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Wednesday, September 16,2009

With love

Film shares story of east side home’s restoration

by Neal McNamara

 

While David Muylle was working on a Lansing apartment building along Regent Street in 1998, he would look across the street and see a house neglected, deteriorating and overrun with lowlife tenants. “I would look across the street and see all the signs of activity that destroys a neighborhood,” he said.

Muylle’s compassion for the neighborhood and love for the restoration of classic homes led him to buy 124 Regent St. and — unknowingly — begin an almost decade-long odyssey restoring the property and making a documentary about the process.


The resulting film, “Craftsman Style,” will make its Lansing premiere on Friday at Lansing Community College’s Dart Auditorium. Copies of the film will be on sale, proceeds from which will benefit the Allen Neighborhood Center.


Muylle produced the film with local auteur Shane Hagedorn, who used to live next door to 124 Regent. The two met when Muylle approached his new neighbors to reassure them the eyesore next door was being restored.


“We got together, and Shane thought that no one had ever made a film about something like this before,” Muylle said.


“It never crossed my mind to take this sort of subject and make a documentary about it,” Hagedorn said.


Production of the 55-minute film (whittled down from 39 hours of footage) began in 2003, as Muylle started work on the house. Like a homemade episode of “This Old House,” the movie begins with Muylle gutting the house and follows the process into 2005, when the home is complete. Along the way we meet others who contributed to the restoration, like Muylle’s father, who restores the home’s antique hardware and ships the finished products to his son, lovingly wrapped in cigarette boxes; a pair of local historians who show Muylle the importance of saving old homes; an eccentric local plumbing store that has been in Lansing for decades; and Muylle’s kids, whose feet he paints, so they can put their stamp on their new bedrooms. Hagedorn makes a cameo, putting down the camera to help Muylle install a laundry chute.


The film, which premiered at the Muskegon Film Festival earlier this year, is not so much about the headaches and labor of restoring a home, but the connections made along the way and how even one small project can bring the community together.


Underlying the film is the message of sustainability — the tagline is, “The greenest building is the one that is already built.” “I want to promote restoration as a part of sustainability,” Muylle said. “Sustainability doesn’t just mean solar panels.”


Muylle, who has been a contractor in the area for 33 years, now lives at 124 Regent St. with his wife and two sons. Ever since he was young, looking at magazines that showed “before and after” photos of makeovers, he’s been interested in restoration. (He helped restore the Spanish colonial Creyts Building at the intersection of Oakland and Washington avenues.) His interest became a trade, which begat a twostory blue Craftsman style home where once was a dilapidated mess. In his definition of the film’s title, the style of a craftsman is to labor with love, a definition he applies to everyone who helped him complete the project. “This is a love letter to the people of Lansing,” he said of the film. “I can’t imagine living any place else.”



’Craftsman Style: The Movie’


Lansing
premiere 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18 Dart Auditorium, Lansing Community
College, 500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing $10-$25 Prcoeeds benefit Allen
Neighborhood Center Tickets available in advance at Allen Neighborhood
Center, or at the door (517) 999-3921


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