Home Town: A Bungalow in Blue

Erin and Ben fashion a special home for a very special citizen of Laurel, revitalizing a long-neglected 1920s bungalow into a charming and vibrant home with a cottage feel and a bold color palette.

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

Photo By: Todd Douglas/ Getty Images

A Makeover on Main Street

Ben and Erin transformed a vacant and visually nondescript house near Laurel's downtown into this eye-catching home for their friend and colleague, Judi Holifield. She had been looking for a long time, searching for a house she could fall in love with. "I've looked at many properties through the years," she said, "It's time for Ben and Erin to step in and rescue me."  

Meet the Homeowners

Judi Holifield isn’t just a Laurel, Mississippi resident. She’s director of Laurel Main Street, an organization dedicated to the city's historic preservation and downtown revitalization — an initiative close to Ben and Erin's hearts. "Judi has been the director of Laurel Main Street for close to 10 years," says Erin, "and when she came on board, that's when the tide turned for Laurel." Judi had been living about 20 minutes outside town and wanted to move into the city to be closer to her job and to friends. Her son Allen, also a Laurel resident, is a first-year graduate student studying classical music. Judi's all-in budget was $125,000.

Before

The Overstreet House. Erin wanted to find a place for Judi with some built-in charm, but one where she might incorporate some quirky or offbeat elements in keeping with Judi's adventurous style. This house was one Judi had passed on her way to work countless times. It was built in 1925 and purchased in the 1940s by Marvin and Delores Overstreet who lived there for 72 years. The house came with some appealing features like large windows, exterior dentil molding and a generally cottagey feel. The downside was general wear and tear, and a plain white palette. The house was listed for $45,000 and Ben estimated the total cost of renovations at around $86,000, with around $18,000 going to exterior improvements.

Erin's Vision

To transform the exterior, Erin envisioned an American themed color palette – including blue exterior, white trim and a red door – all helping to accent the home’s classic Americana style.

After

The exterior goes from plain white to crisp blue — which helps accentuate freshened up period details such as the dentil molding and roof korbels. 

Turning the (Color) Tables

Erin upended the standard approach to color selection for walls and trim. “I think people are afraid to paint their trim a color, and let the walls be white,” she said. Here the window trim and crown molding, as well as the custom china cabinet, are painted in slate blue, echoing the home's new exterior. The result is an effective visual continuity with elements used elsewhere throughout the redesign.

Kitchen Splash

By far the biggest visual transformation in this reno was the kitchen, which was previously bare and in rough shape. Erin and Ben created this newly reimagined space which furthers the blue-and-white color theme and turns the kitchen into a key focal point within the home.

A Musical Interlude

Music plays a big part of the lives of Judi and her family, so Erin and Ben's design converted a front bedroom into this dedicated music room located just off the main living room. 

A Musical Transition

The decorative shadow box above the French doors that lead into the living room is a custom creation —suggested by Erin and executed by Ben — who turned salvaged components from a vintage piano into a visual art piece.

A Lively Tone

The energy of the living room feels bright and alive with walls painted in golden yellow and the mantel and trim in creamy white. Vibrantly colored original artwork plays a key role in the interior design strategy — with individual pieces carefully selected to complement the decorating and color choices.

New Heights

Ceiling-height built-in bookshelves flanking the original fireplace add drama to the space as well as providing the perfect venue for a featured piece of art.

Snug Harbor

The newly remodeled master bedroom offers a warmth and a welcoming vibe with yellow-gold walls as seen in the living room, accessories providing splashes of blue and white and wall art in botanical and oceanic themes.

Clean, Cool, White

A small and formerly dark, dingy bathroom was enlarged and expanded into an adjacent hallway to create this spacious bath with master closet and dressing room.

Hands-Free Lawn Care

At the request of the homeowner (who ascribes to a strict "no mow" philosophy when it comes to landscaping), the grass lawn is replaced with a low-maintenance yard with pine-needle mulch and easy-to-care-for ornamental plantings.

Before

The home's front entrance had fallen into a sad state with discolored paint and a full-width front porch that had become stained and pitted.

After

The entry gets a facelift with fresh white trim, dark green porch paint for the concrete and brick, and sky-blue* for the original beadboard ceiling.

*A Home Town Southernism: Painting porch ceilings in pale blue is a long-standing Southern tradition. Opinions vary as to the origins of the practice, but a common notion is that it tricks wasps and spiders into thinking that the ceiling is "sky", thus (theoretically) discouraging them from building nests there. Other theories include that it's an omen of good luck, that it helps create an illusion of extending the day or that it repels evil spirits.

After

The old black shutters have been removed to better highlight the impressive front windows and framing. Vintage metal porch furniture and a pair of white ceramic urns with potted evergreens help complete the look, making for a functional and spacious front porch.

Living Room: Before

The interior had walls that were dingy and stained, but the original hardwood floors were in fairly good shape and salvageable with some simple refinishing.

Living Room: After

For the interiors, Erin went for a color palette alternating between medium blue and white – echoing with the home’s new exterior – and shades of yellow-gold, a favorite of Judi's.

