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Oct 13 16

Pros and Cons Of Being Your Own Contractor

by Sherriff-Goslin

You’re ready to give your home an extreme makeover and you are standing at a crossroads with a hammer in hand. Do you complete all of the renovations yourself or leave them in the hands of a professional? You must weigh the risks versus rewards before you drive the first nail or place a call for help. Here are the pros and cons of being your own contractor.

Pros Of Being Your Own Contractor

Pay Yourself: Hiring a contractor can be very expensive. The rate for a contractor is around $77 per hour, which adds up quickly for projects large and small. The money you save by doing the work yourself can be put right back into the job, letting you upgrade your materials or save for your next big project.

Power Of The Internet: If you can dream it, you can probably find it on the internet. The web lets you watch how-to-videos, learn from others’ mistakes and order the supplies you need – all from the comfort of your own home. You may not be an expert, but the internet will allow you to get in touch quickly with someone who is. You can use forums and DIY videos to help figure out potential problems and get timely advice. You can control 100 percent of the project from concept to finished product.

Pure Satisfaction: There’s an emotional appreciation that comes with doing all the work on your own. You will understand completely the time it took and the trials and tribulations associated with completing the job. Not only will you get personal satisfaction, but also props from your family and friends – always a welcome boost to your self-esteem.

Cons Of Being Your Own Contractor

Time Management: You have only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. You have a full-time job and countless of other responsibilities. Will you be able to mix a big project into your schedule? Try to squeeze it in and your small project could end up rivaling the build time of the Sears Tower or Golden Gate Bridge. On the other hand, the last thing you want to do is rush a big project only to have an error cause all of your hard work to come crumbling down. You have to take an honest look at your calendar and schedule your time accordingly.

Quality Control: Sometimes the best option is to leave everything to the professionals. A few hours on YouTube doesn’t quite provide the certification needed to complete every project. Your skills might not measure up to your expectations. One wrong move and you risk damaging your property or yourself. To mitigate any extra risks, a licensed and insured contractor might be the best way to go.

A Stressful Situation: Many home improvement projects are tough. Even easy projects can be stressful. Have you tried putting together something as “simple” as a TV stand? After 45 minutes of work, you have three pieces left over and a leg that wobbles so much you’d be too nervous to set a cup of coffee on the stand. Now take that same skill-set and try to build a deck, rewire the fan or whatever your grand project is. It could turn out to be more nerve-racking than you expect.

Making The Best Decision

It’s time to choose a path. Will you DIY or hire a professional? Consider the project size, cost, time needed for completion and skill level before starting the job. Also keep in mind that some jobs, such as roofing, shouldn’t be attempted except by a trained professional. Be honest with yourself about your abilities, pick your projects wisely and don’t forget to enjoy the process.

Oct 5 16

Ghostly Guests: Henderson Castle

by Sherriff-Goslin

Castle1[Note: Historic homes are a tangible link to times gone by, showing us how people lived and what they considered the height of fashion in architecture and furnishings. In celebration of our Midwestern roots, we’re showcasing notable historic structures and the people who care about them.]

When you stay at a bed and breakfast, you expect to make the acquaintance of your fellow guests. Getting to know other travelers is all part of the fun.

But what do you do when you find yourself interacting with individuals who may be – how shall we put this – not exactly alive?

At Henderson Castle, a landmark mansion turned upscale inn in Kalamazoo, MI, visitors tell tales of encountering amiable apparitions. Sometimes the spirits communicate through unplugged radios or tap visitors on the shoulder. Other times they appear in full form, in period clothing.

Are the stories rumors or truth? Or maybe people’s imaginations are just working overtime. You never know.

Blast From The Past

Two of the oft-seen specters are Frank and Mary Henderson, who built the house in the 1890s on land that Mary had inherited from her father on the city’s undeveloped western edge. Frank was a successful businessman and owner of the Henderson-Ames Company, which made uniforms and regalia for the military and fraternal organizations. Frank and Mary wanted the house to be special and even dreamed of it being the centerpiece of a new suburb.

Designed by well-known architect C.A. Gomert of Milwaukee, WI, the 11,000-square-foot Queen Anne Victorian was built on a steep hill overlooking downtown. For their $72,000 price tag (an estimated $4.1 million today), the couple got a luxurious abode that was the envy of the local glitterati: a glamorous 25-room dream house complete with seven baths (including one with a 13-head shower), an elevator and a third-floor ballroom. Later owners added a hot tub on the roof.

