When you see the world through an artist’s eyes, everything has potential. Take a look through the creative lens of Cynthia Trevino Bodene, who put her personal stamp on the ’70s ranch that she shares with her husband, Dan.
Visitors to their Farmington Hills home are greeted by an intricate mural Cynthia painted in the foyer that was inspired by a greeting card she received. “I loved the detail of the insects integrated into the field of flowers, so after using an enlarger to project the image on the wall, I painted the bugs in iridescent colors,” she says. “They catch the sunlight nicely when the front door is open.”
In the adjacent living room of the 2,600-square-foot house, an old cabinet becomes a conversation piece with her collage work. “It’s an extension of scrapbooking,” Cynthia says. She painted the cabinet inside and out and added pages from a book of old-world maps. New lighting and glass shelves that replaced the original wood freshen up the interior.
“Every piece is an adventure,” she says. “It talks to you, so you know when to stop as well as when it needs more.”
It helps that Cynthia has been hitting up garage sales and antiques stores for years. “I love restoring,” she says. “I feel like I was a recycler before it was hip.”
Nearby chairs wear custom slipcovers by Cynthia, a former faux painter who owns Simply Sensational Slipcovers. She also made the quilted pillows and draperies in the space.
Dan, a writer at the University of Michigan School of Education, says they joke that he comes home from work and a room will be a different color. “I developed my identity as the artist’s husband,” he says with a smile.
The couple met when they worked in the newspaper business; she was an art director and he was an editor.
He likes the solitude of the home and his office/library. “It’s nice having a room like that in the house and a place for all my little collections,” says Dan. Vintage cameras and typewriters neatly arranged on existing built-ins fill the space where a desk that belonged to his father sits beside an old wood file cabinet.
The former family room in the three-bedroom, 3½ bath house serves as Cynthia’s studio, and the dining room, which is filled with plants, is called the botanical room. “People find it very relaxing,” she says.
Cynthia restyled the original built-ins in the room by having a carpenter remove the center portion of the upper cabinets, which she then filled with textured glass. The Formica countertop was replaced with a granite scrap, and the bottom cabinets were painted with light stripes.
“I did a mixture of wood tones on purpose because the whole house was like that with dark wood trim and oak floors,” she says. “You have to use richer paint colors that have some weight to them so they can hold up to the brown tones.”
Cynthia prefers Benjamin Moore’s Classic Colors. “They change with the light and they’re soft, not harsh,” she says.
Personal groupings line the walls, such as a pass-through that features art gathered from their travels. The meaningful pieces become more cohesive with gold frames. “They look good together,” Cynthia says.
“Most people have a tendency to be drawn to the same thing. You should make a collection and show what you love,” she says.
Cynthia painted the chairs and the cabinets in the kitchen where glass tassels and hand-blown birds embellish a piece of lackluster trim. “It was a ‘70s design that I didn’t like, and it was too complicated to take it down, so I just ‘glitzed’ it up.”
A screen porch with white brick walls was painted in a leafy green to relate to the outdoors. Hand-carved panels from Mexico lend architectural interest while honoring Cynthia’s heritage.
Working within the home’s existing footprint, the master bedroom was enlarged. There, among her painted furniture, sits a dressing table paired with a petite wing chair, a garage sale find that wears a slipcover she made mostly from scraps.
Cynthia, who has an interior design degree, made the horizontal drapes and painted the walls what she calls “a very calming shade of lilac.”
An en suite bathroom was added as well. “I’ve been very happy with that bathroom. It was a lot of work, but worth every minute of it,” she says of the former catchall space/laundry room. The couple customized a new closet on their own with a kit. “It was easy and really nice to figure out our own usage,” she adds.
It was the 1½ acre lot that first drew Cynthia, a master gardener, to the property that features a pond near the entrance. She and Dan built the arbors in the outdoor areas that get just as much attention as the interiors.
A rusty metal shed was replaced with a cabana/potting shed designed by Cynthia and built by her and Dan. Antique windows adorn the cedar structure where the chair cozies were made with outdoor fabric. “Friends love it. They want to sit here and have cocktails,” she says.
The peaceful property would inspire the interiors where Cynthia initially planned to repeat the white trim from their former home in Lathrup Village. “When we moved here, there was brown wood that I wanted to paint, but I was thinking habitually,” she says.
“Once we lived in the house, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, maybe dark would be fine.’ It brought the outdoors in and just said it should be wood. Nature took on from the get-go.”
Her decision would have broad appeal. “In our other home, I did what was in fashion; with nature, anybody could like it,” she says.
And that’s exactly what happened. “People are always so at home here and they don’t always know why,” Cynthia says. “I think it’s the colors and the earthiness of it.”
Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at email@example.com.