Well, dear reader. I can tell you the really big news we’ve been keeping close all these months, finally. This doesn’t seem real or possible, but that project we were working on all summer? Well…
We’ve been keeping it secret for so long, that it sometimes felt like an elaborate lie we’ve been living all these months. When people around Laurel started finding out they would just stare blankly, not sure what questions to even ask, then eventually, “Are Chip and Jo coming?”
(While they have been amazingly gracious mentors helping us navigate the crazy world of TV, they definitely aren’t coming here. You just get me and Ben. Sorry about that!)
Jim said it’s like trying to drink water from a fire hose, and that’s exactly right. It’s hard to wrap our minds around it, still, and we’ve had over a year to digest it. The small town rumor mill has been hysterical:
“I heard Chad and Joanne from Fixer Upper are moving from Waco and redoing a house on Mason Park!”
“I heard the Property Brothers are doing a show about renovating bathrooms in Laurel, and Erin and Ben brought them here.”
“I heard Erin is pregnant and the Property Brothers are coming here to do a show about designing a nursery for Erin and Ben’s house because they asked them to.”
“I heard Erin and Ben are contestants on a house flipping show about Laurel.”
But here’s the truth:
Ben and I are the hosts of an hour-long HGTV original pilot called Home Town that will be premiering on Sunday, January 24 at 12pm est/11am cst! It’s a show about how we’re helping a new family find an old house in our historic little town, bringing them into the fold of our quirky, lovable neighborhood, and bringing together a team of local architects, builders and craftsmen to use our design and vision to restore the old house.
That new family happens to be Ross and Laura, a couple who moved to Laurel recently and have been living on the far north side of town for a little while, but fell in love with the historic district in recent months and decided to make the move closer to the heart of the city. Ben and I aren’t home flippers, we’re just a woodworker and an artist who love our town and want to see it brought back to life the way it was in Laurel’s hey-day, and with the help of our friends, we’ll do just that. If people like our pilot episode, then we just might get picked up for a series!
It’s crazy. I know.
Maybe you remember the first part of this story. Last June, Lindsey started following me after Southern Weddings posted images of our house on instagram. Unbeknownst to me, she was an executive at HGTV and I certainly didn’t know she would be someone very special to us someday. Late at night on July 27, 2014, Lindsey emailed us and said, “Have you ever thought about doing anything on TV? Would you be interested in that?” to which we responded, we’ve absolutely never thought of that, but we are interested if you are interested. I mean, hello!
Lindsey is an executive in charge of original programming at HGTV in NYC and is the boss lady of some of America’s favorite shows like Fixer Upper and Property Brothers. Since then, after daily texts and trips together in NYC, Waco and Laurel, she’s become a very dear friend.
When she found my photos on Instagram, she felt like Laurel was special. Something about our little town gave her a gut feeling that she needed to reach out, that something was here for her, and something about our small town life could make people all across the country nostalgic for a place they’ve never even been. She’s been a cheerleader for us and our city in immeasurable ways because she saw what we see, and has the ability to share that with the world in ways we could only dream of. Isn’t that kind of a miracle? It’s like mama was trying to figure recently—what are the odds of Laurel being chosen for a television show, and furthermore, what are the odds of one of the hosts being her daughter? The odds are infinitely small. They’re odds only God could have created.
And so Lindsey set us up with our amazing production company, RTR Media from Canada, we did the sizzle in November 2014, and on December 17, 2014, on our way home from meeting her in New York with Jim and Mallorie, we got the phone call that the network loved our sizzle… They were ordering a pilot to begin filming in the spring! And we were stunned…We had fallen in the pudding and had no idea how it happened.
In January, per Lindsey’s urging, we threw a hail Mary in hopes of convincing the incredibly talented producers of Fixer Upper seasons 1 and 2 to come on board for our pilot even though they were planning to take a long break after the shoot schedule they’d been on for the last 2 years. Thanks to an amazing video and the heartfelt care package full of letters and gifts from everyone in Laurel we could think of, they said “Yes!” and put Laurel on their calendar for filming. We were over the moon.
