Erin and Ben Napier of “Home Town” have designed some lovely homes in Laurel, MS. But the pressure’s on in their latest project since the property is owned by a designer—and it’s her very first house.
In the episode “Design for Living,” Erin and Ben meet up with Whitney, who says she loves designing for other people but has a hard time making decisions for herself.
“Designing for a designer is going to be really unusual,” Erin says. “I feel like I can be a little more bold.”
And while the stakes are already high to make this home beautiful, Whitney has a slim all-in budget of just $135,000. So after buying her three-bedroom, one-bathroom house for $56,000, the Napiers have just $79,000 to fix it up.
Here’s how Erin impresses a fellow designer, which contains some budget-friendly decor tricks that delight without depleting this first-time home buyer’s budget.
1. Add a bold header to finish your entryway for cheap
Erin and Ben fix up this home’s curb appeal by painting the house and cleaning up the landscaping. The house looks great, but these two still think it’s missing something.
So they do one small thing that makes a big difference: Add a header over the porch entry. This header is simply a piece of wood over the porch steps. It’s not structural, but it does a lot to the visual appeal of the front entrance.
“Adding that trim across there, the header, it’s going to really change the front of the house—make it look a lot more substantial, make it pop,” Ben says.
When the house is done, the front porch and the header look great. Erin is especially glad that they added this detail.
“It breaks things up,” she says. “I think it gives definition around the porch that was missing.”
2. Make use of wasted space with secret storage
In the kitchen, Erin and Ben install new countertops and a kitchen peninsula. However, when the peninsula cabinets are being installed, Erin and Ben notice wasted space in one corner that can’t be accessed via a cabinet door—at least from the kitchen side.
Rather than leave this corner storage space unusable, the Napiers add a door to the cabinet’s dining room side. But to keep the look consistent, they make it look like paneling, creating a secret storage space.
“It all looks like just panels across here, but the last one is a cabinet,” Ben says when the work is done. “And it’s keeping this from being wasted space.”
Of course, Whitney loves the clever use of space.
“Perfect place for the Christmas dishes,” she says.
3. Vinyl flooring looks great next to wood—for a fraction of the cost
When Erin and Ben first show Whitney the house, Erin mentions that she plans to rip up the existing tile floor. She’s hoping to find that the original pine flooring continues into the kitchen from the living room, but unfortunately, Erin has no such luck. She is forced to choose some new flooring for the kitchen, but she has a smart rule for choosing the right floor.
“You have to choose something completely different from what it’s touching,” Erin explains. “So if you’ve got this original heart pine in here, this wouldn’t need to look like a wood floor because they would never match. And I like that it’s so contrasting.”
Erin goes with a simple gray vinyl flooring that looks like slate. It’s an elevated look that that doesn’t cost a lot, plus it looks great next to hardwood.
4. Butcher block counters are an inexpensive alternative to stone
Whitney loves midcentury modern style, so Erin wants to bring in some retro looks. At the same time, she needs to use cost-effective materials. Erin manages to do both of these when she installs butcher block counters.
“Midcentury modern design usually includes a mix of bold and earthy colors,” Erin says when planning the kitchen design. “So I think what Whitney’ll really love about the design is if the charcoal in the kitchen is balanced nicely with butcher block countertops.”
The wood-tone counters definitely give off an earthy, midcentury vibe. Plus, as Erin explains to Whitney later, the counters are relatively inexpensive.
“We didn’t want to give you stone ’cause it’s a starter house,” Erin says when the kitchen is finished. “We don’t want to blow money on stuff that’s not necessary.”
In the end, Erin proves that butcher block counters are a great option for those looking for a beautiful kitchen on a budget.
5. Most budget-friendly upgrade ever: Add some colored paint
While the kitchen already features some midcentury tones, Erin and Ben continue the trend in the bedroom.
The team removes some old, flimsy built-ins from the master bedroom, so Erin decides to add back in some visual interest by commissioning a mural with colors that match Whitney’s midcentury style.
“Whitney loves, like, almost a ’70s style,” Erin says. “And so I’m taking this color palette that you would’ve seen in the ’70s, these peaches, golds, and weaving them together with these dark deep greens that we also have used in the house, and that she loves.”
Once again, Erin lets warm tones evoke a midcentury look—proof of how much can be done with simple paint colors.
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