Home Town: The Littlest House in Laurel

Erin and Ben remake a long-vacant and crumbling property to create a country cottage that, though small, is a welcoming abode with built-in family connections and history.

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

A Family Affair

Ben and Erin took on a special project for Rena, a Laurel native and small-business owner — also a cousin of Erin. Rena was looking for a small house or cottage, something easy to maintain but with charm and classic appeal. She had lived in several rental houses in Laurel but was now looking to settle down with a home of her own. Her budget was $100,000.

Meet the Homeowner

Rena Register (right) and her best friend Nicki (left) discuss the possibilities for her new home with Erin and Ben.

Before

This house had belonged to Rena's great grandmother, and was available to her, but had been sitting vacant for thirty years and was clearly in rough condition — including a roof that was badly deteriorated, wood rot and aged plumbing. The property, which the family had always referred to simply as “The Little House,” is also directly next door to her mother's home. The house, built in 1948, has two bedrooms, one bath — and,at only 648 square feet, is essentially a "tiny house." Despite the challenges, since the family-owned house was available to Rena at no cost, her entire $100k budget could be spent on renovations.

Erin's Vison

Rena was not only ambivalent about living right next door to her mom, she had a hard time imagining the house being made suitable for living. Erin, however had some ideas that would transform the dilapidated building into a cozy cottage with classic Americana style and timeless appeal. Her vision for the exterior included shifting the position of the front porch to one side to create a modified profile with a cottage-style façade.

After

"I would give it a bright red roof and paint the house white," said Erin, "so it would be these crisp red and white colors that make me think of a farm." Before renovation started, Rena's entire house was actually moved to a different location on the 20-acre property so that the building wasn't in such tight proximity to her mother's house next door. The new location is a beautiful setting nestled in a grove of pecan trees. A new side-porch was also added to provide additional outdoor space to enjoy.

Living Room, Before

Prior to the renovation the living room definitely showing its age — with stained and faded paint, worn beige carpeting and a low ceiling that made the space feel tight and confining.

Living Room, After

The living room has been completely transformed with newly restored wood floors, new sheetrock, a bright color palette and casually comfortable furnishings.

Living Room, After

Erin’s remodel included opening up the living room ceiling into the attic above to create a vaulted space. Accenting the new and expanded scale of the room is a tall antique library ladder that belonged to Rena.

Living Room, After

The new vaulted ceiling, along with fresh white paint and contemporary recessed lighting help turn the small living space into one that feels more open and is visually more dramatic.

Living Room, After

A wall was removed to open the living space onto the newly remodeled kitchen. 

Living Room, After

Removal of the old beige carpeting revealed original pine wood floors that were restored and refinished. The same beautiful and vintage wood flooring also extends into the kitchen as well as the bedrooms.

Living Room, After

Because of the age of the house, and the fact that it had never been updated, the renovation included addition of central heating and air conditioning.

Kitchen, Before

The kitchen had no cabinetry or appliances other than the original sink and antiquated refrigerator. (Erin was struck with a creative idea for the vintage fridge.)

Kitchen, After

The newly remodeled kitchen now boasts all new appliances, custom cabinetry and granite countertops in dramatically patterned gray. The sink is original to the house — a truly authentic farmhouse sink now integrated into the new stone countertops.

Kitchen, Before

Prior to the renovation, the laminate flooring in the kitchen was not only dated but cracked and damaged.

Kitchen, After

One of the kitchen walls was removed, and a cased opening added, to unify the kitchen and living room. "We thought opening it up between the two rooms would make all of it feel so much more spacious," said Erin. "We added the post and beam so it would feel like it was here forever." The laminate floor in the kitchen was pulled up, revealing the original wood flooring beneath.

Kitchen, After

The kitchen features a pantry with a solid wood door salvaged from the property, now installed as a barn-style sliding door. The new backsplash was custom cut for the space in a scalloped design sketched out by Erin. The decorative backsplash uses the same veined granite as the countertops. "Even though your kitchen is small," said Erin, "that doesn't mean it can't be luxurious and have little high-end moments like that."

Kitchen, After

The inlaid wood kitchen table was custom built and finished by Ben and includes a hand-turned pedestal painted in contrasting white. The rustic table is paired with solid wood ladder-back farm chairs with cane seats.

