Home is Where the Art Is

Step into Sheldon and Diane Berlyn’s 2,300-square-foot Penn Yan home, and you might be greeted by soft notes played on a Kawai grand piano, along with bright, original paintings that adorn the walls. Or perhaps you will simply be astounded by the view: 12 acres that overlook Keuka Lake.

Longtime art enthusiasts, the Berlyns let their house reflect that passion, as well as their love of the outdoors – high ceilings, large windows and a Danish wood burning fireplace characterize their love of things innately beautiful.

When not admiring the lake from their deck, much of their time is spent in their 1,500-square-foot art studio downstairs, where Diane restores paintings and Sheldon paints acrylic abstractions. Their artistic nature is further fed by the beauty of the area, as they are immersed in vineyards, forests and the lake.

No work and all play

Diane, an art conservationist, repairs damaged paintings for museums and private collectors. She uses the spacious art studio to work on a machine called a “vacuum hot table,” which places new supports on damaged paintings.

Sheldon, who taught art for 40 years at the University of Buffalo, utilizes his portion of the studio to create – particularly with liquid acrylics, on a table that accommodates paintings as large as 36 by 48 inches. Inspired by abstract expressionists, he works in bold gestures, favoring strong contrasts of color and form. He employs a handmade squeegee to create fluid forms and patterns.

“An artist doesn’t simply pull a shape and form out of the air,” explains Sheldon. “You have a concept, and you have to develop this concept in the process of working and intellectualizing.”

Sheldon can, however, pull from the landscape. Upstairs, the couple has a master bedroom loft that allows them to continue to admire the view from the east windows. This view fuels their need to have an art studio. “The landscapes here provide great opportunities for inspiration,” says Sheldon.

In addition to art, music holds a centric part in their lives. The couple made sure to carry this aspect of their life into retirement through their piano. Diane plays regularly, and the two even host the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra for a performance on occasion.

Although the couple bought the land in 1988, they didn’t begin building until 1999, when they contracted Canandaigua builder Timber Frames Inc. They moved in 2001. They chose the area because of their passion for the outdoors, but also because of the intimate, active community of nearby Penn Yan. “We enjoy the serenity this area offers, as well as the opportunity to keep busy,” says Diane.

Sheldon adds: “Art feeds on art and on life experiences. The countryside, looking out of these windows, feeds us both spiritually and aesthetically. We feel we’ve made a wonderful choice.”
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Timber Frames Inc. is a firm that takes its timber from a fourth generation pine farming family in the Adirondacks. Lifelong member of the Finger Lakes community, the company exceeds Energy Star and NYSERDA energy efficiency standards. “We create in partnership with each of our owners a unique space stylized for them,” says owner Alan Milanette.


by Catherine Wilde