Reality Realty: HGTV’s ‘Home Town’ leans on creativity and resourcefulness to tell stories through home design

HGTV’s popular renovation show “Home Town,” whisked with buttermilk-smooth “y’all” declarations, launches season two in January with Mississippi hosts Ben and Erin Napier.

On the show, shoppers from the small town of Laurel, Miss., buy one of two homes the Napiers select in the once-booming 1890s lumber town (current population: 18,000) and then pay for renovations without seeing the design.

We reached the couple in their 1925 Craftsman, near former lumber baron mansions in Laurel’s historic district.

Is it a challenge to renovate homes in Mississippi, the poorest state in the country?


Ben: It’s built creativity and resourcefulness in our people. If something breaks, you fix it. The “maker movement,” the “creative economy” — these are buzzwords that have gotten big, but that’s always been the norm in Mississippi.

Erin, your drop-cloth curtains were a hit on the pilot episode.

Erin: People still ask me about those, and that’s what we have in our house — inexpensive, but that’s not why we did it. I just like the way they look. They’re literally from a hardware store. I wanted drapes that look like linen. My mom and I split them in half, hemmed the edges — and who knows the difference?

Laurel once milled and shipped colossal amounts of yellow pine. As a woodworker, Ben, you often repurpose that pine into furniture.


Ben: That’s what people love the most — when we say, “Hey, see this beautiful coffee table? It was once inside a wall.” The quality of the lumber that was being milled here was incredible. To be able to uncover that and save it, we’re lucky.

Erin: It’s a jackpot when we can take down a wall and get the heart pine studs out of it — they’re just like gold to him.

Do you bring a Southern design aesthetic to renovations?

Erin: Some people think of Southern design as a very formal kind of plantation-style home. But that’s not indicative of most of the South. I would say it’s a collected style. As Southerners, we’re storytellers, very nostalgic, and I like every house to tell a family’s story. One homeowner’s father passed away, and we used his childhood toys in a home office, as if they were sculptures on a console table.


Something tells us you won’t be incorporating Pantone’s 2018 color of the year, Ultra Violet.

Erin: I didn’t even know that was the color of the year. I care less about trends and more about what feels authentic and how to artfully arrange a person’s life in a visual way.

Most Southern homes include a front porch. What’s the most common way they’re bastardized?

Ben: Glassing them in. A glassed-in front porch in Mississippi makes no sense; it’s basically a greenhouse on the front of your house.



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