Hillary Levin’s home has become a “living, breathing work of art,” she says.
Hillary Levin was scared of bugs when she was a little girl.
“I didn’t like being in nature. I didn’t play sports — I was not athletic,” she says. “I liked being inside.”
And she liked doing art projects. Growing up in New Jersey, she liked watching a TV show that showed people drawing characters while telling stories about them.
“I thought that was the coolest thing,” Levin says. “I started doing the same thing. My mom would walk in the room and be like, ‘Who are you talking to?’ I remember it being the first time that I drew something, and I felt like it came alive — I could see the process, and others could see the process based on my telling of the story.”
Levin’s mother enrolled her daughter in private oil-painting classes at age 8. She learned that she loved creating but didn’t have the patience for oils — “they took too long to dry,” she says. “I love working with acrylics, watercolors. Anything that dries fast. I love textures. I’m very tactile — I love to touch everything and smell everything, and I want others to feel comfortable approaching and touching my work, too.”
Levin eventually took classes in everything from basket weaving and jewelry making to pottery — she even learned how to knit (from her future mother-in-law) and created the chuppah under which she married her husband, Jordan. And though she earned a bachelor’s in fine arts with an emphasis in painting from Western Michigan University and even eventually worked as assistant director at the Janice Charach Gallery at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, at some point Levin fell away from her passion of painting.
She found other passions that made her happy, too. Cooking became a creative outlet. Her husband, Jordan, a fitness trainer and motivational speaker, owned CrossFit Bloomfield, and Levin soon found that it was her own golden ticket to overcoming her distaste for sweating and achieving mental and physical empowerment. She became a trainer at and co-owner of CrossFit as well as a yoga instructor.
“I thought, ‘I’m a coach, this is what I am now,’” Levin says.
But she didn’t realize how much she missed her first passion.
Back to First Love
Before the COVID pandemic hit, Levin had already made a conscious return to art, painting abstracts, portraits (of people and of pets) and baby gifts (like wooden rocking chairs). But when forced into quarantine, Levin realized something. “When the pandemic hit, like many people, I had time. And I thought, ‘If I’m going to live like a hermit inside my home, I need color and joy,’” Levin says. “Outside, it was misery. Inside, I wanted my home to be rainbows and kittens.”
The mostly white interiors of the Commerce home she shares with Jordan was just a blank canvas waiting to happen. Standing in front of a pair of French doors one day, Jordan came across his wife just staring.
“He knew I was up to something,” Levin says. “He could see the wheels turning. He said, ‘You want to paint those, don’t you?’”
Levin set to work on the French doors, creating a colorful, joyous frame to what has become her reading room, akin to a man cave. She next turned her eye to a wooden bannister, which now dances with lively details.
“I’m inspired by a lot of things,” Levin says. “It could be a person that I love, a color, a texture. A lot of my pieces have repetitive black and white checks and dots on them. Creating repetitive patterns is very relaxing and calming for my mind as well.”
An Uplifting Home
Now, over a year into the pandemic, Levin’s home has become a “living, breathing work of art,” she says. “It’s not a gallery where pieces are hanging on the wall, but the home itself is the art. We live within the artwork, and it is so inspiring while life has been so challenging. The process has been therapeutic and living with it is so uplifting.
“I realized you don’t have to shut off part of your life or go into a different career path to realize that your passions don’t have to stop,” she says. “You are your own individual person before you are a spouse, an employee. You are your own human being before you are any of your tasks. I am a coach. And I am an artist.”
She now sees her art as a safe haven — and wants others to realize their own passions, too.
“If you have something you’re passionate about, find a way to do it. The world needs more people who are not scared to be honest about themselves, whether you garden, cook, paint, whatever,” Levin says.
“We need to tap into these things to express ourselves, even if you haven’t done it since you were a kid. Especially now, we need to tap back into our joy, and share it with each other.”