“Home Town” stars Erin and Ben Napier know that sometimes a little goes a long way. In fact, that’s how they approach the renovation of their latest midcentury build. They want to modernize it, but not too much.
On the Season 5 episode “Closer to Mom,” the Napiers meet Brach and Ashley Robinson. These two live in New Orleans but started shopping for a home in Laurel, MS, so that they’d have a comfortable place to stay when they visit Ashley’s mom.
The pair end up buying a beautiful 1961 home for $165,000. Erin and Ben know this old house needs some work, but they don’t want to update it so much that it loses that great retro vibe. So Erin works hard to find design solutions that will repair and update the house, without changing its midcentury style too much or spending over their $100,000 renovation budget. Here’s how they pull it off, which might inspire some changes around your own abode, too.
Replace orate ironwork with clean paneling
When Brach and Ashley first see the house, they’re impressed with the exterior, which is rare. Many of Erin and Ben’s renovation projects include an extensive exterior renovation, but this house has been well-maintained.
Still, Ashley and Brach want to replace one thing: the dated ironwork.
Erin supports this choice, saying the ironwork looks out of place.
“I just hate the overly ornate wrought iron, on a house that is specifically all about straight lines,” Erin says. So the team rips out the ironwork and replaces it with a midcentury-inspired slatted wood wall.
The dark wood looks great on this brick house, bringing in some much needed color contrast.
Add some color to the kitchen
Ashley and Brach want everything, including their kitchen, to be clean and white—but the Napiers know better.
“White is classic,” Erin explains, “but if you have all white, it can fall flat. It feels cold, it feels sterile.”
Erin and Ben decide to paint the old island (and a second new island) light blue to add some color to this kitchen, and to match a new blue backsplash. However, it’s the original brick floor that really adds some warmth to this white kitchen.
The team reseals the brick floors to make the colors more consistent, and when they’re finished, it’s clear that both the blue accents and the old brick give this kitchen some character. They soften the modern white features to make the space feel more homey. It just goes to show that color can be key, and some unexpected flooring could make a kitchen feel extra special.
Know which way to lay wood floors
When Ben goes to install the wood flooring in the den, he realizes that he might run into some trouble depending on the direction he lays the floors.
He thinks this room was an addition, so he suspects the walls may not be perfectly parallel with the fireplace. To avoid any problems with angled floorboards, Ben decides to run the flooring perpendicular to the fireplace.
“If you’re building a house, you can make that fireplace perfectly square, but we’re pretty sure this was a carport at one point that was then converted into a den, so we’re not sure how square that would be,” Ben says.
In the end, it seems the wood was laid in the right direction. Not only do the boards look even, but they also make the room seem longer and larger.
Use wood paneling in the right spots
Wood paneling on walls was a popular midcentury design, so Erin wants to create some paneling in the den—but she wants to make sure this retro feature looks fresh.
“Think of houses in the ’60s and ’70s, they would have that, like, pine paneling. This is like a nod to that but a little different, a little more modern,” Erin says.
They cover the brick on the wall behind the fireplace with wide wood paneling, but leave some exposed brick around the firebox for safety. Then they paint the whole wall white. Meanwhile, they remove the wallpaper from the other walls and give the rest of the room a fresh coat of paint.
While midcentury homes often had wood paneling on all four walls, this one accent wall gives the space the right amount of midcentury charm, while still letting the room look contemporary.
Don’t try to match old brick
Erin and Ben had good luck when it came to the brick on the kitchen floor, but they run into problems when they work on the outdoor kitchen. They have a plan to build off of the existing brick oven, but they can’t find an exact color match for the 1960s brick.
“The problem with the brick that we found is we can’t get this exact brick that was used on the house in the ’60s,” Erin explains. “So we just used a modern brick but we stuccoed over all of it.”
With the stucco, this outdoor kitchen has a great two-tone effect that looks modern but still midcentury-inspired. It’s a great outdoor kitchen that Ashley and Brach will love using in the summer.
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