet-case artist,” she has also unleashed her own creative voice throughout the home in unexpected ways. She fashioned an accent wall of repeating lip images in one bathroom, for example, transforming the room into what she calls the Den of Lips. “For a party I once hosted, I collaborated with Jim Green, who’s a sound artist, to do four little sound bites of me talking,” she says; activated by a motion sensor, the audio installation took guests by surprise each time they entered the room.
Happily settled in, Barbatelli is now just minutes away from major exhibits, galleries and a host of other sensory delights. “I’m thrilled to be here,” she says. “Life is so full, which I love, but the spaciousness and openness of this place helps me empty my mind and brings me closer to who I am on the inside. That gives me a real opportunity to think differently and take in all of the influences that Denver has to offer. I feel like I’m reinventing myself.”