We welcome California natives Deanna and Scott to the Laurel community on this week's episode of Home Town. After years of hoping to retire somewhere more affordable in another part of the country, Scott and Deanna searched all over to find the spot that would be welcoming, lively in art and culture, and provide a sense of belonging after calling the west coast home for years. Little did they know their dream home and newly retired life would be found in south Mississippi, beginning with a random string of events.
Deanna said, "We were set to go on our anniversary trip to Puerto Vallarta, and then the pandemic hit. Our flight out of Mexico was canceled because we couldn't cross the border. We already had a week off work, so we decided to go to Laurel. We were always fans of the show, and we booked an Airbnb and decided to visit with an open mind. We had no preconceived notions; we just knew we'd either love it or not."
She continued, "We fell in love with it. Despite so many things that happened in the first 24 hours with our transportation, people were beyond hospitable. Everyone who we came in contact with, people we had never met, just stepped up the plate and made our stay here absolutely amazing."
Not only did Laurel's hospitable residents impress them, but the reality of affordable living and resources for Mississippi retirees was also unmatched.
Scott said, "As a native New Englander transplanted to California, I never in my wildest dreams thought that Mississippi would be in the cards for us. But as we were doing research, Mississippi was routinely in the top five or ten states that were beneficial to retire in from a structural and tax standpoint, and they're so many services available."
Moving across the country was no easy task for Scott and Deanna, but they decided to leap with the help of Erin, Ben, and the whole Home Town crew. As any homeowner would be in that situation, there were a few concerns about their new home, and Deanna was nervous about the entire process. Would it go smoothly? Would their new home be everything they ever wanted?
Deanna shared, "I wasn't sure I wanted to give up control of what I wanted in the house. He [Scott] was more enthusiastic about it than I was."
Little did the couple know, their house would be even more stunning and custom than expected. Ben and Erin pinpointed their "Mexi-eclectic" style and added a southern comfort to their home that blew Deanna away.
Deanna said, "On the first day, we talked about our style and our love for Mexico; they penned it as though it's like "Mexi-eclectic." We were like, that's exactly what it is! They nailed it."
Scott and Deanna said Napiers' intentionality was undeniable from every encounter and design detail.
She continued, "When we were going through the process, we often emailed about our love for Mexico and Puerto Vallarta, and we had ordered tiles that we were planning to use on our future house. It became kind of a deal-breaker if those weren't used— it was that important to us. They put it front and center on our fireplace and in the kitchen. It meant so much to us."
Besides the reveal of their home, Scott said the usual, friendly conversations with Erin and Ben were the best part of the whole process. As fans of the show that had moved from another state to a new place, it was comforting to know they had found real friends in their new hometown.
Scott shared, "One of the moments that stood out to me was a moment that wasn't filmed when we were at one of the houses. The team took Ben away to do something, and we had about 25 to 30 minutes. We had the chance to sit in a room with Erin and talk like friends. It was a little bit about houses, but it was a lot about life, kids and just things that you would do. It was just so comfortable and it felt like we had known each other for a while."
At the reveal, Deanna and Scott were stunned by the transformation. From the exterior changes to the creative details inside, they were blown away by the kindness and intentionality of Erin and Ben's design.
Ben built two timeless additions for their house that doubled for functionality and beauty. He made a front porch swing and a bookcase made from an original piece in the basement.
Deanna said one of her favorite moments was when they saw the front porch swing made out of bourbon barrels. It was a coincidence, but Ben had created something they were planning to make for their porch months before the reveal!
She said, "Ben said 'Everybody needs a porch swing on a porch like this, and since we were moving from California, he tried to source wine barrels from California, but it was just too expensive. So he reached out to a friend, and he got bourbon barrels from Mississippi instead."
She laughingly noted, "When they first broke the bourbon barrels, he said the whole shop smelled like bourbon. It was a pretty neat moment."
This house is a great launching pad for Scott and Deanna's newly retired life, from the stunning porch to the cozy eclectic living spaces. They say they are most excited to renovate the rest of their rooms and open the doors to share their home with new neighbors soon!
Welcome home, Donnelly-Livingstone family! We're so excited to have them as a part of the Laurel community.