Looking for inspiration for your next home renovation project? Well, Lancaster Lebanon Habitat for Humanity’s Renovators’ Home Tour offers plenty of inspirational stories.
The fourth annual tour takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The self-guided tour features 17 homes, including five in the Grandview Heights neighborhood in Manheim Township and a dozen in Lancaster city.
“I think we came upon the idea of a renovation tour because Habitat does do renovations, in addition to repair and new builds,” says Amy Balestier, director of communications for Lancaster Lebanon Habitat for Humanity. “But it’s also about taking your space and making it work for your needs and making it so you feel at home.”
During the tour, homeowners will welcome guests into their homes and make themselves available to explain some of the ideas and stories behind their renovations and design decisions.
James and Lauren Michaud, both teachers at Manheim Township Middle School, own one of the homes on the tour: 1027 McGrann Blvd., built in 1949. The Michauds moved into the house in 2017 and are just the third owners of the house. They’ve paid tribute to the previous owners by incorporating many of the original elements of the property into their renovations.
The Michauds used to live on Pleasure Road but enjoyed taking their dog for walks in the adjacent neighborhood of Grandview Heights. Their favorite house was the English Tudor home on McGrann Boulevard. One day — actually the same day James finished putting on the last coat of paint in the kitchen at the Pleasure Road home, which represented the last part of the renovations — they noticed that 1027 McGrann was for sale.
“There are so many beautiful houses in this neighborhood,” Lauren says. “Whenever a house comes up for sale in this neighborhood it’s gone so quickly.”
The Michauds acted fast and were fortunate enough to have their offer accepted. The English Tudor may have been their dream home, but despite having good bones, it still needed a lot of work.
“If you see, I touched it,” James says about the work they put into renovating the house.
A wrought-iron fence runs almost the entire perimeter of the property. James, along with his father, a retired iron worker, seamlessly added to the existing iron fence. The fence was one of many father-son collaborations at the home.
James, who builds furniture on the side (and posts pictures of his work on Instagram at michaud_iron_wood_design) credits his father with bolstering his interest in building furniture. He says his father is the “metal guru” of their relationship and he is more of the “wood guy.” As a teacher, James is also quick show his appreciation for his former high school shop teacher, whom he still stays in touch with.
Any good renovation begins with a vision. Take the Michauds’ dining room. A picture labeled “before” would show a room with bare walls, a magenta carpet and a tasteful wooden curio in the corner. An “after” photo would show a complete transformation that uses the best of the space while incorporating the Michauds’ personal styles.
The room now features a hardwood floor and walls adorned with a chair rail and wainscoting that flows naturally into the curio in the corner. The centerpiece of the dining room is a beautiful handmade wooden table.
James constructed the table using a single slab of wood. He ordered the wood from an orchard in Clovis, California. In the early part of the 20th century, the owners of the orchard were experimenting with grafting together different types of trees from the same species. The piece of wood used for the table comes from an English walnut grafted to a Claro walnut. A few years ago, when the orchard got too crowded and some of the trees started dying, they had to cut some down and James inquired about buying a slab.
“It came raw,” James says. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s tough to do. I completely flattened the whole thing, shaped it, sanded it and created all these butterfly joints. I just finished it last night for the tour. It’s got really unique character. I really like the live edges on it with the crisp modern edges.”
James and his father forged legs for the table from 14-gauge iron. The table is a unique and personal object representing everything James learned from his father and his shop teacher.
“This will never go out of style,” James says. “It’s modern meets rustic meets timeless.”
In the living room, accented with tasteful autumn decorations arranged by Lauren, who teaches art, there are more pieces of handmade furniture. The wood used for these pieces traveled a much shorter distance than the wood in the dining room. It was taken from a potentially hazardous weeping cherry tree that was hanging over the roof in the Michauds’ side yard.
Neighbors might have been sad to see the weeping cherry tree go, but the Michauds recently planted a southern magnolia tree in its place, commemorating the birth of their 22-month old daughter Elowen. Is there a better metaphor for a new generation committed to honoring the past and keeping the neighborhood beautiful for the future?