Home Town: Gone Coastal

Erin and Ben help Laurel newcomers Mike and Gwen transform a plain, post-WWII brick home, giving it a distinctive and vibrant new look, a coastal color theme and a beach-cottage vibe.

The Douglas Project

Ben and Erin Napier transformed this home on one of Laurel's nicest streets, taking it from an ordinary brick house with lackluster exterior to a neighborhood gem with a fresh, white outside and, inside, a coastal color theme that draws on blues, greens and sandy grays.

Before

The Crosby House is located in Laurel's historic district on one of the town's most beautiful streets. The house was built in 1962 and was home to William and Ouida Crosby. William was a mill worker in town, and the couple lived here for 40 years. The house is 2,100 square feet and comes three bedrooms and two baths. List price is $110,000. The quaint little house in a Cape Cod style is in good shape structurally, but the plain brick exterior and dated ironwork leave it lacking in visual flair.

After

The exterior gets a substantial facelift with a shingle roof in dark green that provides a colorful contrast to the ivory-white of the brick. "There's just nothing that looks more crisp and fresh than a green and white cottage," said Erin. Other new exterior enhancements include a wood accent above the entrance and a carefully selected shade of yellow for the front door that integrates nicely with the creamy white of the brick.

Distinguished Setting

A walkable neighborhood was a high priority on the clients' wish list, and the street where the house is located provides exactly that, with its corridor of regal and long-established oak trees.

Meet the Homeowners

Mike and Gwen Douglas are ready to find their forever home. For the past four years they’ve been living in the Cayman Islands but have decided to move back stateside, and call Laurel, Mississippi their home. They’re looking for a house where they can entertain friends located in an appealing neighborhood. Mike’s a cooking enthusiast, so they want a nice kitchen along with a comfortable and inviting living space. Mike is also a musician. (More on that later.) Their budget is $200,000.

Erin's Vision

Erin shows Mike and Gwen her signature house-portrait for the Crosby House detailing how she envisions what the home could potentially could be — enhanced with a few carefully chosen modifications.

House Portrait

"On the roof, I'm imagining a darker green," says Erin. "I don't think this is a sacred, special brick, so I would recommend painting it an ivory color, a deep cream, and then adding some wood where you've got the vine wrought-iron above the front door."

Living Room and Office, Before

The living room is of ample size, and there's an adjacent space that's ideally suited for a home office. Both have hardwood floors that are in good shape. "I just wouldn't change a whole lot," Erin said. "I would probably just update the paint and the light fixtures and the window dressings and then focus more on the kitchen."

Living Room and Office, After

With a large, informal den at the rear of the house, the front rooms become the more formal spaces. "So the front rooms, I just wanted to let them breathe a little bit — let them have a touch more formality ... Like with the tufted settee and the chandelier in the office — but keeping it pretty neutral. The personality we saved for the kitchen and the den."

Home Office, After

With a sleek, contemporary style desk, powder blue walls and wraparound windows with Roman shades, this small alcove off the living room is ideal as a home office/workspace.

Kitchen, Before

The kitchen is a good size and has some appealing features but a few problem spots as well. An oversized island takes up too much of the kitchen's footprint, and the adjacent stairs, lacking handrails, are unsafe.

Kitchen, After

The massive kitchen island was disassembled and the butcherblock top refinished and cut into two pieces that now function as the top for both a banquette table and the new, more compact island. The smaller island is more versatile, suits the space better, and the new configuration improves the kitchen’s overall flow.

Kitchen, Before

"We want to keep everything that's really cute and good about this kitchen," said Erin, "and just make some minor adjustments."

Kitchen, After

The kitchen gets brightened up with fresh, white wall paint, white stone countertops and a new farmhouse sink.

Kitchen, After

The show-stopper in the kitchen is the wraparound tile backsplash and custom vent hood in natural wood finish. "[The backsplash tile] was a choice that made me feel like it's connected to the ocean," said Erin. "The colors in the tile and the warmth of the wood — it all should make you think of sand and driftwood and a day spent by the ocean."

Kitchen, Detail

The renovation retained the original cabinetry, helping to keep kitchen reno costs low — but it’s given a fresh, clean look, painted in pale gray and retaining the brushed nickel hardware. "I love the cottage feelings you get in the house," Erin said, "and I want to really emphasize that even more."

