For couple, the only thing constant is change

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

In the productive world of home improvement, Melissa Pinar and her husband, Scott, could be considered a power couple. She's a passionate do-it-yourself decorator, while he's the designated handyman around the house. Together they've tackled a steady stream of remodeling projects in their Farmington Hills colonial, remaining budget conscious every step of the way.

Melissa's "treasure shopping" often leads to a major makeover in the 2,400-square-foot home they share with their children Ava and Ethan, and their mixed-breed dog Einstein. "Scott calls me his junkyard gypsy, and I call him Aladdin," she says. "He's my rewiring guy; he's everything. He makes it all happen."

With the exception of the laundry room and the powder room that required a contractor to repair flood damage, the couple did everything on their own. When they arrived on the scene seven years ago, the interiors were covered with layers of wallpaper, icky carpeting and ugly tile, Melissa says.

In the newly remodeled kitchen, she painted the cabinets and he installed the granite tile countertops. Washable wallpaper with a graphic pattern acts as an attractive backsplash, while sleek hardware provides a modern update.

A framed menu from D'Amato's restaurant in Royal Oak marks the spot where the couple first met. The 1950s stove surrounded by faux-tin ceiling tiles was a Mother's Day gift to Melissa from Scott. "I knew there was room for it, and I always wanted a vintage stove," she says.

Scott extended part of the kitchen counter for a breakfast bar that gets plenty of use. An armoire from their bedroom set that was too big for this house now serves as a pantry. "I loved the armoire so much that I didn't want to part with it," Melissa says.

A chandelier that belonged to her grandmother hangs near a chalkboard made by Melissa's father, a skilled woodworker, when she was a child. The meaningful piece works as a weekly calendar for the family.

At this point, the 1960s home has been altered many times over. "I pick up things that are so economical, if not free, so I can justify the changes," Melissa says.

She enjoys the process as much as the results. "As a stay-at-home mom, you need to keep yourself busy with something you like to do," she says. "The way I work, I never have a plan until I have something in my hand. Thinking, 'Where can I put this?' normally causes a redesign of a room."

The remodeled powder room and laundry room were inspired by a Jayne Mansfield print scored for $5 at a garage sale. "It had that boudoir feel. It's a little gaudy, but yet classic," Melissa says.

Her affordable finds and endless enthusiasm have earned her the title of "cheap and cheerful." One time when Scott was out of town, Melissa reconfigured the entire first floor. The family room became the dining room, which in turn became an office space and so on.

After Scott's initial shock wore off, he eventually came to like it.

Now, the former family room turned dining room offers ample space for their frequent entertaining. Melissa came up with the clever idea to extend the table with the protective glass from her desk. A piece of wood cut to size was secured to the top of the original table and a wallpaper remnant from the kitchen lends a decorative touch beneath the glass.

A mustard-colored bar consists of two separate curbside finds discovered years apart. At first, Melissa painted the upper portion red and used it as a bookshelf until the piece below came along. "It was just good luck that they fit together," she says. "That's why I like doing this. You find that easy thing that just works. It's fun."

An assortment of vintage posters provides pops of color against the painted paneled walls that wear a neutral tone. Bookcases from Wal-Mart that cost $13 apiece display glassware collected over the years. "The whole thing cost less than $50," Melissa says.

Eye-catching elements are everywhere, like her collection of quirky clocks that pack a visual punch throughout the house.

An enclosed sunroom with sliding doors was anything but ideal. "It was either too hot or too cold, so we never got to enjoy it," Melissa says. "I was thinking about a gazebo when I realized we could change this."

So, for Mother's Day, Scott remodeled the space by removing the sliding doors, tearing out the existing ceiling and painting the pitched roof. He also got rid of some damaged decks and an old pond in the backyard. Next up on his list is a fire pit.

Inside, Melissa hung a birdcage, a chandelier and an orb at different heights for a charming effect. Scott wired the space for music and lighting.

What was the dining room became a shared office for the family complete with an old desk given to Melissa by a former employer. Window treatments combine simple curtains with thrift store sheets.

"I'm obsessed with secondhand treasures that I resurrect," Melissa says. Some of her favorite thrift shops are in Sterling Heights where her parents live.

A photo gallery in the office hangs above a pair of nearly identical benches. One came from a neighbor's curb while the other was discovered at an estate sale. Though Melissa painted them and recovered the cushions, she says sewing is not one of her skills.

"All you need is hot glue and a staple gun," she says.

The formal living room turned family room is divided into sections for TV time, toys and games. There, her son's old train table acts as a platform for Legos, while a dresser that was being discarded by a neighbor holds craft supplies.

These truly unique surroundings provide a lively setting for fundraisers, book club discussions, holiday parties and more. "People appreciate it and even kids notice when something has changed," says Melissa whose children seem to have inherited her creative streak. "They have the same spark. They always want to rearrange their rooms."

Guests have learned to take a good look around because nothing stays the same for long. "I like that I can always find new things and move things around," Melissa says. "It keeps it fresh."

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at