Living Room: Before

The simple, classic fireplace was consistent with the period of the home but, along with the adjacent bookcase with damaged rear panel, could use some sprucing up. Erin recommended adding a matching bookcase on the opposite side of the fireplace to create a balanced look.

Living Room, After

The single bookshelf beside the fireplace has now been expanded, now with matching built-in units on either side of the fireplace and extending to the ceiling.

Living Room, After

The fireplace is freshly painted to match the trim, molding and updated shelving, and has been upgraded with working gas logs.

Living Room, After

A basic unstructured sofa in a neutral flax-beige is dressed up with throw pillows that pick up on the overall blue and gold color scheme, also in evidence in the living room's area rug and full-height window treatments.

Living Room, After

The soft interplay between yellow-gold and faded blue is a theme that runs throughout Erin's design for this home.

Living Room, After

The original French doors were retained and open onto what is now Judi's music room.

Living Room, After

For wall art, Erin incorporated some original pieces by one of Judi's favorite artists, Kim Whitt.

Spoiler Alert: Another custom feature in the renovation is the artistic creation of another member of the Whitt family. More about that later.

Living Room, Detail

Mississippi-based artist Kim Whitt specializes in abstract expressionist landscape paintings in oil — as well as unique woven collages like this one.  Whether it's through painting or woven pieces, her works are intended to suggest landscapes.  According to her website, Whitt is influenced by painters Mark Rothko and Wolf Kahn and, through both her paintings and weavings, her emphasis is in “exploring our intuitive sense of place through the use of color, line and shape.”

Music Room, Before

This space just off the living room originally served as a front bedroom.

Music Room, After

Because music plays such an integral part in Judi's life, as well as that of her son Allen – a graduate student in classical music – Erin's design incorporated this music room including wall-mounted guitars, an upright piano and other music-themed elements.

Music Room, Before

Music Room, After

The music room is an informal and functional extension to the living room, with hardwood flooring in dark stain contiguous through both spaces.

Music Room, Before

Music Room, After

The French doors, now flanked on either side by matching built-in cabinets, provide visual continuity and symmetry for the transition between the music room and living room.

Music Room, Detail

Based on inspiration from Erin, Ben created this unique shadowbox using the internal components of an old piano that he had disassembled earlier to create a desk from the piano’s body. The hammers, dampers and supporting rail from the piano are mounted inside a custom oak cabinet with glass front. The sculptural and dimensional nature of the piano components, displayed in this creative manner, makes for interesting and thematic wall art.

Dining Room, Before

The dining room, located off the living room, was oblong in shape but relatively small and confining.

Dining Room, After

The remodeled dining room, with white walls and statement chandelier, has a whole new feel. A showcase feature is glass-front custom china cabinet painted in the home’s signature slate blue. The kitchen and dining room get matching crown molding in an elaborate profile made using a four-element design. "I want the trim to really be a focal point in this house," said Erin.

Dining Room, Before

The odd configuration of the windows on this dining room wall was a bit awkward and a visual challenge.

Dining Room, After

Updated window treatments, along with blue paint for the window casings and trim, give the grouping of windows a more natural and integrated look.

A Man With a Plan

Ben’s special custom contribution to the dining room is the handcrafted wooden banquette with bench seating and a tall wood-panel back. The custom piece, crafted by Ben at his woodshop Scotsman Co., will not only become a star attraction in the finished room, it's an elegant solution for filling the bare space below the smaller center window.

Historical Connections

The components in Ben's custom banquette are yellow pine salvaged from the vintage wooden bleachers from Laurel’s Northeast Jones High School gymnasium — where Judi had formerly been a schoolteacher. (Since the wood came from gym bleachers, prepping of the reclaimed pine did require removal of a lot of hardened chewing gum.)

A Woodworking Tip from Ben: A power planer is very effective for removing petrified chewing gum from wood surfaces.    

Dining Room, After

Ben also crafted the dining room table using solid maple, the same stock used for the kitchen island.

Dining Room, After

The new floor plan called for maintaining the cased opening at the living-room end of the dining area, and removing a wall at the opposite end, opening the space onto the kitchen. With the dining room opened up, the two combined areas become a more functional space for gathering and entertaining.

Kitchen, Before

The wall and cabinetry at this end of the dining room gets removed to open the space onto the kitchen.

Kitchen, After

Removing the wall between the dining room and kitchen made room for a sizeable kitchen island that’s ideal for gathering and casual dining. The island is made from solid maple with a white quartz countertop.

Kitchen, Before

Prior to the renovation, the kitchen had no appliances, no cabinetry to speak of and suffered from aged and peeling wallpaper, yellowed linoleum flooring, dated countertops and inadequate storage. Removal of the linoleum flooring would reveal the original pine floors that were in good condition.

Kitchen, After

One kitchen window was sacrificed, closing it off to create more wall space to accommodate additional cabinetry. The new cabinetry is custom designed with upper units that extend to ceiling height. The custom range hood with wood-panel exterior provides pleasing contrast with the surrounding blue cabinets and, in such large scale, adds a visually dramatic touch.

