Growing up in Laurel, Mississippi, Erin Napier had often driven by her dream house, though she had never actually laid eyes on it. This majestic old Tudor, adorned with weathered brick, remained hidden from view, concealed behind the lush green fields and towering pine trees that lined the quiet two-lane highway on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t until her husband, Ben, forwarded her the property listing in the spring of 2021 that Erin realized what had been concealed from her for so long. She couldn’t believe that, over the years, she had unknowingly passed by the dwelling that had captured her heart.
“At that moment, I fell in love with it instantaneously, and it terrified me,” she admitted. “I thought, ‘We don’t need another house… but maybe we do.'”
During that time, Erin was in the final stages of her pregnancy with her second daughter, Mae, who is now a year old. Her oldest, Helen, was three years old. Their cozy abode in downtown Laurel had started to feel cramped, particularly when they had family and friends over. Ben and Erin had always discussed the idea of acquiring a weekend retreat in the countryside where their children could freely frolic, revel in the dirt, cultivate a garden, and perhaps even indulge in occasional fishing trips, an activity that Helen adored.
“I grew up on a 40-acre chicken farm and would choose a baby chick to be my companion each time a new batch arrived,” Erin reminisced. “My childhood was filled with climbing trees and scouring the woods for arrowheads. Those are experiences our girls can’t have in the town. I want their bathwater to turn murky by day’s end, a testament that they weren’t merely glued to screens.”
Having spearheaded numerous renovations for their immensely popular HGTV shows, “Home Town” and “Home Town Takeover,” the Napiers found themselves faced with a new project, their own cherished home. This abode was no exception, as it demanded some essential upgrades: a more practical kitchen, a fresh laundry room, and enhancements to the outdoor areas. However, the core elements of the house remained steadfast. Originally constructed in 1930, the residence boasted substantial heart-pine beams, broad plank floors, intricate tongue-and-groove paneling, and bespoke millwork, epitomizing a blend of durability and charm.
“It’s astonishingly well-crafted,” remarks Ben. “Allegedly, all the wood used throughout the entire house—the floors, the trim, the beams—was harvested and processed right here on the property. That’s quite fascinating to me as a woodworker.”
Erin chimes in, “The house is constructed like a fortress. A tree fell on it during a tornado in the eighties, and it hardly caused any damage. It merely poked a hole.”
However, it was the Tudor architectural style that captured Erin’s heart. “One of the reasons we couldn’t resist this house is its distinctly British appearance. It feels like you’ve crossed the ocean, and suddenly, you’re no longer in Mississippi. It’s like a getaway for us,” she enthuses. “All the cozy rooms with their rich wood tones give you the feeling of sitting by a fireside—that’s a dream come true for me. I adore this style immensely.”
Moreover, the house boasts a captivating history. Its original owner had served in World War I, an experience that led him to develop a profound affection for British architecture during his time in England. A prosperous chicken farmer— a detail that instantly resonated with Erin— he was a stickler for precision in every facet of the house’s design. It’s also whispered that he excelled as a moonshiner, prompting him to incorporate concealed compartments within the house for concealing his illicit brew. He even ingeniously devised a concrete ramp leading to the basement, enabling him to discreetly drive vehicles underground.
A special episode of “Home Town” Season 6, set to air in early December, will unveil the Napiers’ house and chronicle their renovation journey. In a poignant finale, Ben and Erin unveiled the finished project to their mothers, both of whom had been prohibited from witnessing any of the work as it unfolded. Erin fondly recalls, “My mother works as a Realtor, and it really pained her that we didn’t allow her to visit during the process. The day she finally saw it, she couldn’t hold back the tears.”
As the Napiers embarked on their house tour, this particular room left an indelible impression. Erin recollects, “The very first couch my mom purchased back in 1999 was nothing short of extraordinary,” gesturing toward the left-hand sofa. “Later on, she yearned for a change and graciously passed it on to us. We cherished it for many years. I had it expertly reupholstered, and Ben crafted brand-new feet for it. Every time she visits, she playfully exclaims, ‘I can’t believe I gave that to y’all. I want it back.'”
