A love of old houses, small towns, art and history, shaped the lives of Ben, 33, and Erin Napier, 31, celebrity guests for The Daytona Beach News-Journals 56th annual Fall Home Show, Oct. 21-23 at the Ocean Center.
The Napiers live in Laurel, Mississippi, and their upcoming HGTV show, “Home Town,” focuses on the charms of small-town living, simplicity and the beauty of vintage homes. They met in college, and both graduated from Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi, she with a graphic arts degree, he with one in history. While Erin was spending six hours a week in art classes, Ben said he would often hang out in the art building’s wood shop. It was his first experience in wood working.
After college, they moved to Laurel, a town of about 18,000, where Erin grew up, and 30 minutes away from Ben’s childhood home. She worked in an art studio, Ben worked as a youth minister, following in his father’s footsteps, but their interests in home design and decor developed into a business that would claim all their time. Word spread, and soon they were remodeling old houses for others. As work on their own home progressed, they posted photos on Instagram, which were seen by an HGTV executive, who was impressed and gave them a call. It led to a TV pilot, “Home Town, in 2016, and a TV series slated to run in 2017.
The home they live in is a bungalow in downtown Laurel. “’I had loved it since I was a kid,” she said, and recalled making sketches of it when she was in junior high school. After she and Ben were married, they met the owner, a woman who belonged to their church, and they told her how much they liked her home. One day, she called to tell them it was for sale. “We jumped at it,” said Ben.
That was in 2011, and although the house was structurally sound, despite a brush with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it hadn’t been refurbished since the 1950s or ‘60s. Where to begin?
Everywhere. New roof, wiring, heating and air, paint and fixtures, plus the addition of a half-bath. The original materials would be saved and refinished, including the heart pine floors.
Typical bungalows are two stories, with low-pitched roofs, usually hip, widely overhanging eaves, cornices, horizontal lines and massive square or rectangular porch piers. Bungalows make people think of “grandma’s house,” comfortable and unpretentious, but with such distinctive characteristics as wide baseboards, built-ins, crown moldings.
Bungalows are kissing cousins of the Arts and Crafts movement that began in the 1880s California, a counterpoint to the excesses of the Victorian age. Many have survived to this day, often in historic districts and near city centers. Craftsman bungalows can be seen in Surfside Village on the beachside in Daytona, in the historic district on the mainland, along South Ridgewood Avenue, and on Loomis Avenue, among other places, including downtown DeLand.
The bungalow house originated in India and sprang from the Hindustani words “bangla” or “bangola,” meaning “belonging to Bengal.” They had deep roof overhangs and wide porches to protect against the sun.
When renovating homes for others, the Napiers put their own tastes aside, of course. “My style,” said Erin, “is eclectic traditional. Our home tells a story. It reflects our lives and our families’ lives.” And there they are, in photographs displayed on open living room shelving, along with art, and books. “We love books and photos of our family members,” she said, and their two Great Pyrenees dogs, Chevy and fluffier Baker, a rescue.