Ben and Erin Napier are quickly becoming popular names for DIY and design enthusiasts.
The origin of their story is like a televised fairy tale. Amateur college artist and graphic designer Erin and carpenter, craftsman and former minister Ben set up a historic home in Laurel, Mississippi, and were featured in Southern Weddings in 2014 for loving the laid-back style that was collected. She wondered, will the couple consider a new chapter on TV?
They accepted the challenge: “Hometown” debuted in January 2016, and Napier has remained loyal to the audience ever since.
âIt’s quite unexpected. It wasn’t something we thought or dreamed of, âsays Ben. âIt’s a happy accident of sorts,â Erin adds.
The ability to complement each other’s ideas and make themselves known while maintaining a friendly flair and small town pride is a big part of their appeal.
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The two met at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi, and had a secret crush on each other. When Erin won an assignment to interview Ben for the Yearbook in 2004, he used a conversation to ask him for a date. The two have become inseparable. âOn December 8, I took a picture from the phone book. On December 9th, we went on our first date and he met my mom. December 10, Christmas at Mason Park. I saw the illuminations. I decided to get married one day on December 13th. Maybe this sounds crazy to you, but it makes perfect sense to me, âErin said. I shared it on Instagram for the 15th anniversary of the week.
They transferred to the University of Mississippi at Oxford in third year and were married after graduating in 2008. The newlyweds moved into the historic downtown Laurel loft, where Erin grew up. âWe renovated together on a small budget,â she recalls. She was looking at the $ 5,000 closet (âwe couldn’t afford itâ), so she took pictures from all angles and asked Ben to do it. âHe made me a picture frame, so I’m sure he would make a closet for me,â she laughs.
Ben undertook the work of love and learned from the process, deepening both his love and his ability to work with wood. âThere are a lot of things I can’t stand,â but Erin always declares him âhandsome,â giving him the honor at the couple’s house.
Those lean years have provided valuable lessons for all of the âhomeâ renovations they do today. âWe could stay within our budget, but we were still trying to find a way to do what we could do there,â says Ben. “This is what we are doing now, just for others.”
The town of Laurel (population 18,338) itself is the main character of the “hometown” and occupies a large part of Napier’s fixation. âEveryone here knows us,â Ben says. âWhen we’re in places like New York, Atlanta, Nashville or (Los Angeles) and people stop us on the streetâ¦â after her thoughts, Erin said, âIt’s very amazing. ”
Laurel, located about 90 miles southeast of Jackson, was founded in 1882 and thrived on the lumber industry (the area is known as the state’s Pine Belt). After that, factories and factories continued, bringing economic prosperity. Today, the city still has the largest collection of residential architecture in the state in the early 1900s. However, the city declined as companies relocated their businesses in search of cheaper profits. When Napiers took root in 2008, there wasn’t much to draw in visitors or locals, and vacant storefronts lined up on Brick Street. Yet, they saw this possibility and looked for ways to support it. Ben volunteered to join Laurel Main Street, an economic and conservation organization.
Now, thanks to the show’s success, âpeople visit Laurel every day. That’s great. It’s incredible. That’s why we agreed to do the show, âsays Ben.
Living in a small nearby community makes them pay close attention to how they approach their home remodeling. âLaurel is a very small town, so we’re 90% likely to have an ongoing relationship with everyone we build,â says Ben.
They are also known for their very personal touch due to the knowledge of the owners who live in their designs. It is not uncommon to smartly display childhood memories and heirlooms to give TV patrons a relaxed feeling. âWe are surrounded by workers,â says Erin. âWe want them to be happy and to feel seen and heard when we design their home.â