For Cynthia Collins, founder of the 35-year-old design firm Collins Interiors, creating sophisticated residences for Dallas’ discerning homeowners is serious business. But when it came to designing her own home—a 1940s traditional she bought from longtime friends and neighbors in 2019—Collins loosened the reins and let playfulness take over.
No matter where you look in the designer’s color-splashed University Park abode, your eyes meet with a visual treat—from the exterior’s decorative wooden gates and antique brick walkways to the interior’s fanciful Chinoiserie-inspired fireplace and whimsical walls dressed in floor-to-ceiling florals. “Personally, I like a lot of layering of colors and patterns,” Collins says. “I can be a little bit less serious than I can with a client.”
Adding to the fun, the project marked the first time in 20 years that Collins had embarked on a to-the-studs remodel of her own, this time working with contractor Clay Snelling of Snelling Homes. “That was fun for me,” Collins says, “because I do that for everybody else, but I don’t do it for myself.”
One of the couple’s most transformative decisions was removing a large circle driveway so they could turn the home’s front yard into a cozy courtyard. Enclosed by a low brick wall, the yard essentially acts as an outdoor living room. “The wall is low enough that I can still be friendly, but if I have a cocktail party or have friends over, we can sit in the front yard and we don’t feel exposed to the street,” Collins says. “Instead of it being a yard you just look at it, it’s something we use.”
Creating intimate sitting areas was one of the designer’s major goals for the interior as well. At about 2,800 square feet, the house was smaller than her family’s previous residence, prompting her to “reframe” how the house was lived in. “I wanted to make more rooms and more areas to sit,” she says.
To accomplish that goal, Collins separated the large, open living room into two distinct spaces and closed in part of the primary bedroom to create a separate sitting area. She even stuck a sofa and swivel chair in the kitchen, making a casual spot for cocktails or a light meal. The designer also added a screened porch and transformed a small space in the backyard into an outdoor dining area.
Collins’ design choices weren’t all about functionality, however. As the mother of three sons who had all moved out of the house, the designer found herself armed with a newfound freedom to embrace her girly side. Her feminine touch is most obvious in the home’s two guest rooms, one of which is a veritable sea of pink—from a canopy bed and custom chaise lounge to linen-covered walls and matching window treatments. For the other bedroom, which was formerly a study, Collins traded dark brown bookshelves for a trio of twin beds and wrapped the space in a ladylike floral wallcovering. “It was the perfect opportunity to put flowers all over the walls since I’ve been doing boys stuff my whole life!” she says.
As an entertaining space, though, the Collins house appeals to all comers, evidenced by the home’s steady stream of guests. “This house is smaller, but we’ve had way more people and more functions here,” Collins says, noting her and her husband’s no-need-to-knock mindset. That warm and welcoming attitude, combined with the home’s personality-packed interiors and party-ready front yard, ensures visitors will be vying for invites for years to come.
Cynthia Collins’ time-tested tips for a charm-filled home
- Sweat the Small Stuff Collins never skimps on trims or upholstery details, the oft-overlooked features that can add big personality to a space. “The feet, the cords, the tapes, the wood finishes, the frame shapes, the cushion styles—all these elements play into the overall look and feel of how a space will live,” the designer says.
- Pass the Smell Test Because she cooks dinner from scratch every evening, using fresh herbs from her cutting garden, Collins’ kitchen is often filled with a delightful aroma. “Flavorful meals in the oven set the tone for a smell-good entrance,” she says.
- Go the Extra-Festive Mile When Entertaining Collins likes to greet her guests with a signature cocktail—served, of course, in a fabulous glass. Her latest go-to concoction: muddled cucumber, mint, vodka, and fresh lime served shaken and ice cold.