Home Town: The Sky's the Limit

In a stretch from their usual frugal approach to renovation, Ben and Erin are thrilled — and a bit anxious when a Laurel newcomer enlists their help to create his ideal home with a budget that's essentially ... unlimited. The end result is a grand residence that blends Spanish Colonial influences with a few modern industrial surprises — and one mega-luxurious shower.

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

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Photo By: Laura Good

Your Budget Is What?!

In a big departure for Erin and Ben, the client for this project turns them loose to renovate with abandon and spend essentially as much as they need in order to create his ideal home. Despite what seems like a dream scenario, the abrupt change in approach has its own set of challenges. After all, sometimes being essentially handed a blank check can be a bit intimidating. Undaunted, our renovation heroes persevere — and help their client spend lots of money — at least by Laurel, MS standards.

Before

The Walters House had belonged to Laurel residents Kay and Lavelle Walters. The couple moved there in the late 1970s and lived there for more than 30 years. Built in the 1950s, the house comes with 3000 square feet, three bedrooms, three baths, a private backyard and a pool. It was listed at $199,000.

After

For the redesign, Erin suggested freshening up but retaining the white exterior — a look she considers classic for a house of this period and architecture. Beyond that, the front exterior gets updated with new double front-doors in natural wood finish along with black shutters and window trim for a sharp, contrasting palette. The overall look of the remodel, both inside and out, draws on Spanish Colonial style.

Meet the Homeowner

John Combe, a Laurel newcomer, has travelled extensively and lived all over the world —most recently having spent the last 10 years in Belize. But the idea of small-town life appeals to him. "I'm tired of big, big cities," he says. "I fell in love with this town of Laurel. It's just a place where I can come and relax and just enjoy life." He was looking for a home with 3000 square feet or more and, as an avid cook, he'd like a really nice kitchen. Aesthetically he leans toward contemporary design — even modern or industrial but he's open to suggestions. In terms of budget, he says simply: "Money's no object. The sky's the limit."

Enhanced Exterior

For the exterior transformation, the front columns get updated, replacing the ornate wrought-iron supports with basic wood columns. The old single door with side lights is replaced by impressive solid-mahogany double doors in arched design. The doors were custom made specifically for this house.

Enhanced Exterior

The front porch gets a new brick patio and paver walkway. Other upgrades include recessed lighting and a pair of classic rocking chairs. Mullions on the front and matching bay windows are painted black creating visual contrast.

Maybe We'll Just Put a Door Right Here

Demo day on the Combe project gets underway as Ben and Erin open up new access between the kitchen and main living space. This modification will open up a new sightline extending from the kitchen into the den, including an outdoor view via the expansive den windows.

Upgrades In Progress

Work on gutting the old kitchen begins with removal of the old mirrored backsplash.

Living Room, Before

The existing living room, though dated in appearance, was extra spacious with plentiful windows that, once the wooden blinds are removed, will offer a panoramic view of the backyard and pool.

Living Room, After

The living room is remodeled and enhanced to function as the heart of the home — with plenty of "elbow room," lots of natural light and casually comfortable furnishings.

Living Room, Before

Living Room, After

The living room has a dramatic look, with large scale art and freestanding shelves staged with books, decorative pieces and mementos — including family pics and a framed vintage photo of John's father in pilot's gear.

Living Room, Detail

John's father, pictured here, enlisted in the US Air Force the day after Pearl Harbor and was part of the USAF for thirty hears. His military career is part of what led to John's travelled lifestyle.

Living Room, Before

Prior to the renovation, the floors in the home were all wall-to-wall carpeting and laminate faux tile. New wood flooring and a redesign for the existing fireplace will be among the most notable transformations in the main living area.

Living Room, After

The living room, along with the rest of the newly renovated spaces, gets solid white-oak flooring throughout. The new openings to the kitchen helpunify the two spaces, and the old fireplace is modified to create a plain white stucco design in Spanish Colonial style. Raw wood beams above the doorways create a visual delineation between the spaces.

Living Room, After

A generously proportioned sectional sofa, freestanding bookshelves and framed botanical and avian prints complete the casual and inviting look of the living room.

Living Room and Den, After

The den space just off the living room has large windows wrapping around three sides, providing tons of natural light and a view onto the backyard and pool and new cabana.

Living Room and Den, After

The den, which was an addition to the original living area, was built in 1992. With its raised ceiling and large dimensions, it provides an open space that's ideal for entertaining and is the perfect spot for a pool table. Beneath the old carpeting, the flooring in these adjacent spaces was a combination of '60s-era asbestos tile and '90s-era composite tile glued to the concrete slab. All of that had to be painstakingly removed to make way for the uniform oak flooring that now extends through both spaces.

Creative Upcycling

The pool-cue stand was custom made by Ben and his brother Jesse, repurposing portions of the old newel post that were once part of the old stairs leading to the kitchen. The waterfall-profile console table behind the sofa is another custom Napier-built piece and was made using sections of the old parquet wood flooring that was removed from the home's foyer.

Kitchen, Before

The kitchen had been remodeled and customized in the 1990s in a style that's now visually dated — with square-tile flooring, laminate countertops, mirror backsplash, fluted columns, a cream-white palette and lots of ornamental glass. The renovation includes a thorough makeover of this space, giving it a less ornamental and more minimalist style.

