About “Home Town”
If you’re unfamiliar with Erin and Ben Napier, the husband-and-wife team have been hosting HGTV’s “Home Town” since January 2016. Restoring homes in the historic district of Laurel, Mississippi, for a living, Erin and Ben are some of the best in the home restoration sector, and were first approached by the network when their work appeared in magazines such as Southern Weddings.
Erin and Ben met while studying at Jones County Junior College, and would go on to enroll at the University of Mississippi. The lovebirds tied the knot in 2008 and have since had two daughters: Helen born in 2018, and Mae in 2021.
In November 2019, HGTV announced the premiere of the show’s first spin-off, “Home Town Takeover”. The six-episode spin-off saw the Napiers take their talents to Wetumpka, Alabama, and renovate various public spaces and homes in the town. “Home Town Takeover” was renewed for a second season which was filmed in Fort Morgan, Colorado. A second spin-off, entitled “Home Town: Ben’s Workshop”, premiered on Discovery+ in January 2021.
It’s undeniable that Erin and Ben’s work speaks for itself. According to Agent Wealth Hustle, in 2023, “Home Town” was ranked the most popular and best real estate show for real estate agents to watch. Meanwhile, the couple have forged stable careers for themselves thanks to their talents, with many publications and news outlets praising their drive and perseverance to tackle even the toughest of projects.
In April 2023, the Napiers made headlines after suffering a devastating loss. Many fans were immediately curious and wanted to know what had happened: had someone close to the couple passed away?
As it happens, there was a death linked to “Home Town”. One episode featured a beautiful story of three siblings buying a home together in Laurel, Mississippi, in order to have a place to stay whenever they visited their parents. The Paulsen siblings – Pam, Jennifer, and Tom – took a liking to Erin and Ben immediately, and the feeling was mutual. All parties were equally enthusiastic about the project, and the renovation works for the Victorian manor the siblings had purchased went by without a hitch.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when the Paulsen patriarch passed away a few days after the project was completed. It was definitely a bittersweet moment for the Paulsen siblings, as their father was one of the only links they had left to their hometown of Laurel. The final credits of the episode were a brief tribute to Thomas J. Paulsen, who was born in 1939 and died at 83 years of age.
Thomas’s obituary describes him as a sharp and witty man who loved the outdoors, flying, and motorcycles. His many interests included cooking, fishing, history, and NASCAR, and while his job wasn’t specified, the obituary confirmed that Thomas travelled around the world for work. A talented craftsman and avid reader, he is sorely missed by his family, who will be holding a memorial place on the beach in Alabama in summer 2023.
Viewers of “Home Town” were left reeling by Thomas’s death, after seeing how much hard work went into renovating his children’s new home. In an Instagram post about the project, Erin claimed that the producer of the show called it his “all-time favorite episode” thanks to its layered stories and hometown nostalgia. The renovated mansion will also be featured in a print edition of House Beautiful. As mentioned, Erin and Ben give each project their all, and no expense was spared for the Paulsens.
Some of the unique touches Erin and Ben added to the mansion included hiring Shelley Bolton, an abstract artist who was born and raised in Laurel, to create an original painting for the home. When the Paulsen sisters discovered that Shelley had painted the view of their parents’ driveway, they choked up from their sheer emotion.
As for Ben and the team at the Scottsman General Store & Workshop, they created a huge expandable round table that could fit up to ten people, seeing as the Paulsen siblings were hoping to stay at the weekend home with their children and spouses. The center of the table featured a unique star design made of wood salvaged from a basketball court at the University of Mississippi, which the Paulsen children considered especially touching, as they had all studied there.
“The whole goal of this project and the way we renovated it was to restore and return it to what it was – what we think it was,” Erin told House Beautiful. Hopefully, the siblings and rest of the family enjoy the home for years to come, and so keep Thomas’s memory alive.
Some of Erin and Ben’s best projects include the sleek linear loft they built in a memorable season six episode. Moving away from their typical classic and cozy style, and going for an edgy and urban look, Erin and Ben helped a local architect, Michael, purchase a 1930s building for $230,000. The spacious property had room for an office on the first floor and an apartment upstairs, but Michael wanted the home to have a minimalist, sleek feel – a far cry from Erin’s usual projects.
Erin and Ben worked wonders with a generous $100,000 budget while stepping out of their comfort zone. The end result was a modern and unique space which blew away Michael and the viewers, and demonstrated the couple’s creative range. “Michael’s apartment is unlike anything else in downtown Laurel,” Erin confirmed upon completing the project. “There is nothing like this. It feels like we’re somewhere in Manhattan.”
Laurel architect Michael McKinnon is looking for a downtown building where he can work and live. Ben and Erin will have…
One of Michael’s requests was for a shower to be fitted into the upstairs half-bathroom. The Napiers made the shower one of the home’s focal points, using a slatted wood wall and glass to give the shower a mid-century modern aesthetic. Meanwhile, the couple also knocked down the double doors that separated the living room from Michael’s bedroom, installing a slat wall instead. These, and other remarkable features such as a secret wardrobe, made the episode unforgettable for long-time viewers of the show.
The latest season of “Home Town” aired in late April 2023 on HGTV. For now, the network has yet to confirm an eighth season.