The first thing you notice upon entering Mary and Ron Benish’s West Bloomfield home is the abundant light, followed by the dramatic views and the details of each room: clean-lined, refined, and utterly relaxing.
“We tried to keep the nature feel inside,” says the interior designer of the 3,600-square-foot home, Staci A. Meyers of S|A|M Interiors, based in Bloomfield Hills.
The home almost feels like a treehouse, with views extending over a ravine and all the way to 14 Mile Road. There’s plenty of tree-filtered fresh air, and a parade of wildlife entertains daily. Although it’s just a hop away from any kind of urbanity the homeowners might desire, this residence could just as well be nestled in the deepest forests of northern Michigan.
When the designer met the couple in 2015, “The house was in the rough,” Meyers recalls. “It had great ideas, very advanced for the times, but it was very 1973.”
Walls had to be altered, the kitchen was outdated with dark brown laminate cabinets, and the travertine floor in the living room didn’t fit the rest of the house. The master bedroom was tired, and none of the railings inside or out were up to code.
Ron handled the balusters. As the owner of an automotive supply company, he was able to produce all the brushed anodized aluminum balusters needed to make the railings comply — and look great, too. The travertine floor was removed and replaced with white oak.
In the kitchen, where the most dramatic transformation took place, the upper cabinets formerly ran across the middle of a bank of windows, obscuring the stellar view. The uppers were removed completely, and now the wall above the countertop is two rows of handsome, triple-pane, industrial-type windows.
At the end of the kitchen, Meyers liberated a partially exposed beam when the wall was opened up to add more light and a view of the great room. Natural walnut cabinetry and white quartz countertops grace the kitchen, dining area, great room bar, powder room, and office. The bar area, just beyond the kitchen, features a built-in cabinet with stainless-framed glass.
Meyers found many artistic LED lights for the project, among them a sculptural piece that hangs over the handmade dining room table, and another sparkling linear design with crystals that was installed in the kitchen and honors the architecture of the room’s beams.
While soaring expanses of white wall were great for the previous owner, an architect/photographer, they needed to be brought down to scale and warmed up for the Benishes. That goal was achieved with the couple’s collection of mechanical clocks and three shimmering mixed-media pieces, collectively entitled “Essence of Time,” that were created by Grand Rapids fiber artist Paula Bowers.
Lined up horizontally with the millwork, the panels fill one wall of the great room and tell the story of the Benishes’ lives together in symbolic shapes made of metal, stone, glass, crystal, and hand-felted wool. Hands, which reference the Benishes’ love of clocks, are part of each architectural-grid panel’s design.
“I’ve been collecting clocks since we first got married — years and years,” says Mary, a retired Chrysler Corp. engineer. “We kind of started out deciding that we liked the different sounds of each one.” She treasures the collection, noting that such intricately-produced, handmade mechanical clocks are increasingly hard to find.
Meyers tweaked the great room’s fireplace, giving it a modern, linear look. “It was off-center, and a traditional fireplace. We had some original bricks left over and were able to work them in to look more linear, so it appears as though it always looked that way,” she says.
To the left of the great room is a cozy new office with walnut paneling, built-in cabinetry, and walnut/glass double doors that can close the room off from the rest of the house.
Meyers redesigned the entire home — including a full remodel of the master suite and a lower level that features an exercise room, a guest bath, and a bar area — in two years. The final touches were made outside, where Sylvan Lake’s AguaFina Gardens International created a large patio with a fireplace that spans the length of the back of the house, and a deck that cantilevers over the ravine.
Now that all the work is completed, the Benishes can chill out peacefully in their home in the trees, with the sounds of their chiming clocks reminding them it’s time to relax and enjoy the view.