Home Town: Italianate Splendor in the Deep South

Erin and Ben help longtime friends Aly and Jordan Smith upgrade a 1920 home with distinctive Italianate elements, returning it to a classic look with a warm vibe and European inspired touches.

Meet the Homeowners

Jordan and Ally Smith (left) have been friends with the Napiers since college days at Ole Miss. They had been through several moves and were looking for a more permanent home to settle into. Aly, who works with Erin at Laurel Mercantile, prefers homes with a tie to the past and romantic feel. Jordan, who Ben describes as quiet and reserved, is nonetheless up for the adventure of a creative home renovation.

Before

The Thompson House, built in 1920, had once been home to the owner of Laurel's iconic small-town service station. A beautiful old oak tree, one of the home's defining features, and the landscaping had become overgrown. But with its classic brick exterior and large porch, the house offered a lot of promise.

After

The renovation returned much of the home's classic grandeur, replacing the plain white trim with a palette of dark green and classic brick that feels more somber and historic. 

Before

Overgrown shrubs masked much of the home's visual potential, and the upstairs addition with large windows and peeling white paint detracted from the historic profile.

After

"Everything we did, every design decision we made," said Erin, "had to reflect Southern Italianate." Mullion added to the upstairs plate-glass windows helped solidify a more period look. The massive oak tree was retained but trimmed back so that it no longer encroached on the entrance. The landscaping was refreshed, and new Italian cypress added in the front beds.

Foyer, Before

Bright red walls and green wall-to-wall carpeting made the foyer look dated and a little too much like Christmas.

Foyer, After

Erin brings a more soothing and neutral palette to the foyer with white walls, gray woodwork and blue accent trim. An antique Turkish rug used as a stair runner becomes the room's visual statement piece and ties in with the new colors used throughout the renovation.

Living Room, Before

The living room, prior to the renovation, continued the unfortunate color scheme of deep red walls and plain white trim. The dark walls made the sizable living space seem small and closed in.

Living Room, After

Giving the living room a more neutral palette lightened up the space and made it feel larger and more open. 

Living Room, Before

Living Room, After

The distinctive upholstered coffee table was custom created by Ben at his wood shop, Scotsman and Co.

Living Room, Before

Prior to the renovation, faded greenish wall-to-wall carpeting was in the foyer, living room and dining room.

Living Room, After

Removing the old carpet revealed original hardwood floors in highly sought-after quarter-sawn white oak. "In here, we really didn't have to change a lot to make it gorgeous, says Erin. "It was just a matter of paint and uncovering the floors and opening the fireplace."

Living Room, Detail

Tuscan inspired accents and a maple drop leaf table are details that help pull the final look together in the living room.

Living Room, Detail

The table lamps on the mirrored console were some of Erin's salvage finds.

Dining Room, Before

Busy patterned wallpaper, the faded green carpet and old chandelier gave the dining room a tired and dated look.

Dining Room, After

A simple wood dining table, lush window treatments and wicker chairs with upholstered seat cushions make for a warm and inviting dining space. The original painting hung in the corner is the work of Erin and depicts Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's family home in Oxford, Mississippi, and the location where Aly and Jordan first met.

Dining Room, After

Erin selected a deep blue wall color to help create a classic but cozy feel.

Kitchen, Before

The kitchen was the low point in the pre-renovation house, with the garish red walls, absent counter space and an awkwardly placed exterior door. This was the space that would require by far the most work.

Kitchen, After

The space gets reconfigured, with the old exterior door closed off and covered with new ceiling-height cabinets, white tile backsplash and modern stainless appliances that include a double oven and gas range.

Kitchen, Before

Kitchen, After

Wraparound cabinets provide tons of counter space and storage. Other highlights in the kitchen include a matte black canopy vent hood and an enclosure for the cooktop designed to resemble an antique furniture piece.

Kitchen, Before

Kitchen, After

New oak hardwoods had to be installed in the kitchen because of damage to the original floors, but were stained to match the original white oak found in the other rooms. The real star in the kitchen, though, is the Tuscan-inspired custom backsplash designed and installed by Erin. The tiles were strategically placed to create a medallion effect centered perfectly over the stove.

Kitchen, Detail

"[The kitchen] needed a focal point of pattern and color," says Erin. "It reminds me of a tile you would find in an actual Italian kitchen. It's hand-painted and imperfect and colorful and bold...I let the house dictate that design choice because, in an Italian-style home, it's fun to bring in little Italian-inspired accents."

Before

Prior to the renovation, there was an enclosed laundry room rather awkwardly placed in a space between the kitchen and dining room.

After

The exterior door was relocated from the kitchen to the former laundry room, creating a new entrance and mud room with lots of storage cabinets in classic design.

Y'all Please Come Back!

If you enjoyed this Home Town renovation, we've got an inkling you might also like this one: "A Touch of Provence in Southern Mississippi". And keep checking back here for more new galleries, exclusive video and show updates.

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