At this point, our production company began months of casting all the way from Canada. It was a slow process of them interviewing candidates via Skype who met all the criteria of the perfect Home Town folks with a certain kind of budget, home and renovation in mind. The couple who met all that criteria were Ross and Laura:
Let’s get the soundtrack right before you read on… You need to know that Zac Brown Band’s Jekyll and Hyde (Homegrown in particular) is literally the only album we listened to day in and day out of this crazy amazing summer.
“I’ve got some good friends that live down the street
Got a good looking woman with her arms ‘round me
Here in a small town where it feels like home
I’ve got everything I need and nothing that I don’t
That was our anthem.
The first week of May, the producers from NYC, Texas and Canada and the camera crew started rolling into town for their 2-month stay. May 14 was the first full shoot day with Lindsey, 2 cameramen (Tim and Freddy), 1 sound man (Brian), 1 camera assistant (Mik), 1 creative head/executive producer (Jenna), 1 line producer (Michael), 2 executive producer/directors (Stephen and Lauren), 1 director (Angie) and 1 production coordinator (Miranda) and 1 production assistant (our little brother Jesse). Did you wonder why he was here all summer? We had craft services for lunch each day and our favorite snacks (trail mix and Coke Zero) were never far away during the long hours thanks to Miranda, who made sure to always have a portable grocery store on set and a dry paper towel handy for Ben’s soaking wet brow:
Jim, Mallorie, Josh and Emily were so important to the show, helping us with projects and making Ross and Laura feel like part of the family. You know we can’t do much without our framily.
Here’s my photo journal from our great summer adventure. It makes my heart feel happy, remembering that strange and magical season of our life that feels so long ago and like it just happened, and maybe like it never happened at all, too.
Lindsey only came for the first week of filming. She’s a true New Yawker who isn’t used to the extreme mosquito situation we’ve got in Mississippi:
Y’all. Real estate day is the HARDEST DAY. Remember that, next time you watch a home renovation show. When they’re looking at houses to choose from, they are EXHAUSTED PEOPLE. Just ask Laura:
On May 12, I did watercolor paintings of my ideas for the homes the Tews were considering:
They couldn’t call Laurel their home town without attending the first movie night of summer! Cameras were rolling all over downtown, and we truly couldn’t have orchestrated something more perfect. The crowds were huge and as expected, Laurelites rolled out the red carpet for the crew everywhere they went:
Notices were posted all over downtown about filming:
The guys took an architectural salvage mission to find the very thing Ben needed for a project:
While Mallorie and I hit all of our favorite antique shops to find things to fluff up the Tews’ interior:
And later, Emily helped Ben do a little research on the house at the city courthouse:
For 8 weeks, Ben was busy building 3 custom pieces of furniture for the house from reclaimed wood that had very sentimental meaning to Ross, while I was getting inspired by Ross and Laura’s personal history and family story and designing a home that felt like their past and their future with plenty of Laurel history stirred into the mix.
We had a porch hang, but you longtime readers know all about those:
Our incredibly talented architect friends, Bill and Luke from Lake and Land, showed us how they had created the perfect layout for the Tews’ new old house:
We did more OTFs. Like, a whole lot of OTFs.
There were fun parties with mountains of good Mississippi cooking for the cast and crew (that’s one of our directors, Angie, on the left, and our line producer, Michael, on the right, and a photobomb by Luke):
A couple days before the reveal, we had dinner with some of our incredible boss ladies from RTR Media:
And then finally, it was reveal day! We showed the Tews their new house after 8 weeks of them not even so much as driving past. They were 100% clueless about what we had been up to!
Me and little brother, who worked SO HARD this summer, y’all. I’m crazy proud of him.
Ross and Laura were very very very very happy to finally see their new house. Many tears were shed.
You know me. I think home is the best place on earth.