Kitchen, After

The kitchen gets a major overhaul with hardwood flooring, poured concrete countertops with beveled-profile edge, new stainless appliances and expanded island and cabinets — the latter now painted in rich gloss black. The space now has the distinct feel of a true cook's kitchen.

The Kitchen, Before — Lifeless and Listless

The renovation takes this drab kitchen from stale to striking with a bold new palette and sleek, modern design. The cabinets above the range get removed to make way for a custom alcove-style stucco vent-hood with raw-wood accent beam. "The hood vent sets a watermark for us," says Erin. "We've never done anything like this — because we've never had a budget to do anything like this."

The Kitchen, After — Back in Black

"The kitchen — that's where all the drama is." said Erin. "Simplifying, taking away so much trim, then reversing all of that cream to black is such a dramatic transformation. John wanted something a little more industrial. I think this is gonna be the antidote to all the white we're putting everywhere else in the house."

Kitchen, After

The kitchen features new double doors with transom window and a rich natural-wood finish. The open kitchen shelving includes copper pot rails for hanging and displaying cookware. "Concrete, copper, stucco, wood and texture," said Erin. "It's all happening together in the kitchen."

Kitchen Detail, Before

The wet bar, adjacent to the kitchen, exhibited some of the dated ornamental glass and mirror excesses from an earlier renovation.

Kitchen Detail, After

The wet bar kitchen gets a visual makeover with recessed lighting, new open shelving and cabinetry and countertops that match the new additions in the kitchen.

Master Bedroom, Before

Prior to the renovation, the master suite was, as Erin put it, very "era-specific" — with '80s-vintage mirrored walls, beige wall-to-wall carpeting, track lighting in dated design and a separate space for the Jacuzzi syle tub.

Master Bedroom, After

The worn carpeting is replaced with solid oak flooring, and the hot-tub room is converted into a second walk-in closet with built-in dresser and custom shelving. Wall art in the new master bedroom includes framed charcoal figure sketches done by Erin as part of the life drawing classes that she teaches in Laurel.

Master Bedroom, After

Redesign of the master suite, including removal of a wall to enlarge and completely remodel the master bath, was estimated at $41,000.

Master Bedroom, After

Since John doesn't care for the look of dark-stained wood, the wood additions used throughout the renovation — including the oak flooring, wood accent pieces and furnishings — are unstained and finished in their natural wood tones.

Master Bath, Before

Prior to the renovation, the master bath was functional but visually dated, with mirrored tiles and contractor-basic vanity cabinets.

Master Bath, After

The master bath is radically transformed with a new double vanity and a luxury walk-in shower with arched doorway, shower bench, marble walls and Spanish-style tile floor. Shower fixtures include multiple body jets and shower heads in oil-rubbed bronze finish. "It's the biggest and coolest shower we've ever done," Erin said.

 

 

Master Bath, After

The new vanity has a thick marble top mounted on natural wood cabinet that's clear-coated but unstained, highlighting the natural wood grain. The new tile floor in arabesque design has a finish that mimics traditional unglazed Saltillo tile — again in keeping with the Spanish influenced design.

Guest Bath, After

The renovation also includes this guest bath with rich gray-green walls, oak flooring and pedestal sink.

Backyard, Before

The backyard offered plenty of s pace and privacy, but one thing that was lacking was shade. This space, adjacent to the backyard pool, will help resolve that issue as the future home of a new poolside cabana.

Backyard, After

The old decking was removed and a stylish new cabana added to create a functional and relaxing outdoor retreat.

Backyard, After

The new cabana provides a more complete and cohesive look for the space as well as adding a covered dining area.

Backyard, After

Backyard, After

Finishing Touches

Erin does some last-minute staging on John's new poolside dining area. "I hope that John comes in tomorrow and he's completely shocked that this is where he gets to live," said Erin. "I mean, he lives in paradise right now, but I want this to feel special."

The Reveal

John Combes prepares to get a first look at his newly renovated home.

The Reveal

"That's gorgeous," said John. "I'm a little overwhelmed."

At Home in Laurel

"I fell in love with Ben and Erin," said John, "and I love the little town of Laurel." As a newcomer to the American South, John gets pointers from the Napiers on the correct usage and application of the pronoun "y'all."

Before

One of the existing features that Erin was drawn to was the fact that the house had two symmetrical gables, but the building structure itself was asymmetrical.

After

John agreed that the home's asymmetry was visually appealing, and the exterior renovations were largely cosmetic — with the new statement features being the massive mahogany double front-doors and black window trim. Cost for the exterior enhancements came in at around $15,000. The total investment for the Combe project, including the purchase price, was just under $350,000.

Behind the Scenes

Ben and Erin work together on the new doorway to help unify the kitchen and living space.

Behind the Scenes

Ben prepares to get serious with some sledgehammer demo.

Behind the Scenes

The Sound of Breaking Glass

Erin works on removal of the mirror-tile backsplash in the kitchen — making certain that she utilizes the proper protective eyewear.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Y'all Please Come Back

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