They spared no expense on the finishes, adorning the exterior with brick and Lake Superior sandstone and using mahogany, bird’s-eye maple, quartered oak, birch and American sycamore for the interior.

The Hendersons held a massive housewarming in 1895 to celebrate the home’s completion, but their joy didn’t last long. Frank died in January 1899 and Mary lived in the home until her death in 1907.

The children inherited the house and sold it out of the family by 1919. It has had 10 owners since and been used as an apartment building, student housing for Kalamazoo College, a private residence and finally a succession of B&Bs.

Dr. Jess Walker bought the house in 1975 and began a series of renovations that continued under the next owner, attorney Frederick Royce, who first operated it as a B&B. Royce was featured on the first season of the HGTV series House Hunters International in 2006 when he was looking to sell the castle and move to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The structure itself has had quite a career in TV and movies. In addition to HGTV, it has appeared on the Discovery Channel and in several horror films, including Housesitter: The Night They Saved Siegfried’s Brain, a 1980s low-budget production; and In the Woods, a locally produced indie flick about two hunters who discover a horned skull in a gravesite and end up being pursued by strange, evil creatures.

The couple who bought the castle from Royce operated it as a B&B as well before selling to the current proprietor, master French chef Francois Moyet, in 2011.

Present And Future

Castle3Moyet was intrigued by the building from the very beginning, driven, like Henderson, to create a legacy and keep the castle open to the public to inspire future generations.

“How can we plan our future if we do not know about our past?” said Moyet, who considers himself the guardian of the castle, charged with protecting its magic and maintaining its architectural structure, its history and the memory of the Hendersons.

When he bought the property in 2011, it had six guest rooms. Moyet built out some unfinished attic space on the third floor and converted a first-floor room to be fully wheelchair accessible, giving the current castle a total of 10 rooms.

He also added a French fine-dining restaurant, a day spa, a commercial kitchen, a vineyard and an underground wine cave that is the only one of its kind in Southwest Michigan. He recently purchased a sister property across the street, the Ihling-Burdick-Start House, to meet the growing demand for additional guest rooms, and is establishing Kalamazoo’s first French culinary program with classes at the castle.

In addition to the daily maintenance and renovation necessary for any historic property, Moyet refinished the castle’s legendary rooftop deck and added a new hot tub and fireplace.

But perhaps the most important renovation was the installation of a fire sprinkler system with piping that doesn’t detract from the castle’s historic beauty. Both projects were done with assistance from the Henderson Castle Foundation, a non-profit Moyet set up to oversee and preserve the building.

The foundation also will be involved in the planned construction of a new north tower. Equipped with an elevator, the new tower “will allow all of our friends with disabilities and/or limited mobility to comfortably reach every floor of the castle,” according to Moyet.

Ghosts? Really?

Guests come for the romance and the luxury, but also for a potential shiver of spookiness.

In addition to the Hendersons, the castle also houses the spirits of Clare Burleigh, a Spanish-American War veteran, a little girl and a dog, according to the Southern Michigan ParaNormals (SMP). The group has investigated the castle about a dozen times since 2008 and found it to be very actively haunted.

A figure in period dress, believed to be Mary Henderson, appears at the top of the stairs. People have heard voices when no one was around and from radios that are turned off or even unplugged.

A guest in one of the themed bedrooms reported that she was awakened by a tap on her arm and a voice saying, “go away.” Former staffers say they have felt a presence on the stairs or heard footsteps and doors banging in parts of the house they knew to be empty.

Shirley Swift, who has written two books about the castle, said she “definitely felt a presence” when she was housesitting for a previous owner back in the mid-1990s. “I know a spirit was there.”

A medium who once held a séance at the house claimed spirits were present, Swift said, though a Ghost Hunters-type show visited and found no evidence of anything spectral.

The activity does seem to have, ahem, died down of late, she acknowledged.

So is the place haunted or not?

“I don’t know,” she said. “I can only say I thought there was a ghost.”

The current staff says the ghosts are still kicking.

“We actually hear stories of strange activity regularly from our guests,” said Jennifer Morey, General Manager of the castle.

“While not something we generally advertise or promote, there are still unexplained happenings all the time. One of the most memorable stories was one I heard on a tour with guests shortly after I started working at the castle. A gentleman explained he woke up in the morning and was reading a magazine in bed. Momentarily forgetting where he was, he felt his dog climb into bed with him. It wasn’t until he tilted the magazine down to pet his dog that he remembered where he was and that he and his wife had not brought their pet with them. There was nothing in the bed!”