Adjacent to this cherished heirloom, the right-hand side features a sectional by Rowe Furniture, perfectly complementing the room’s aesthetic. The walls are adorned with the soothing Misty Air (OC-44) paint from Benjamin Moore, lending a serene ambiance to the space.
The Dining Room
“This room exudes an undeniable sense of gravitas,” Erin remarks with conviction. “It carries a weighty, solemn air,” she continues. “Our children inhabit every nook and cranny of this house, but this room sees them infrequently. It’s reserved for those memorable occasions and cherished holidays.”
The centerpiece of the room, the piano, holds a special place in Erin’s heart, as it’s the very one she grew up with. Adjacent to it, a striking painting with its own unique history was discovered at a flea market, adding to the room’s character. The crowning jewel, a grand mahogany table, hailing from French antiquity, was procured through Chairish. Ben chuckles and remarks, “Erin had once requested that I craft her a barley-twist table, but regrettably, time has never quite permitted me to do so!”
“This room is truly the heartbeat of our home,” Erin enthuses with a radiant smile. “It’s a place we cherish the most, where life’s most significant moments unfold, where everything happens.”
As the family’s culinary maestro, Erin’s connection to this space runs deep. Her daily culinary adventures demanded a kitchen that was not just functional but also harmoniously blended with the overall character of the house. She shares her vision, “The kitchen is an entirely new creation, yet I yearned for it to exude the essence of 1930. I aimed to capture the timeless ambiance of the downstairs in Downton Abbey—a classic, unpretentious English style that strikes a balance between utility and elegance.”
Adding a touch of sentimental charm to this culinary haven, a cherished biscuit painting above the door once graced the walls of her grandmother Ouida’s house. Erin’s affection for it is evident as she remarks, “That’s the kitchen’s most treasured piece for me.”
A delightful feature of the kitchen is the screen door that beckons you to the tiny patio outside—a true blessing when the weather is favorable. Erin finds joy in the abundant sunlight that bathes the room, firmly believing that a sun-drenched kitchen inspires better cooking. The walls of this welcoming kitchen are adorned with the soothing hue of Netsuke (SW 6134) by Sherwin Williams, a choice that contributes to the room’s warm and inviting ambiance.
The Primary Bedroom
Stepping into the bedroom, Erin can’t help but describe it as resembling a luxurious hotel suite, and the credit goes to the exquisite four-poster mahogany bed crafted by the skilled artisan Andrew Reid, known for his craftsmanship at Red Classics in Dothan, Alabama. “I’m absolutely captivated by Andrew’s creations,” Ben shares enthusiastically. “He’s my ultimate inspiration, my Michael Jordan of woodworking.”
In addition to the splendid bed, the room features a partner’s desk adorned with drawers on both sides, serving as the perfect alcove for sipping morning coffee, sketching home designs, and engaging in Zoom interviews and meetings. The English blanket chest, meticulously handcrafted from birdseye maple, stands as a testament to Ben’s burgeoning passion for woodworking—a journey that took root during his time at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford, Mississippi. Ben reflects on this transformative experience, saying, “Crafting furniture truly transformed the way I perceive the world. The more time I dedicated to crafting these pieces, the more it felt like I had acquired a whole new perspective.”
Erin affectionately dubs the second floor as “girl world,” a haven where her daughters, Helen and Mae, can revel in a world of slumber, play, reading, artistic pursuits, and, in the future, host delightful sleepovers with their friends. A charming feature of Mae’s cozy reading nook is the exquisite stained-glass window, skillfully crafted by a talented artisan hailing from Moselle, Mississippi, named John Whitt. The room’s ambiance is further enhanced by the enchanting wallpaper, a creation from the esteemed Rifle Paper Company based in Winter Park, Florida.