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Home Arts and Culture  Disaster to dazzler
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Wednesday, September 22,2010

Disaster to dazzler

Two home tours showcase dramatic renovations

by Meghan Spork
One house holds an extended family of 20 with room to spare; the other snugly fits a family of four. One is in East Lansing; the other is on Lansing’s west side. Both owners have great renovation stories, and both are opening their homes for a good cause.

In the coming weeks, the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition and Lansing’s Westside neighborhood will hold their annual home tours, with a threefold goal: to satisfy the public’s insatiable hunger for makeover stories; raise money for greater Lansing residents in need; and sneak you into your neighbor’s house legally.


From wet to wow


When Nancy McKeague first found the house at 627 N. Harrison Road in East Lansing, it had gone through foreclosure and was completely stripped. The utilities were shut off and the basement had flooded. A nasty stench wafted through the house, and the moisture had curled the contact paper off the study walls.


This Sunday, McKeague is showcasing a newly made-over haven for her children and grandchildren in the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition’s 15th annual Home Tour, the first to feature East Lansing’s Glencairn neighborhood.


Three years ago, the bad taste of the home’s décor went with the bad smell. The front room was painted to look like stone, with cherubs on the ceiling. A spiral staircase covered with indoor-outdoor carpeting led upstairs, where the master bedroom was lined in velvet.


“It was just terrible,” McKeague said with a grimace. To top it off, she wasn’t even looking for another project. She had just finished renovating her current home and wanted to enjoy it.


But the potential of the 7,000-square-foot Georgian colonial, sprawling over four lots, had her hooked.


Now the house looks nothing like it did when she purchased it three years ago. The front room is painted a light golden yellow and the spiral staircase is paneled in wood. The study walls are lined with carved wood panels replicating the house’s original design. More important, the house smells like fresh flowers, not flooded basement.


When you have six children and seven grandchildren (so far), a place this big comes in handy. There are six bedrooms and a dining room that holds two full-size tables and one miniature table for the grandchildren, seating 16 in all. One of the guest bedrooms even has a scaled-down bed and night table.


“I never wanted to be one of those grandmothers always telling her grandchildren that they can’t touch this or play with that,” McKeague said. “There is not really anything in the house that they can’t touch.”


At the top of the stairs is the oldest picture of the house McKeague could find. She took great care to restore the interiors as accurately as possible, and to see that the exterior blends with the surrounding historic neighborhood.


The tour will also showcase four other homes in East Lansing’s Glencairn neighborhood belonging to the Sheets and Amiss, Atkinson, Draper and McCoy families.


Proceeds from the tour will go towards the operating costs of GLHC.


“Our mission is to help everybody from those that are homeless to those purchasing their first home,” said Amy Rose Wallace-Robinson, program manager of GLHC. “Events like this help us with the cost of doing our jobs.”

Bicycle settlers

When Christi and Nathan Menzie were first married, they rode their bikes through Lansing’s historic Westside neighborhood and dreamed of living there.


“There is so much variety in the neighborhood, especially in the architecture,” said Christi Menzie. “It’s more historic, not a modern kind of neighborhood where all the houses look the same.”


Their dreams came true when they purchased a rental property at 421 N. Jenison Ave.


The Dutch Colonial Revival home had not been updated since the 1950s. The heating, electrical and plumbing systems were in need of serious maintenance, and the cabinets and fixtures were not much better.


Over the past 14 years, the Menzies have taken on countless renovation projects, from remodeling their kitchen to updating bathrooms to electrical wiring.


Their most recent endeavor is a 500-foot addition to the rear of the house. The addition provides them with a bigger garage and a master suite with a walk-in closet and a bathroom that provides a little more space for the family of four.


The Menzies will show off their hard work in the 16th annual Westside Home Tour Oct. 3. The home tour showcases seven other houses in the Westside neighborhood, and benefits Advent House Ministries in its work with the homeless.


Last year, the home tours raised approximately $10,000.


“The tours are a significant source of fundraising, but also raise awareness and act as a great community builder as well,” said Susan Cancro, Advent House director and a Westside resident herself.


Carolyn Callen, a founder and organizer, called the tours “a wonderful experience that has radiated to the whole neighborhood.”


When the Menzies explored the neighborhood by bicycle, they ended up settling there. The home tour is a way to pass along their pride to curious visitors scouting for something more satisfying than cookie-cutter suburbia.


“They see this as a neighborhood they want to live in,” Callen said.

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