Erin Napier Shares the Details of Her Gorgeous Kitchen Renovation
At long last, Erin has the kitchen of her dreams — and she’s bringing us on a walk-through of what it took to get there.
When Home Town’s Erin and Ben Napier bought their 1925 home back in 2011, they inherited a kitchen that was “very well taken care of,” Erin says, tactfully. That said, even the previous owner knew that its unlovely, ‘80s-era look had to go — and the room was at the top of Erin’s renovation to-do list for years.
Yep, we said years, since Erin and Ben had to muster the resources (and mental fortitude) to give the space the extreme makeover it deserved. As “poor newlyweds,” they started with smaller, craftier tweaks that made the space their own.
Erin and Ben being Erin and Ben, those initial moves were still impressive: Ben customized the cabinets and refrigerator surround, and Erin sourced budget-friendly subway tile, pendant lights and butcher-block countertops.
New-to-them appliances arrived via Craigslist, and Ben’s mother offered up a cast-iron sink she’d found at a flea market (it wasn’t especially functional, Erin recalls, “but we made it work because CUTE”).
By the time last fall rolled around (and baby Helen had developed a taste for fresh fruits and veggies), the Napiers’ secondhand fridge was too small, the ceiling leaked, the faucet and the oven had gone rogue… and it was time for The Big Makeover. The Napiers took the plunge and began demolition this Valentine’s Day, and eight weeks later, Erin’s dream kitchen — one that suits her family perfectly — was in place.
She walked us through the fancy (and sometimes very un-fancy) footwork it took to get there — and shared expert advice on how anyone can create a space that works for them.
HGTV: I’m impressed that you were able to find second-hand appliances for your kitchen’s circa-2012 “second life” on Craigslist! Do you have any pro advice on that kind of shopping?
Erin: Ben is a Craigslist scavenger! He would check daily for new appliances and until I found some photographed that looked clean and decent and were stainless, we didn't pull the trigger. We got very lucky and found a [set] that [was] being sold together in a foreclosure! I don't think we even haggled because it was like $1,200 for all of it together and it was all basically brand new. A couple years later, I upgraded to a commercial style oven, but again — found a floor model from Sears that was half price. It was missing one of the knobs, and we found that part online for $30 and it looked good as new. We love buying refurbished and gently used on the big purchases — cars, computers, appliances... Houses!
Q: You noted in your blog post about the renovation that “cute doesn’t matter the way quality does in a room where so much water and heat happens.” How do you sustain the aesthetics of “cute” once you’ve upgraded to more modern quality?
Erin: There's a value and a time and place in your life for going the cute route. When you are young, you make less money than you will a few years down the road. Doing what you can afford that's hopefully aesthetically pleasing is just fine for those early years, because you can (and typically, will) upgrade down the road. It’s important to pace yourself and buy what you can afford WHEN you can afford it. And one day, after you save some money, you can get that big sink that holds the skillet.
Q: Were you at all nervous about having to go without a kitchen for the eight weeks it took to take yours down to the studs and build it up again? [The Napiers set up a temporary kitchen in their dining room during the renovation.]
Erin: I was INCREDIBLY nervous about how we would renovate with a toddler and no kitchen for two months and in fact, it was the main reason we waited so long to do it. But I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that it wasn't a big deal at all. We had the things we needed (a toaster oven, coffee maker, and hot plate) to make breakfast for the three of us each morning, ate off of paper plates, washed the sippies, skillet and coffee cups in the bathroom in five minutes, ate out for lunch and had supper at my parents' most nights. There was no cooking outside of scrambled eggs and toast happening at our house for those two months and I really missed cooking, but we survived without much stress or upheaval.
Q: Can you share any of your historical-research sources for kitchens from the ‘20s that helped you zero in on period-appropriate details, like the stacked square tile with thin grout lines above your countertops?
Erin: A Google image search for the era you're researching is the easiest. I just searched "1920s kitchen" and "craftsman kitchen" and kept clicking the 'similar images' links until I was deep into the rabbit hole.
“Ben built this gorgeous work table from mahogany that's the taller counter height as well and I could cry I love it so much,” Erin says. “Doesn't it look like a family heirloom passed down already?”
Q: Do you feel that it’s important to keep countertop appliances down to a certain number, or that if a gadget is something a person loves, they should just commit the [visual] space to it no matter what?
Erin: I got a pretty inoffensive looking toaster oven and coffee maker because we use them ALL the time. If you use it constantly, find one that isn't an eyesore and leave it on the counter. I think it's silly to try to hide everything we use constantly. Leave it on the counter and don't worry about how it looks, and hide the things you use a little less in an appliance garage. For us, that's the ice maker and microwave.
Q: When it comes to tossing out worry on unmatched metal [fixtures and accessories], is more more? If, say, it looks like a kitchen is going to call for at least two, would you recommend just going for it and skewing as eclectic as possible?
Erin: I think more is always more, but I am a maximalist in every sense! I don't believe people look at a room and pick apart what metals are used. People walk in and just feel the whole of the room, so don't worry too much about it!