Kitchen, Detail

Kitchen, Detail

"We kept the original cabinetry," explains Erin. "That was the good thing about this kitchen that we loved and we didn't want to lose."

Kitchen, Before

The stairs adjacent to the kitchen were visually awkward and, with no handrails, a safety hazard.

Kitchen, After

Ben and Erin added a wall to enclose the stairs — providing the added benefit of defining a new space that's the ideal spot for a banquette with bench seating that also provides extra storage.

Kitchen, After

The newly finished wood flooring has a striking grain pattern making the floor an even more distinctive and eye-catching feature. The beach theme extends into the wall art selected throughout the kitchen and living room, and the space is attractively lit with recessed lighting and a new chandelier above the banquette.

After

A wall at the rear of the kitchen gets opened up to create an enlarged cased opening that provides an expanded sight line into the den.

Den, Before

Located just off the kitchen, a large den has brick floors and grass-cloth wall covering that’s in good shape.

Den, After

Erin's design plan for the den facilitated dual use for the large space, creating two distinct functional areas. The main portion provides a casual living space and the remainder as a dining area. The large footprint of the room also allows for the addition of a new gas-log fireplace.

Den, After

Erin recommended keeping the grass cloth as it’s an elegant (and expensive) wall covering, it adds texture and is in keeping with the coastal vibe that Gwen loves.

Fireplace Detail

The newly added ventless fireplace gets a reclaimed-wood beam mantel, traditional wainscot panel above and a decorative tile surround.

Fireplace, Detail

The patterned tile in crackle finish was selected specifically for its vintage look.

Den, Before

Den, After

With the newly added fireplace and updated trim, along with the existing brick floor and textured wall covering, the combination den and dining area has a warm, inviting and homey feel. “It's just the best room in the house,” said Erin.

Den/Dining Area, After

Neutral tones with pops of blue, informal and comfortable furnishings and a rustic wood dining table all contribute collectively to the casual, coastal theme.

Back Patio, Before

The den opens onto a backyard patio that, with some tweaks and enhancements, could be ideal for outdoor entertaining.

Back Patio, After

Ben and Erin create an inviting and versatile outdoor-dining and entertaining space, removing the pair of dark and dry-rotted awnings, adding back a single one with green and white stripes, replacing the dilapidated fence and creating a barrier wall between the carport and backyard. The barrier wall also provides a backdrop for a second outdoor eating area with bar seating.

Back Patio, Before

“It’s not the most welcoming,” said Ben prior to the renovation, “but it is great space.” Erin added: “We can fix the welcoming part.”

Back Patio, After

The newly refurbished patio comes with a new cedar privacy fence, outdoor furniture and a pair of large wooden box-planters flanking a new water feature and mosaic tile backsplash.

The Water Feature

The pool portion of the fountain was created by upcycling an old metal propane tank, cutting off one end to fashion a bowl-shaped catch-basin.

Water Feature, Detail

The tile pattern incorporates green and blue on a white background, tying in with the oceanic theme of the home’s new palette and design.

The Reveal

Mike and Gwen get their first look at the renovated exterior of their newly revitalized home.

The Reveal

The place where you live should always be the place that makes you feel whole and happy.
—Erin Napier

Before

Modifications to the exterior would include removal of the exterior-mounted storm windows along with the substantial change in color palette. "Painting the brick was the major game-changer," said Erin.

After

With the cream-white exterior, new green roof and the original front door hand-painted by Erin in pale yellow, the outside of the home takes on a whole new personality. "Before, it looked like a very plain postwar cottage," Erin told Mike and Gwen. "Now it feels like a more old-world cottage. It feels like springtime. It feels like you guys, I think."

Before

The home's original front door is vintage and solid-wood, both desirable attributes in this renovation. However, the plain asphalt gray and white ironwork add little in terms of curb appeal.

After

The yellow door and wood accent breathe new life into the home's front entry. A new outdoor sconce and black paint for the metalwork add visual interest and contrast.

