Name: Meagen and Mike Coburn and dog Dozer
Location: Cherry Hill Historic District; Grand Rapids, Michigan
Size: 2,800 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year; owned
I arrived on Meagen and Mike’s street on an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in mid-December. The forty-degree weather, mist and visible green grass didn’t feel like Christmas in Michigan. That quickly changed when I walked up to their colorful 1890 Queen Anne Victorian, which Meagen accurately compared to the house from Disney Pixar’s Up. In addition to bright paint colors, all the Christmas lights were on (inside and out) and I could hear Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas on the record player inside. Christmas time was here.
Work life keeps the couple on trend with contemporary design (she’s in marketing) and modern technology (he’s in engineering). But at home, Meagen and Mike prefer old objects with stories, as well as an old-fashioned way of life. When they first toured the Victorian home, they were sold on the grand foyer, parlor and dining room — spaces where the couple envisioned conversing with friends, sharing craft beer and listening to records. And the parlor had perfect windows to display a Christmas tree. Now Meagen and Mike host big social gatherings, like their 40-person Friendsgiving. They have an exhausting Christmas party schedule, too.
Meagen and Mike’s home is my first House Tour to leave me thinking, “I want to live there.” (That’s not to say I couldn’t live in the other homes I’ve toured!) This one matched my style preferences with its personality and charm: The creaky wood floors; the colors and floral prints; the ability to say things like, “Let’s listen to records in the parlor;” the oldest toilet I’ve ever seen. But much to Meagen and Mike’s dismay, I would paint all the woodwork white. (Sorry.)
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Old soul meets Woodstock.
Inspiration: Enjoying life. Life experiences are present everywhere in our style.
Favorite Element: The original woodwork. Or the porch. No, the parlor and mantle and Christmas tree corner. But probably the original 1890s double-hung windows. Or maybe the powder room transom window. But actually the dining room (with its built-in and grandness) was as far as I got into the house before I said, “We’re actually going to buy this.”
Biggest Challenge: Maintaining a sense of humor. If you buy a 124-year-old house and can’t laugh at yourself, you’re going to be that crazy person running down the street crying and shaking your fists at the sky in no time.
This past February, two months after we moved in, we found our kitchen sink was leaking into the cabinet. A week later we saw water damage in the corner of our freshly-painted living room that turned out to be a massive ice dam. A week later, the 60-year-old boiler quit during one of the coldest weeks of the polar vortex. We went without heat for three days and the toilet water froze over while we slept with space heaters in closed bedrooms. Then, the icing on the cake, 24 hours after the new boiler was installed, the front bedroom radiator split open due to a frozen pipe (from the lack of water flowing those couple of days during the polar vortex) and sprayed stinky 60-year-old boiler water all over the room that was still packed to the gills with moving boxes.
Want to know what happened 48 hours before this photo shoot? An assumed gasket going bad in the master bathtub turned into a nut shooting off and spraying high-pressure water all over the room until we could run to the basement to kill the water to the house.
But we laugh. Or maybe we’ve just lost our sanity.
What Friends Say: “When are you going to paint the outside?” For what it’s worth, the colors have grown on us. We’re not going to paint the exterior. We call it the Clown House and it looks like the house from Disney’s Up, after all!
Biggest Embarrassment: Blind excitement for new house projects and having friends come over to see the house before we even moved our things in. A couple weeks later, with aching knees and backs from days upon days of cleaning and painting every inch of trim and several walls, we realized we had let our friends see that — and that most normal people don’t see the potential that we do when we walk in and immediately disregard busted light fixtures, broken doors, brown rusted toilet water and filthy rooms.
Proudest DIY: Since we’ve only tackled the very beginning of our dreams for this place, we’d say the walkway/lawn overhaul. We’re still waiting for the Google van to drive by our house and update that street view.
Biggest Indulgence: Currently, the living room couch. Future: gutting the kitchen.
Best Advice: Slow down and enjoy it. Moving from our "finished" 1924 Craftsman, with art on the walls and paint and curtains that finished every space, into this 124-year-old, older and larger place was sudden and more drastic on our senses than we gave it credit for. I thought, “Oh, we’ll just pick stuff right back up where we left off!” But this house speaks a different language than our past home. And so much of what we have is thrifted or gifted. It takes time to collect the perfect things to grace your mantle. It takes living in the space to understand you need more seating or a table somewhere to set a beer on. I idolize Houzz and HGTV Magazine just as much as the next person, but copying a room just because it’s pretty and would finish it this weekend wouldn’t make it ours.
