After we published this post in 2014, it took on a life of its own! Erin and Ben Napier now have an HGTV show, Home Town, and a bustling storefront in Laurel, the Laurel Mercantile. We are so proud of them and happy to be a small part of their success! Please enjoy this look inside Erin and Ben’s home…
Ladies, I am having a hard time gathering my thoughts as to how to introduce today’s guest – there’s just so much I want to say!! Erin, the genius wedding invitation designer behind Lucky Luxe, popped up on my radar a few years ago, when I stumbled upon the story of how she and her husband came to own their home. Walking through a favorite neighborhood with her future husband discussing their dream houses sounded so similar to one of my favorite pastimes that I instantly felt a kinship. I also fell in love with her blog, where she documents the good things that happen every single day of her life.
So when we were brainstorming folks to reach out to for our Southern Newlywed feature, Erin was at the top of my list. And then she turned in her interview answers, and they were even better than I had hoped – I kept whispering yes, yes, yes!! to myself as I read through them! From the way she and Ben do dinner to the way they do chores, I think her outlook on life and marriage is really refreshing and inspiring, and I hope you do, too.
And, of course, it probably goes without saying, but the Mississippi home these two have created is AMAZING – I think you’ll enjoy taking a peek inside it, too :)
Who lives in this lovely home? Ben and Erin Napier, married 5.5 years.
Tell us your love story in one sentence. After secretly crushing on each other for a year, I was assigned to design a story feature on “Big Ben,” the most popular guy on campus, for our college yearbook, so we hung out that Thursday afternoon and said “I love you, let’s get married” on Monday.
What is your favorite part of being married? Oh man! So many things! Just belonging to Ben and sharing his last name makes my heart feel fluttery. How many people marry the biggest crush they ever had? I never forget that. Actually, the way we share everything, come to think of it. We share our work (he helps me at Lucky Luxe, I help him with youth ministry) and we share every meal every day. We’re rarely apart from one another since we both work within a two-block radius of home. On Saturdays, we always have burgers and cherry Sprites for lunch at the old Phillips Drive-In downtown. We collect antique cars and take my 1971 VW Beetle convertible, his 1962 Chevy pickup, and 1964 Pontiac Catalina (which belonged to my grandfather, then my daddy, now Ben) to car shows. Sharing our families, our home, our interests, our cereal, our books and music, and never having to deal with life on my own–that’s what I love about being married.
Do you rent or own? We rent a loft in downtown Laurel that was our first home after our wedding. As Lucky Luxe grew, it took over the loft, so we bought the yellow 1925 craftsman cottage I’ve been in love with since junior high in our historic district. It’s two blocks from the loft and we were still too sentimental to let the loft go, so we just kept it for my studio. Now, we’re working on building a little garage in our backyard so Ben can do mechanics and build furniture out there. Living in Mississippi affords you many great things–one of which is the crazy low cost of real estate!
What most makes your house feel like home? In most of the rooms in our house, you’ll find gallery walls of old photos of our grandparents and parents from the 1940s through the 1970s. None of them are in color, and they make us smile when we see them. For instance, there’s one of my daddy’s parents in their 20s, in their swimsuits at the lake, leaning against a 1940s Buick mid-laugh, holding a watermelon. My grandfather is making a face that looks like he just said something flirty and off color to my grandmother. They aren’t old–they’re just like us, now. Every photo is a one-of-a-kind work of art. We don’t want pictures of ourselves hanging around to stare at–we can see each other in real life any time.
Who cooks dinner? My cousin, Jim, married my college roommate, Mallorie. They have a baby girl, Lucy, and they live a couple houses down from us. They’re our best friends and we share dinner with them on our porch or in their 1912 city farmhouse almost every night of the week. Sometimes I cook, sometimes Mallorie cooks, but no matter who cooks, we make enough to feed us all. Most nights, we’re too tired and just eat out. Ben is the master of skillet meals. He can take random ingredients like mushrooms, eggs, chicken, sausage, and salsa and make something incredible.
