East Lansing at Home: 946 N. Harrison Road

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Photo courtesy of Diana Farmer and Charlie Richardson.

The home where Diana Farmer and Charlie Richardson reside.

Across the street from the new Glencairn elementary school on Harrison Road is the home of Diana Farmer and Charlie Richardson. From the street, the charming brick Cape Cod looks like a single-story house with a one-car garage, built into the slope of the rolling landscape.

It is only apparent once you see the back of the house how many levels there actually are and how the builder created a great use of the space inside. In fact, the house – built in 1949 – served as the personal home of the builder, who also designed several of the other houses nearby.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

Including the basement, there are at least five levels to this house, and these can be seen in the photo above. The first floor, which opens to the upper deck, contains the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Up one story are the two smaller bedrooms, which are located above the garage, and up one more level is the primary bedroom, found behind the large windows overlooking the backyard. Down a few steps from the kitchen are the garage level and the basement at the very bottom of the house, where there is a cozy sitting area decorated with several guitars and a large laundry area.

The extension of the upper deck was a recent project completed by Charlie. Previously, it had been just a small porch off the dining room that led down to the ground-level deck. This new square footage provides space for a bistro-style table and chairs and serves as an lovely spot to sit with a cup of coffee in the morning as it faces the rising sun in the east.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

The deck has also served as the stage for performances by Charlie’s band, Jackalope, during the pandemic. The way the lot lines are drawn in this part of the City – as seen above – several houses share space in their backyards. The openness behind the homes provided plenty of space for guests to remain socially distanced while still enjoying the music.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

Diana purchased the house in May 2001 and immediately got to work adding her own special touches. These include the stained-glass panels in the bow window of the dining room and the crystal chandelier over the dining table. The hardwood floors are a homeowner favorite along with the large windows, which provide an opportunity for the couple’s many houseplants to thrive.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

An antique buffet painted by Diana displays her collection of dishes. The tone-on-tone color palette is a neutral backdrop for the art and accessories that give the house its soul.

Indeed, this home is a perfect reflection of the couple who lives there: fun, artistic, and welcoming. Interestingly, working on homes was how Diana and Charlie first met in 1982. At the time, they were working together in a home repair program in Harlan County, Kentucky. Diana moved on to Virginia, where she lived for twelve years before coming back to Michigan to be close to her family. Charlie went on to become a residential energy efficiency expert, living in Colorado. He moved to Michigan in 2012, at which time he and Diana reconnected. They were married in 2013.

Two years ago, the couple remodeled the kitchen. The layout stayed the same, with the sink under the window that faces the backyard. The updates that Diana and Charlie chose are classic and timeless. A darker color on the lower cabinets anchors the space while white Shaker-paneled upper cabinets create a sense of airiness and space. The original yellow-laminate countertops were replaced by white quartz counters and a white subway tile backsplash. Narrower upper cabinets were added on either side of the window above the sink to accommodate the display shelves that feel period-appropriate. Modern updates include the stainless-steel appliances, under-cabinet lighting, and an undermount sink.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

The kitchen renovation did not expand the size of the space but instead, fit itself into the original, smaller footprint of the house. The homeowners did not need to sacrifice storage space, though. A few steps down from the kitchen is a small nook that was, at one time, used as a home office. Charlie and Diana now use it as a pantry for food storage. Another nook is a few steps beyond and on the opposite side of the stairs. It is used as a butler’s pantry for extra dishes and serving pieces.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

Upstairs there are three bedrooms: one is used as a guest bedroom, another as Diana’s art studio, and the largest as the primary bedroom, which has an attached bathroom.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

Despite the fact that this room faces Harrison Road and is not far from busy Saginaw Street, the house is so well-built that Charlie and Diana never hear the traffic outside. The couple gives credit to the builder for making it this way.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

Likewise, Charlie has followed in the tradition of the original owner, using his expertise to give the home smart, energy efficient updates like the insulated attic space. Shelves were built for storage, and insulation was added between the beams.

Gary Caldwell for ELi

Charlie and Diana are happy to live in a walkable community and to know so many of their neighbors.

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