So with that said, and as a disclaimer to this photo interview, we moved in only last Christmas and know our eyes see it as the Gatsby house of our dreams, while it might not actually be there just yet!
Dream Sources: How about taking a vacation somewhere in Michigan and finding there’s a massive outdoor flea market and the sun is shining, music is playing, and they have a grilled cheese food truck and they’ve allowed you in the gate 90 minutes before everyone else? That’s our dream source.
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
- Foyer, stairwells and upstairs hall: Valspar Signature custom gray tint
- Parlor: Naval (Sherwin Williams Cashmere)
- Living Room: Custom ivory tint (Valspar Signature)
- Dining Room Walls: Fioli Carriage House (Valspar Signature)
- Dining Room Ceiling: Regal Plum (Valspar Signature)
- Kitchen: Willow Wind (Valspar Signature)
- Powder Room: Regal Plum (Valspar Signature)
- Guest Bath: in progress
- Master Bedroom: Dovetail (Sherwin Williams Cashmere)
- Master Bathroom: Contented (Sherwin Williams Cashmere)
- Church pew: left in home as part of purchase (reupholstered later)
- Glass library case: Salvation Army
- Wheat art above door "to bring good fortune to all who enter our door": Wheat Street (artist), purchased at Wheatland Music Festival
- Yellow vinyl couch: Salvation Army
- Orange retro chairs: Craigslist
- Gilded mantle mirror: left in home as part of purchase
- 9-foot Christmas tree: $10 Craigslist purchase (Meagen’s best find)
- Brass top, mid-century legged coffee table: estate sale
- Record shelf: IKEA, spray painted metallic gold
- Music tree art: Katzinn (artist - Clio, MI purchased at Blissfest Music Festival)
- Record alphabetizers and wood wall art: Kaitlyn Spillane (Meagen's sister)
- Purple/gold Christmas ornament: Greg Gale
- Custom leather moccasins on Meagen: Little Wings Designs (Grand Rapids)
- Couch: Art Van, Meridian vintage leather sofa
- Sideboard: Craigslist with new legs added and painted/stained
- Lamp: St. Vincent de Paul thrift store
- Art wall: Ryan Weiss (Detroit), Stephanie Salamone (Grand Rapids), Don Spillane (Meagen’s grandpa), Matt Loeks (Grand Rapids), Martin Ferrone
- Temporary curtains: Lowes
- 1950s barstools: Craigslist
- Curtains: handmade
- Stained glass: remnants of St. Joseph Hospital in Flint, MI (where Meagen was born)
- Owl cookie jar: Anthropologie
- Retro cookie jars: Mission India thrift shop (Grand Rapids)
- Dozer’s food stand: HomeGoods
- Table and chairs: Art Van clearance center
- Sideboard: Craigslist
- 1992 Grand Rapids map: Lost & Found vintage shop (Grand Rapids)
- Upright record player cabinet: Eastown Antiques
- Mirror: Lowes
- Curtain: handmade
- Toilet: This commode is 100+ years old, as Meagen found an old advertisement for it on the web. (Here’s the ad.) A plumber came over one day to work on it and was so befuddled he asked if he could take a picture of it, as the inside of the tank has a copper lining.
GUEST BEDROOM NO.1
- Bed and dresser: family hand-me-downs
- Hope chest: Lane Furniture
- Curtains: World Market
- Bedding: IKEA
- Hakuna Matata pillow: Society6
- Desk and bookcase: Art Van
- Retro chairs: estate sale
- Yellow cabinet: Salvation Army
- Craft table/dining table: Rooms To Go (Jacksonville, FL)
- Curtains: HomeGoods
GUEST BEDROOM NO.2
- Bedding: Urban Outfitters
- Bed & nightstands: Rooms To Go (Jacksonville, FL)
- Curtains: HomeGoods
- Wall lyrics: "Home To Me" by Josh Kelley, hand-painted by Meagen
- Bedding: Bed Bath & Beyond
- Art: Should I Wash My Hair? print, Chipper Things (Etsy)
Thanks, Meagen and Mike (and Dozer)!
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