Collectors Joe and Jill McKinstry Fill their Home with Local Art

Jill and Joe McKinstry in their Mount Baker home
Jill and Joe McKinstry in their Mount Baker home

“The problem is, we don’t have enough walls.” It sounds ironic, coming from Joe McKinstry, owner of prominent Seattle homebuilding and remodeling company Joseph McKinstry Construction Company. But once you experience the sheer volume of art in his house—a lovely Mount Baker Craftsman, where he lives with his wife, Jill, director of the University of Washington’s Odegaard Undergraduate Library—it makes sense. Every wall is filled with paintings, drawings and sculpted objects, almost all by local artists.

Paint in his veins.
McKinstry comes from an artistic Seattle family—his mother, Ellen Ann Hutchinson McKinstry, was a painter (who studied under local abstract expressionist Mark Tobey) from whom Joe inherited several pieces, including a prized postcard sent to her by Seattle sculptor James FitzGerald. He also inherited her talent; several of his own watercolors dot the home, among large abstract paintings by locals William Ingham and Melinda Hannigan, bright pastel water lilies by Cass Nevada, and a pen-and-ink piece by Amy Nikaitani, purchased at the Puyallup Fair.

“We’re not collectors, just appreciators.”
McKinstry stresses that he and Jill have never bought a piece from a major gallery, or sought out “world-class” artists, preferring to buy locally made work at coffee-shop shows, school auctions and from artist friends, including Seattle glass maven Ginny Ruffner, whose gorgeous, gigantic painting of a pear adorns an entire wall of the kitchen.

Emphasis on emotional significance.
Jill McKinstry says that originally, most of the value in their collection came from the personal connection and story of each piece: Jim Bottomley’s huge, black, papier-mâché bull head, which serves as a source of fascination for visitors; a carved cedar post from Joe’s parents’ house, by local woodcarving legend Dudley Carter; the portrait of a woman fearfully clutching a miniature house frame, by Redmond painter Aaron Coberly, which resonates with Joe’s work as a builder.

Find It
Seattle artist and McKinstry family friend Robin Siegl’s charcoal drawing of the Bloedel Gardens sits above the fireplace. (The couple painted the walls specifically to make this piece pop.) Siegl’s vibrant industrial waterfront paintings are currently on display in Seattle Art Museum’s Taste restaurant and at the Washington State Convention Center (details at Behind the McKinstrys is a piece by Seattle painter William Ingham.

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