With the help of friends and YouTube videos, LaBelle put nearly every penny she had into completely renovating the more than 117-year-old home. Once renovations were completed, she opened the house as Bella Mia Bed and Breakfast.
When LaBelle purchased the old house in 2012, it needed repairs. Walls were blackened from a previous owner’s use of kerosene heating, ceilings were caving in, the kitchen had water damage, doors were removed, and the paint on the porch and garage was curling up.
LaBelle, who initially lived on the east side of the state, said she looked at a map and decided to find a home in Spring Lake. Although she wanted to move to Oregon or Washington, she first wanted to be near family and friends for a few years.
Initially, LaBelle planned to renovate and flip the property. But when people saw pictures of the home, they told her that she should open it as a bed and breakfast.
LaBelle first balked at the idea, so she moved forward with renting three of the four bedrooms once she learned the property was zoned for rental use.
LaBelle said she couldn’t secure a loan to fix up the home, so she did everything on a waitress’ salary and by having a roommate.
Friends, neighbors and family also provided helping hands. LaBelle said the support has been “amazing.”
Throughout the renovations, LaBelle and her roommate bundled up and kept the temperature at 48 at night and 55 during the day.
As LaBelle did renovations, she said she kept going because it became a passion. LaBelle said she had a small vision of what it would look like, and she wanted to see what it would look like when it was finished.
Along the way, LaBelle incorporated pieces of her grandparents’ farmhouse into her home.
Following a one-year break, LaBelle returned in 2016 and opened the property as a rental through the Airbnb website.
LaBelle said it’s been a “magical” experience, and she feels blessed.
“It’s the dream job I never knew I wanted,” she said.
A few weeks ago, Shelby residents Roger and Sharon Bowen drove past the house after a dinner in Spring Lake. When they saw LaBelle working in the yard, they stopped and introduced themselves. Roger’s parents owned the property from about 1939 to 1999.
After a tour of the home, the Bowens arranged another time to visit with pictures of it from when Roger’s family owned it.
Roger said he’s delighted to see what LaBelle has done with the old house.
“She’s done a fantastic job,” he said.
Roger grew up in the home from the time he was 3. His former bedroom is now the “black and white”-themed room, and his mother’s bedroom is the “knobs and keys”-themed room.
Roger’s mother converted part of the upstairs into an apartment and rented it out. That portion has been converted into the master suite, which includes a bathroom, two beds, and small area complete with a table and refrigerator. LaBelle expanded the master suite and made the room’s kitchen area a little smaller compared to when Roger’s mother owned it.
LaBelle also gutted an upstairs bedroom and converted it into a bathroom. The home’s other bathroom was on the main floor off the dining room.
Walking through the renovated home, the Bowens shared stories of holidays there with their family.
One of the rooms that remained similar is the kitchen. Sharon said it was like Roger’s mother could still be standing in the kitchen, as she was in a picture they shared with LaBelle.
“It just gives you goosebumps,” Sharon said.
Sharon said she thinks Roger’s mother would have liked that someone loved the house enough to put time and energy into renovating it.
Although there is little documentation, LaBelle said the masonry is different and the home is actually two houses combined. The southern part of the house was built in 1900, but the northern part was built in 1989.
When LaBelle bought the property, the tree on the east side of the home was dead. As she worked on the home, the tree sprouted new branches and started coming back to life.
Haunted no more?
After she bought the house and lived there during the renovations, LaBelle said she could feel a presence there. LaBelle said that she heard doors slamming and footsteps upstairs.
Since the home’s renovations wrapped up, LaBelle said she hasn’t heard or felt the presence again.
LaBelle now plans to clear out the backyard and add a pond surrounded by a garden with raspberries and blueberries.
As LaBelle looks to the future, she said she couldn’t have done it without God, her faith, family and friends. LaBelle said she feels lucky.
“It’s been fun bringing this house back,” she said.