Generally speaking, Morey said, “most of the stories we hear lead us to believe that if there are active spirits at the castle, they are friendly in nature – one could even say protective of this amazing historic home.”

Good To See You, Mrs. Henderson

Ghosts can be a bit unpredictable – they’re not into that whole clock-and-calendar thing like we are – but Halloween could be a good day to meet one, right?

The castle is offering haunted tours on Monday, Oct. 31, from 4 to 9 p.m. Led by one of the castle’s established guides, tours will run every half hour and include the history of the castle, as well as the ghost stories from previous owners and guests. Tours are appropriate for most ages, though “guests can expect things to get a little spooky with help from ghostly vignettes staged in several of the guest rooms,” Morey said.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 10 and under, and are available at the door or on the Henderson Castle website.

The Jewel Of Kalamazoo

Sometimes called the Crown Jewel of Kalamazoo, Henderson Castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered by AAA to be one of Michigan’s top three historic inns. A premier romantic destination, the castle is a popular spot for weddings and anniversaries, as well as for private parties and corporate events.

The B&B features heated marble floors, crystal chandeliers, stained-glass windows, a sauna and a spa named for Mary Henderson. Daily tours and wine tastings are offered.

[Note: Sherriff-Goslin is neither involved in nor connected to the renovations of this building.]

Sep 29 16

Eye-catching Mailboxes

by Sherriff-Goslin

Is your mailbox boring? Do your bills and junk mail need an updated habitation?

An unusual mailbox can deliver the customization or touch of whimsy you seek. For inspiration, check out these 10 mailboxes that are sure to draw attention and help you put your stamp on the neighborhood.

1.) Puppy Love

Attention dog-lovers: this one is for you. Handmade by The Mailbox Ranch, these letter receptacles are the perfect way to show your love for your pooch. Mailbox Ranch has a vast assortment of breeds available to match your favorite canine. More of a cat person? Don’t fret – the company does felines as well as many other animals.

2.) The Charmer

Are you more the contemporary type? Check out a mailbox that offers class and a touch of personalization. The charming post is far from ordinary with its built-in flowerbed. Want this stylish look for your home? Many variations are available here.

3.) Home Is Where The Heart Is

The ultimate in customization is a mailbox that looks exactly like your house. Whether humble or haute, Dean’s Custom Mailboxes can custom craft a tiny abode for your correspondence.

4.) Bassbox

This is the one that didn’t get away. Hand carved from cedar, this mailbox looks just like a bass. Who needs a mailbox when you can have a Bassbox? Our thoughts exactly.

5.) Football Fanatics

Go team! What better way to show your dedication to your favorite sport than to display it on your front lawn? SidelineMVP offers a full line of NFL helmet-shaped mailboxes.

6.) Cast Away

If you hear the call of the waves, this mailbox is for you. Hand-crafted out of plywood and Western cedar, it communicates your love of boating to all who see it. Look at The Mailbox Works, matey, to find the one you need.

7.) Above The Rest

If you can’t get away to someplace exotic, at least you can make checking the mail an adventure. This seaplane mailbox will enchant anyone who loves the sea and the sky.

8.) Sea-scape

What could be more inviting than a smiling dolphin or friendly manatee? Friendly sea creatures bring smiles to all who encounter them. Numerous sea-themed mailboxes are available on Amazon.

9.) All Aboard!

Train buffs will appreciate the detail on this custom-made mailbox. Whether you’re an avid rail expert or a hobbyist recalling your toy-train days, a little choo-choo could be the mailbox for you.

10.) Trellis Views

A trellis evokes a sense of serenity and beauty. With this easy DIY project, you can customize your trellis-mailbox by staining or painting the wood and adding the flowers and the mailbox of your choice.

Stand Out

Mailbox options are endless. No matter what your hobbies or interests, you can find a mailbox to reflect them.

Finally, no matter which design you choose, be sure your mailbox complies with U.S. Postal Service regulations.

Do you have a one-of-a-kind mailbox? Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to share it.

Sep 20 16

Home Security Systems: Protection and Insurance Savings

by Sherriff-Goslin

Home security systems are protecting more than just your home these days. In addition to keeping an eye on your TV, jewelry and family, your home security system can also safeguard your bank account. Unbeknownst to many homeowners, insurance companies go above and beyond by providing incentives to homeowners who get a security system.

