Michelle’s House

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with homeowners in the (East) Lansing area. The purpose of this series is to learn more about our neighbors and create a sense of community that can exist both online and out in the world!

Photo courtesy of Land Visions

Michelle is a friend that I got to know through having jury duty several years ago. There were a lot of us who knew each other, all gathered to do our civic duty, and it was so much fun! I was thrilled when I discovered that Michelle had purchased this house because it was, strangely enough, one that I had saved in my Zillow favorites. Michelle’s organization and attention to detail in making this house into a home is superb! I am so excited to share it here.

Now to the interview….

Tell me about yourself, where you live in East Lansing, and who you live with.
I live at 432 Whitehills Drive, right behind the high school. I live with my husband Todd of 31 years, our two sons Daniel and Zach, and our dog Oscar.   

What brought you to East Lansing?
My husband and I both lived in Grand Rapids and met in high school. We both attended Michigan State University. Todd got a job offer from the City of East Lansing after college and we just stayed! We left for three years in the late 90’s but came back. East Lansing is our home and we have been here longer than anywhere else. We love the community and people.

The fabulous backyard

How long have you lived in your home? 
We closed on this house late November 2019 but we didn’t move in until mid February just a few weeks before the shut down! I wanted to have one last holiday season in our old house and wait to list it after the holidays. We lived in Shaw Estates for 17 years, it is where we raised our kids and made our lifelong friends. 

What drew you to this house – did you have the feeling of “this is the one” when you were house hunting? 
When this house came on the market, I was so excited. We knew the owners because we lived next door for three years before we moved to Shaw Estates! The first time I toured this house I cried when I left. It had all of the features I had been looking for over the past several YEARS, it was my ideal location, and it was way way over budget. I was so frustrated. It has a first floor master which is pretty unusual in East Lansing, especially so close to downtown. Our oldest son has a disability and it is a perfect spot for him in terms of independently getting around the city. Eventually the price started to come down and my interest grew. We finally got to the point of “what the heck let’s just make an offer and see what happens” and after a fairly long negotiation we got the house. I thought for sure at one point it was over and it wouldn’t happen. I think it was meant to be. 

What’s one project you thought you would do before you moved in? Have you done it – why or why not? 
Delaying our move in allowed us to do some projects ahead of time. I knew the first thing I would do is remove the majority of the wallpaper in the house and paint. I know wallpaper is in style again but it is so specific to people and it didn’t fit us at all. So we had it removed in three rooms of our house and painted before we even moved in. Of course in one of the rooms the removal uncovered mold and bad drywall from a previous water problem so we had that fixed. Otherwise the other project on my mind is the kitchen which we are waiting for a bit. I like to live in the space before a big project to really know what I want to do. 

What has been your favorite project (or purchase) so far?
We haven’t done anything major yet but I will say my favorite redo so far is our half bathroom. It really illustrates that you don’t have to spend much money in order to get a big impact! We had the wallpaper removed and painted it a neutral color, Buff by Benjamin Moore. Early in quarantine I got antsy and decided to paint one wall a different color and I used Inkwell by BM, which was used in our dining room. I bought some shelves to style and then got stuck. Styling isn’t really my forte so I called in my friend Carrie Sampson [our editor here at RHofEL] to help. Before quarantine when you came over to tour the house you told me to let you know if I needed any shelves styled so I called you up. I’m just thrilled with the results. It was amazing to watch you shop my house and just make it pretty. Thank you again! [editor’s note: It was my pleasure!!!]

How has “Stay Safe at Home” affected your daily routines? Now that we have been home for over half a year, is there anything you wish you could change about your home? 
One thing this house didn’t have was an office space. When it became clear to me a lockdown was coming we decided to change our dining room into an office. It’s worked pretty well. It is not ideal because it is really in the center of our house but I’m glad we did it. We can always change it back if we change our mind, but really our dining room is used twice a year, so I didn’t feel like I was giving up too much. I still need  to get a rug for that space but we purchased a bookshelf, desk, and new light fixtures for the room. Because it is such a central space it has been great for keeping mail, bills, and files organized there. 

What are some of your EL favorites? 
I have two other EL favorites in terms of houses. 627 Harrison Road.  I went through it once after it was redone and it was a parade home. Also 1230 West Grand River. It was for sale when I was house hunting and it is just stunning. It wasn’t what we needed from a functional standpoint, but I appreciate everything the previous owner did to that house, it is just lovely. 

How do you spend an ideal Saturday at home? 
Doing some Bikram Yoga, which is a local, woman-owned business, go support her! During quarantine, she live streamed classes, and I maintained four times a week and it saved me.

Organization Goals

Doing house projects and organizing! I have been organization-obsessed since we moved in here. I think that is also helping me maintain my sanity! I like to cook but we also love grabbing some local take out and supporting our restaurants.   

Which would you say you are: handy, crafty, hostess, or cook? 
I have aspects of all of these. I’m sort of a jack of all trades and master of none! I am willing to dive into a project, I can cook and sew, and we have people over often. I prefer to have people here because I’m a homebody! But we enjoy hosting friends and family. This year that was all outside and one thing this home has is an absolutely stunning backyard sanctuary that we have really enjoyed.

  1. Can you fold a fitted sheet? yes!  
  2. Favorite simple treat? pitted dates.  Love grabbing a few of these when a sweet tooth hits.
  3. Best organizing hack?  I started this before The Home Edit, but they fueled my fire.  It really helps if you have the proper storage because it makes it so much easier to maintain your organization.  Edit edit edit, then organize it.
  4. When I say hygge, you say…. I had to look this up. Our home! It is so charming, especially on the outside and we are working to make it comfortable and welcoming for us. I love having a fire going, lighting a candle, and cozying up. 

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your beautiful home with us! If you would like to be featured on the Real Houses of East Lansing, please send an email to the editor, Carrie Sampson, at mrscarrsamp (at) gmail (dot) com with “Real Houses of EL” in the subject line. Thx for reading!

Published by eastlansinghome

Carrie Sampson is a longtime resident of East Lansing, Michigan. She has worked in nonprofit communications for over 20 years and in the last decade has become increasingly interested in interior design and issues related to the built environment. Carrie has served as a commissioner on the East Lansing Historic District Commission since 2018. She has written the Eye Candy and Eye for Design columns in the Lansing City Pulse since 2019. To learn more or to work with her, send an email to mrscarrsamp AT gmail DOT com.

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