Kitchen, After

Erin characterized the newly reconfigured and upgraded space as "a small but mighty kitchen."

Kitchen, After

Other new highlights in the kitchen include open shelving, recessed lighting and a new vent hood. The unpainted wood used for the cased opening and support beam is milled cypress for a textured and rustic look.

After

In this case in particular, since the original spaces in the home were so small, creating a more open floor plan makes both the living room and kitchen feel larger, brighter and more breathable. 

Master Bedroom, After

The newly refurbished master bedroom with its muted palette makes for a cozy, tranquil and nap-inducing retreat — with walls painted in a shade that Erin describes as "a soothing, sleepy green."

Master Bedroom, After

Erin furnished the space with a classic iron-frame bed, deliberately mismatched nightstands and new full-length window treatments. "I wanted this room to feel modern and vintage, like the [home's] outside — but neutral and comfortable."

Master Bath, After

The house came with two bedrooms but, since Rena would be living alone, she didn't really need a second bedroom, so Erin and Ben's remodel turned the spare bedroom into a generously sized master bath. The original small bathroom was converted into a new master closet.

Master Bath, After

An adjacent space gets turned into a toilet enclosure and compact laundry room with a stackable washer-dryer and pocket doors .

Master Bath, After

The new master bath has a fresh and bright look, with pale blue walls, white trim and patterned blue-and-white wallpaper with a botanical theme. 

The Reveal

Rena Register and her friend Nicki get their first look at Rena's great-grandmother's fully restored (and slightly relocated) house.

Before

“I have a sentimental heart so that’s why we wanted to talk about this house,” said Erin, before renovations had begun. "Maybe you think it's seen better days and it can't be saved, but I think differently. Forget how sad it's become and try to imagine when it was new."

After

Rena's newly restored vintage home has been radically transformed both inside and out. The home, situated in a grove of pecan trees and surrounded by pine woods, now features a redesigned front porch as well as a new side porch for making the most of the country setting. In its new location, the home will have spectacular sunrise and sunset views.

After

The front door has been refurbished and painted in a muted blue. The metal patio furniture had belonged to Rena's great-grandmother and was discovered by Ben in a backyard shed. The furniture was cleaned up and painted in pale pistachio green. A wooden window box custom built by Ben and planted with fresh flowers adds a live green touch.

After

"I thought the red roof was just the most classic color choice possible for this little white house in the country," said Erin. "We wanted it to feel like red- white-and-blue Americana, but also to completely fit into its natural surroundings."

After

Because of the age of the house, and the fact that it had never been updated, the renovation included addition of central heating and air conditioning. "This is the smallest house we've ever done," said Ben, "Making it efficient was really easy. We replaced all the windows and it's got all-new insulation." A bonus feature on the side porch is the vintage refrigerator, salvaged from the old kitchen and still operational. Erin painted the diminutive sized fridge in pistachio green.

Canine Amenity

The home's original small and oddly-shaped tub also gets repurposed, just off the side-porch, as an outdoor doggie bath.

The Reveal

Rena sees her newly transformed living room and re-envisioned kitchen for the first time.

Behind the Scenes

Ben works on building a custom table for Rena's kitchen. The finished tabletop will contain carefully matched segments of mahogany, maple, walnut, oak and pine — edge-glued and refinished to create a striking pattern of varied wood tones.

Behind the Scenes

Erin works on re-painting the vintage fridge from the original kitchen. 

Behind the Scenes

Much smaller than its contemporary counterparts, the vintage refrigerator is will be ideal as a novel lagniappe on the side porch — and handy for keeping cold soft drinks and the like.

Behind the Scenes

Erin assists as Ben installs the vanity in the new master bath.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Ben finds a novel use for the bathroom sink supply-lines.

Behind the Scenes

Ben and Erin work together to install new stone countertops and custom backsplash in Rena's renovated kitchen.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Erin puts some last-minute touches on the living room staging before the final reveal.

A Home Town Portrait

Keep checking back at Home Town Central for more new photo galleries, Home Town news and exclusive video including the special digital companion series, Erin'spired.

Shop This Look