Your insurance company’s enthusiasm shouldn’t be a surprise. It has a financial investment tied to keeping your home safe. Check out how home insurance companies can help you save money when you install a security system.

15 Minutes Can Save You 15 Percent Or More

A security system can save you money on your monthly home insurance payment. While the amount varies from company to company, most insurance companies offer a 15 percent to 25 percent discount on protective devices, including fire alarms, smoke detectors and security systems.

According to a report, the average annual home insurance premium is $952. Take your 15 percent to 25 percent discount for the security system and you could save $143 to $238 a year on insurance. If your primary reason for installing a security system is to protect your belongings and the people you love, a financial incentive is the cherry on top of the sundae.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

While the home insurance savings are nice, the elephant in the room for those who don’t have a security system is the monthly cost to monitor the system, which can be as much as $100 per month. Your home insurance provider can help you there, too.

USAA, State Farm and many other providers have partnered with the security companies to discount monitoring fees as well as installation to help keep costs low.

Another way to trim costs is to use the new wave of technology rocking the home-security industry. Smartphones and Wi-Fi make it easy for homeowners to keep an eye on their abodes when they are away. A lot of new technology companies have moved into the home security industry, which makes the rates very competitive.

Canary offers a full year of service for only $99. On top of the price, insurance companies are offering incentives for signing up for the innovative security company’s services. State Farm offers its customers a $20 Visa card and a month of free service when they install Canary. American Family Insurance and Liberty Mutual Insurance companies offer monthly discounts and cover the cost of the $99 Nest Protect smoke detector.

Protect And Save

If you were ever interested in getting a home security system, there’s no better time than right now to schedule an appointment for installation. You can get discounts for the installation of a security system, the monthly monitoring fees and monthly home insurance costs. Take advantage of the discounts and check with your insurance company to find out what savings are available today.

Sep 14 16

Choosing The Right Color

by Sherriff-Goslin

Do you ever notice how some rooms seem appealing and relaxing while others make you feel tense?

Color. We sense it as much as see it – in fact, color is responsible for more than 60 percent of our response to a place.

So when homeowners start thinking about renovating, paint color – no surprise – is first on their minds. The color has to be right because it creates the ambiance for the entire room.

But deciding on a color to pull the trigger — or paintbrush — on requires some serious consideration.

Start Off Right

So you’re ready to begin your room renovation process. Whoo hoo! First things first: pick out a paint color, right?


Putting the paint color before the décor is a common homeowner mistake. You not only limit your design options, you, ahem, paint yourself into a corner because you’ll have trouble finding accent pieces and accessories to match or coordinate with your walls.

Start by deciding on furniture and accents first, then move on to paint selection. For instance, try finding a piece of art you love and sculpting a color palette around it.

Setting the Mood

When pondering all those paint chips, consider what the room will be used for and how you want it to feel. Are you aiming for a subtle, relaxing and soothing ambiance for a nursery or bedroom? Or perhaps a warm and intimate atmosphere for a living or entertaining space? You may have different answers for different rooms throughout the house.

Many homeowners think their favorite color would be an excellent paint choice. Makes sense, right? You love yellow and therefore the walls of your bedroom would look great in that sunny hue. Not so fast. While yellow symbolizes happiness and energy, it also can evoke anxiety and uneasiness – not at all what you want in your most personal space. Remember that the room’s purpose, as well as your color preference, is important.

Hit The Lights

Colors look different under different lighting. Many homeowners paint sample patches on their wall so they can see how a color changes throughout the day. Morning sunlight, afternoon radiance, dusk and nightfall will affect the color differently..

Also consider other lighting in the room. Natural daylight reveals the truest nature of the color. Warmer, yellow tones come out with incandescent lighting and blue tones appear in fluorescent lighting. Be sure to consider where your windows are placed as well, since they are the primary source of lighting during the day.

Create Flow

Another common mistake is giving each room a wildly different look – or, conversely, painting every room the same color. While you should avoid redundancy, the colors should mesh well together and generate a décor that is welcoming and synchronized without being mundane. Try choosing complimentary colors for rooms close to each other and take the whole house into consideration for the best results.

Show Us Your Colors!

Have you recently taken on a renovation project that included a new color scheme? We would love to see. Also, tell us some of the techniques you used to pick out the perfect hues! Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.