What is your go-to weeknight meal? Weekend meal? I’m the Italian cook in our little crew, so if I’m fixing dinner, it’s going to be something rich and saucy, like spaghetti and homemade meatballs, pasta Roberto (a sausage and red bell pepper pasta with creamy tomato sauce), or my mama’s lasagna. On the weekend, we’re usually grilling.
What’s your favorite place to find recipes? I have a few sources for meals that hit the spot every single time. Obviously, The Pioneer Woman is one, and my favorite cookbooks are La Cucina (by the Italian Academy of Cuisine), An Italian Palate (by Robert St. John–the pride of Mississippi!), and Bell’s Best.
Which items from your wedding registry do you use the most often? The kitchen stuff gets used every single day, particularly our Tag bubble glass drinkware and our Biltmore knife set. I never would’ve splurged and bought myself a KitchenAid stand mixer, but that was a post-wedding gift from our friend, Mickey, a chef, and I don’t know how I lived without it before. You can dump anything in there and it’ll make magic. Also, someone gave us a mattress pad that keeps you cool all night while you sleep. That’s solid gold when you sleep next to a 300 lb. furnace.
What different decisions, if any, would you make for your registry if you knew then what you knew now? I would have registered for a really good toaster oven. Can you believe I forgot to? We’ve had bad luck in the toaster arena. They never work as well as the one I grew up making grilled cheeses and English muffin pizzas in. One thing I’d advise: we registered for really nice Ralph Lauren towels in white and light blue. The blue ones mildewed after a year, no matter how many washings they got, and now they’re just shop towels, but you can bleach the white ones every wash and they never mildew or stain. We’ll be using those same towels when we’re retired. Register for white towels, people!
Tell us about the process of moving in together. The thing that I think makes our home style work is that every room is anchored by a masculine thing. In the living room, our side table is an old, warped, oiled and worn butcher’s chopping block. In our bedroom, it’s the antique soldier’s cedar chest at the foot of our bed and the hulking armoire Ben and daddy built. In the kitchen, it’s the old wooden Brehmer’s Pub sign and the cotton factory pulleys that our lights hang from. I love white, linen, hydrangeas, patterned wallpapers, and antique floral engravings, but if that’s all our house was, the look would fall flat and be totally unoriginal. Every room needs to reflect a little ruggedness to feel like it’s really OUR house, I think, right down to the Civil War portraits and Hemingway books that live in the all-white half bath under the stairs.
Where do you splurge and where do you save when decorating? Ha! I hardly ever splurge. We like shopping flea markets and architectural salvage, or Ben builds things himself. I’m not impressed by money or expensive things. My sofa is a crazy comfy hand-me-down from mama and we had a custom white denim slipcover made for it. All of the old family portraits of our grandparents and parents are in mismatched brown frames we found at dollar stores all over town. My work desk was a $30 Craigslist find. If we do splurge, it’s because we just couldn’t live without it or couldn’t find a less pricey comparable option. The short list: our Restoration Hardware linen bedding and Jamison latex mattress (good sleep makes life worth living, y’all), and the stately portrait of Tony Soprano and his race horse in our dining room that was used in the HBO show. Other than that, if it’s in our house, we probably found it on the side of the road.
What is one small way you love or serve your spouse? If I’m awake first, I go start his coffee. I’ve got to have a real Coke first thing when I wake up, but he’s very attached to his coffee. He swears nothing makes him feel more loved and it’s an easy thing for me to do for him. He runs a bath for me every night before bed, always.
How does your family handle finances? We’re hardcore about tithing. We give to our church, no matter what, every single week, and our needs have always been met. Ben always says, “In the same way that prayer focuses us spiritually, tithing focuses us financially.” When you give up what controls you (money) and put your faith in God, He always provides. If you do it with confidence and without bitterness or worry, it’ll change your life. Ben also sets aside a couple hundred dollars from every paycheck for our vacation fund because we love to travel. When it’s time to buy plane tickets, it feels like, “Hey! Free trip!” We generally don’t spend money unless we really need something, or we might spend a little more if we’ve had a great week with Lucky Luxe. Otherwise, we save everything we can and invest it in mutual funds, our IRAs, and real estate trusts at the end of every year. Jim is a financial advisor and is helping us build a really nice little nest egg already, even at 28 and 30 years old. If you get a financial advisor, you’ll thank yourself later. They’re worth every penny, and it’s not even many pennies!