Kitchen, After

Erin totally re-envisioned the once desperately-drab kitchen — with a fun and whimsical palette including all blue cabinets that play off the white stone countertops and white backsplash. This window, and the impressive cabinetry surrounding it, becomes the focal point of the space.

Kitchen, After

Bright red kitchen stools at the island reference the Americana theme alongside the blue cabinets and white countertops. Substantial crown molding, painted blue to match the cabinetry, adds elegance and a dramatic flair.

Kitchen, After

The tile backsplash has the classic look of pressed tin but is actually porcelain tile.

Hallway, After

A utility space adjacent to the kitchen, in the new floor plan, gets reconfigured to create this new hallway and mudroom. The modified layout provides more privace for the master bedroom and better definition of spaces.

Hallway, After

The hallway, which accesses the kitchen at one end and laundry room at the other, also has a doorway providing a more proper and logical access to the attic stairs. (Access to the stairs had previously been via a sliding door in a bedroom.) Modification of this space to frame in new doors required cutting through six layers of old wall, beadboard, plywood and paneling — much of it added over the years in prior renovations.

Laundry Room, Before

This utility space, originally part of the kitchen, was an awkward annex that served little purpose. 

Laundry Room, After

Reconfiguring the utility space allowed for the creation of this combination laundry-room/half-bath with sliding pocket doors.

Master Bedroom, Before

The bedroom, prior to the renovation, had stained wall-to-wall carpeting, peeling wallpaper and dated wood paneling. In an odd twist, the double doors opened, not onto a closet, but to stair access to the attic.

Master Bedroom, After

A doorway into an adjacent hallway was replaced with a wall to create a master bedroom with a more private feel. The remodel also called for closing off the attic-access doors and, in the bedroom itself, adding new drywall painted in pale butter-yellow.

Master Bedroom, Before

Master Bedroom, After

The décor for the master is kept fresh, bright and natural, with a colorfully patterned duvet and pillow shams, and framed botanical prints.

Master Bedroom, After

Master Bath, Before

One of Judi's top wish-list items was a luxurious master bath. This existing bathroom with its walls painted in neon yellow and trim in dark red, most definitely did not fit the bill.

Master Bath, After

The bathroom gets a thorough facelift with a new color scheme of crisp white and pale blue including a colorful shower curtain with marbled print. The beveled glass window at the rear of the shower is a custom creation of John Whitt, a close friend of Judi's and a local artisan with Sweetwater Stained Glass in nearby Moselle, MS. The colorful shower curtain helps visually frame the window, highlighting the new focal feature in the bath.

Master Bath, Before

The bathroom, prior to the renovation, was in seriously bad shape and showing its age.

Master Bath, After

The bathroom gets transformed with a new vanity and all new fixtures. The formerly bright-red trim and molding is painted in fresh white, and the old brown laminate floor is replaced with white penny-hex tile — a classic look for homes of this period. An adjacent space gets modified and expanded to create a large master closet and dressing room.

Master Bath, After

John Whitt's custom leaded-glass window incorporates three varieties of glass: clear bevels for the diamond-shaped pieces on the outer edges, and textured glue-chip glass alternating with translucent milk glass to create the crisscross pattern. In addition to the custom window, the shower gets white subway tile surround and, in lieu of a shower niche, glass quarter-round corner shelves.

Welcome Home

Judi was not a fan of red doors – which was part of Erin's original vision for the home exterior. Erin’s slightly modified design replaced the red front door with one in soft orange – still providing a playful counterpart to the slate-blue base color. 

Before

The "Overstreet House" offered the kind of vintage appeal that Erin and Ben hoped to find for Judi, but the plain all-white exterior downplayed and essentially obscured some of the home's best attributes, making the exterior seem featureless and drab.

After

As the newly re-imagined "Holifield House", the home's visual potential comes to life with a fun and vibrant profile that highlights key features and accents. “It's so perfect for [Judi]," said Erin. "It's the right size and the right place, at the right time. I think it feels just like her, and I hope she feels at home.”

The Reveal

Judi and Allen prepare to get their first look at the newly renovated home.

The Reveal

Judi gets her first look at the home interior, including the living room and its statement fireplace and built-in bookshelves.

The Reveal

Judi checks out the dining-room banquette that Ben custom made and learns the history of the wood used to build it – salvaged from gym bleachers in the local high school where Judi had once been a schoolteacher.

The Reveal

Erin and Ben present Judi with a framed print of the house-portrait Erin created as the guiding inspiration for the home's renovation.

The Reveal

I absolutely love the fact that it looks like a home again, instead of a forgotten piece of property.
— Judi Holifield

A Surprise Drop-By

Laurel mayor Johnny Magee and other representatives of the city stop by to welcome Judi to her new home and present here with a symbol of appreciation for her ongoing work in the preservation and revitalization of the city's downtown and historic features.

Y'all Please Come Back!

Keep visiting HGTV.com/HomeTown for more galleries and other exclusive content — including two all-new digital series that provide exclusive behind-the-scenes insights with Erin and Ben as well as additional detail on the Home Town projects and designs. And watch for Season 4 of Home Town, coming your way in early 2020.

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