Paint-Color Tip from Erin: Getting the Yellow* Right
"Yellow is tricky," says Erin. "There are so many yellows ... I think that like seven times out of 10, people miss it on yellow ... It's important to make sure that you find a yellow that has just a drop of purple mixed in that neutralizes it. That sounds weird, but that’s the color that makes yellow look 'lived in.'”
(*The name on the paint swatch was, in fact, “Harpswell Green,” though it definitely reads visually as Tuscan or yellow-gold.)

The Reveal

"I love this house, y'all," Erin told Gwen and Mike. "I've seen it since I was a little child [when we were] driving down the street. This is exciting to me because you're the ones who changed it, right? You're the ones who put your mark and your stamp on it — and it looks like you now. And that's really special."

Behind the Scenes

Ben and Erin begin work on the kitchen renovation, removing the old, dark countertops.

Behind the Scenes

Some of the interior doors were inexpensive hollow-core design. Replacing them with solid-wood door would have been cost-prohibitive given the Douglases' budget. Erin worked with a carpenter to add trim pieces to the doors to emulate the historic look of a vintage five-panel door.

Behind the Scenes

Erin does some final staging in the Douglas living room just prior to the reveal. "When I was getting to know Mike and Gwen," said Erin, "the beach came up over and over as the place where they feel happy. I wanted this house to have moments of sea glass, driftwood and sand to feel like that place that makes her happiest."

Behind the Music

As part of this project, Ben added to his arsenal of talents, branching out from woodworker to luthier — undertaking the craft of hand-building guitars. He built this acoustic guitar for Mike with help from friend, colleague and guitar expert Grant Batson.

Behind the Music

"As a woodworker, you're always trying to take it up a notch," said Ben of his venture into custom guitar building. "You're always trying to learn more, do something better." The body of this guitar was made from cedar, maple and African Wenge, an exotic hardwood frequently used in fine guitars for its tonal qualities. The instrument’s copper fret-markers were made using pieces of copper wiring salvaged from the house.

Behind the Music

Mike takes his new custom-built acoustic guitar for a trial run in an impromptu living-room house concert.

Behind the Music

Erin and Mike perform a rendition of "Amazing Grace" during Open Mic Night at Lee's Coffee and Tea in downtown Laurel.

The Water Feature Project

An inspired side-project in this renovation was the creation of the water feature that provides a visual focal point for the backyard landscape as well as the soothing sounds of falling water. Per usual, Erin had a vision and a specific design in mind, seen here in her hand-drawn sketch. For the catch-basin, she wanted a metal bowl, but purchasing a copper or brass kettle of this size would have been costly. Creative ingenuity was called for.

The Water Feature Project

Ben and Erin were able to source this decomissioned propane tank from Ben's friends the Carpenter brothers. This particular style of tank — referred to by the brothers as a "spaceship tank" would, once cut in half, provide the perfect catch-basin for Erin's fountain design.

The Carpenter Brothers

The Carpenter brothers, seen here, are from nearby Ellisville, Mississippi where they are co-proprietors of “The Carpenter Bros. Emporium of Wonderful Whatnots.” (Yes, it’s a real thing.) Their one-of-a-kind establishment specializes in all things odd, vintage, exotic, nostalgic, campy or downright strange. They provided the tank receptacle and other salvage items that served as components in Erin's water feature project.

Flux Capacitor

Incidental note: When not tending their retail business, the Carpenter brothers are at work on a side project: constructing a time machine — elements of which can be seen here.

The Water Feature Project

Before: The brothers divided the metal tank into halves using an acetylene torch then separated the pieces with a pry-bar.

The Water Feature Project

After: With a little outside-the-box creativity, great things are possible.

From the Episode: Uncredited Castmember

Anolis carolinensis — Arboreal lizard native to the southeastern United States. Common names include American green anole, American anole and red-throated anole. Sometimes referred to as the "American chameleon" due to its ability to change its skin color from shades of brown to bright green — though it is not a true member of the chameleon family. Species range includes coastal and near-coastal regions of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Beauty in Context

Once visually plain and unspectacular, the Douglases' newly renovated cottage is now a showplace in one of Laurel's most picturesque historic settings. "It just blends into the beautiful neighborhood and the street," said Gwen.

Hometown Heroes

"The Douglases decided to bring a home back to life on one of the most iconic streets in Laurel's beautiful historic district," Erin said in her online journal. "I think this home had been waiting for them all along."

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