Before getting married, I wish someone had told me… how hard it would be to plan Christmas. No matter what, since our families live four hours apart, one of our mamas won’t have all her babies at home on Christmas morning. To make sure it’s fair, we alternate Christmas morning every other year (and every other year, I still cry over it), but it’s always wonderful no matter where we spend it. There’s going to be good food and and our favorite people in the world either way–it’s just SO tough to coordinate with siblings and their families. I urge you to put it on your calendars to make a Christmas plan in the summer. It’s the best way to cut out the confusion!
What’s your best tip for balancing your relationship and other life priorities? If you can share them, do that. Whether it’s shipping Lucky Luxe orders, making youth sabbath slideshows, or folding laundry, it spreads the burden, lightens the load, and becomes quality time if we’re doing it together. Also, you’ve got to get out of town sometimes. A quick one-day trip to the beach that gives you a little sunburn and sand in your overnight bag clears away so much mental debris.
Do you have a favorite date night idea to share? Well, it used to be aimlessly wandering through Blockbuster, picking up old movies we used to love, usually followed by a trip to Sonic for a strawberry limeade. Thanks a lot, stupid Netflix! Now that college is over, date night consists of dinner with friends. Or not with friends. But always a good dinner. It’s seems trite, but it’s a real pleasure for us. Oh wait, I love Netflix. It gave us House of Cards!
Do you have children? Only a handful of our friends don’t have kids yet, so it’s on my mind constantly, though I don’t feel quite ready for it yet. Lucky Luxe has been our baby since we were married, but as it’s become more sustainable in the last few years, I find we’re talking about babies more. I’m still working on building up my courage for the physical realities (labor?! AH!) of having babies, but it’s definitely part of the plan. If we try and find we aren’t able to, we’ll adopt. It’ll all work out just the way God has planned for us, and thankfully, that means it’s not in our control. That’s all I know for sure.
Which room in your home is your favorite, and why? Does a porch count as a room? We really live on the front porch. We have breakfast out there every morning, my family comes over for porch lunch every Friday, and our friends come over for supper after work. We lie on the porch bed and read on lazy Sunday afternoons. We can hear the church bells playing songs every hour, our neighbors walk by with dogs and babies and kids on bikes, and you can hear live music on the weekends drifting from the restaurant downtown if the wind blows just right. We watch weddings beneath the old live oaks on the lawn of the museum house across the street on Saturdays. Life is always happening from the porch. With the screen doors Ben made for us last fall, the porch now sort of creeps right into the living room–my second favorite room of the house–any time the weather is nice.
In 2014, our family is most excited about… There’s big stuff coming up for Lucky Luxe with our first full-page feature in Martha Stewart Weddings this fall, and we’re planning a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. Every fall, we take a big trip, usually to New England or NYC, but this year, we want to experience California. Would love some tips if any of you other wandering Southerners have some must-see spots between San Fran and San Diego!
What has been the most surprising thing about marriage? I’ve been surprised by how easy marriage is for us. I get that it’s not so simple for everyone, and a lot of people have disagreements on important things like kids and finances, but we haven’t struggled with that. Marriage is our comfort zone and support system; it’s as natural as breathing and just as necessary for making my way through life with all its good and hard times. People say, “Marriage is hard and it takes hard work.” That hasn’t been my experience. I think that if you marry the right person for you, the disagreements won’t feel like work.
Is there anything else about your home or family life that you think our readers would be interested in? You need two books: Streams in the Desert and The Perfectly Imperfect Home. They’ll keep your heart and home in good working order.
Photography: Jean Allsopp