Ben and Erin Napier, the hosts of “Home Town,” know that Laurel, MS, isn’t a sleepy town anymore. In fact, they say that starter homes priced between $150,000 and $200,000 are pretty hard to come by these days.
“If you find a house at that price, you’d better buy it right that day,” Erin says.
Luckily, their latest client takes their advice!
In the episode “Campy Cabin Vibes,” Erin and Ben meet with a Laurel native, Luke, who works as a traveling nurse and wants to put down roots.
As Erin says, “Every traveler needs a home base.”
Luke buys a 1938 house, and the team spends $100,000 giving this property some much-needed updates.
Read on to learn how Erin and Ben make over the house, and hear the one popular trend that they think will ruin an old home’s charm. Take note, and you might be inspired to try a few of these upgrades yourself!
Screen some porch areas, but leave the rest open
Erin thinks Luke’s three-bedroom house looks like a little camp cabin. Sure enough, it’s a darling structure, with a big yard, a tall tree, and a large front porch—but Luke isn’t so sure if he likes this particular wraparound feature.
It is screened in, which is great for avoiding mosquitoes. Luke simply doesn’t like the look of it.
“I need to see some depth,” he says.
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Erin suggests a compromise, offering to open up the screened section in front, but leave it on the left side of the house. She also plans to paint the house a light sage, keeping the woodsy, campy look of the home, while brightening it up.
In the end, Luke loves the half-open, half-screened porch. It gives the house some depth, while also allowing for the comfort of a protected area. It will be good for Luke’s dogs, and for Luke, who is likely to appreciate that they have a spot to run around where they don’t run the risk of getting loose.
There isn’t just one type of wall paneling
At first, Luke is not impressed with the home’s living room—especially the wall paneling.
“If my eyes are closed, or I look down, I feel good about it,” Luke says about the room. “But the paneling is hard to get past.”
Erin plans to rip it down and replace it with clean, fresh sheetrock, but when the team pulls down the vertical paneling, they find a surprise: wider, darker, horizontal tongue-and-groove paneling that Erin thinks works perfectly with the cabin theme.
“What if we don’t sheetrock it?” Erin asks, as she uncovers the wood. “You know: We put up new trim, and some crisp, contrasting color. And we keep these walls natural wood, I think it would be really on brand for Luke.”
She ends up removing the old paneling and freshening the space up with new blue trim.
While Luke wasn’t a fan of the vertical panels, it’s clear that he loves the classic charm of the original wood underneath. Keeping it also saves some time and money they were planning to spend on sheetrock.
Cased openings are a necessity in old houses
In addition to taking down the vertical paneling, Erin suggests opening up the entry between the living room and dining room. She is careful to say that she doesn’t mean to go right ahead and open up the wall completely.
“Time out. We need to talk about this, America, and the rest of the world,” she says, directly into the camera. “You guys like an open concept sometimes, right? But if you’re working on a house that was built in the 1930s, if you just blow it out, up to the ceiling and all the way to the walls, it doesn’t look original. It feels strange.”
She explains that an old house needs cased openings to feel authentic, even after a renovation.
“They’re that connective tissue between the history and a modern layout,” she says. “You need it.”
Erin and Ben build a cased opening rather than completely removing the wall. When they’re done, the living room feels much more open, but none of the historic charm is lost.
Use simple colors for a classic kitchen
Once they come to the kitchen, Erin and Ben know this space will need a lot of work. Before renovations start, the old kitchen is bright red and yellow. Luke says it may look good on a hot dog, but not on a kitchen.
Erin wants to reimagine the space, with an antique table from Luke’s grandparents, butcher-block counters, and new cabinets with a soothing color that Erin calls “river rock.”
In the end, the table, cabinets, and counters look great, showing how new and old materials can work so well together.
Erin is delighted, saying, “I wanted the cabinets to be simple, understated, because it’s all about this island we found in his grandparents’ shop.”
Beadboard makes a great backsplash
To complete the kitchen, Erin forgoes a tile backsplash in favor of the original beadboard. This proves challenging, since they need to patch up a section that was once a window. However, by the time the walls are painted, it all looks original.
Erin says that this tile alternative is a smart, inexpensive option for people trying to save some money.
“This isn’t his forever house,” Erin says of Luke’s place. “He’s a young guy, and he’s going to be moving on. I think not spending money on a backsplash and doing this instead was the right thing.”
Erin also admits that a tile backsplash may have made this kitchen look too new, which is the last thing she wants for this 1930s house.
“I got nervous about things going too new and fresh. And that was a big reason why we didn’t do a tile backsplash, because I wanted to keep some character,” she says.
It’s a great feature that will surely inspire other homeowners to skip the tile, for a more historic kitchen look.