The Napiers love to encourage young people to stay in Laurel and invest in their hometown. That's why Erin and Ben were most excited to create Luke Hanna's dream home this season. Luke was excited to finally lay down roots after venturing away in his early 20s, working as a travel nurse and an ICU nurse during the pandemic. His journey back to Mississippi has been an adventure in itself.
Luke said, "I grew up close to Laurel with my parents, and I went to West Jones for elementary, middle, and high school. I went to Southern Miss for nursing for college and graduated with a desire to travel. So I did the World Race and traveled to 11 different countries for 11 months. It was a cool experience to see the world and experience different cultures."
He continues, "After I did the World Race, I didn't feel like I was ready to come back to Mississippi. So I went to Virginia for a Master's Degree and stayed for only a year. I got homesick at that point, but I was still not ready to go back to Mississippi. So I moved to Nashville since my sister is there, and I have some other family that lives there. I worked there in the trauma ICU at Vanderbilt for about a year. That's when the pandemic hit."
The COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world, and frontline responders were the workers that never took a break. Luke remarked that that year almost made him quit nursing forever. It was impossible to avoid COVID, as he would work with dying patients every day and return home only to hear about the effects of COVID all over the country on the news.
Luke says, "During the pandemic, it's been hard. As an ICU nurse in the ICU, I've been kind of traumatized. I moved home just before the Delta variant wave happened, and I just got started at South Central's ICU, which I love. (It's my favorite unit I've ever worked on!) But I had to just survive this variant wave. I watched people pass away every single day, and that was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. The one thing that got me through was having supportive friends and family and having such a beautiful place to come home to and rest. That was a gift I didn't have before."
As an ICU nurse, Luke loves to hike to relieve stress from the weekdays. He's traveled across the United States and the world to see the most beautiful scenery and views. This was one thing he mentioned to Erin and Ben before the design process, and they knew exactly what to do to make him happy.
Luke describes his home, "Erin had asked me about the ultimate color palette for my house, and I gave her vintage national park posters. They made the interior feel like a cabin with the exposed wooden floors and walls with the blue-ish green trim. It was like a big swatch of color with real earthy tones. The mantel and the bookcase just became these focal pieces that make my home feel so comfortable and relaxing."
Luke found more than one surprise waiting for him at the reveal when it came to the kitchen. His grandmother had cooked him a homemade blueberry cobbler as a welcome home gift in his first house.
Luke says the Napiers' intentionality was undeniable from every encounter and design detail.
He says, "When I walked in, I was thinking, 'I don't know how they did this.' But they did! They found my style better than I could have described."
Besides the overall design of the home and the blueberry cobbler, Luke said the builds made by Ben were the best gifts.
Luke shares, "Ben made this little display for my rock collection out of the wood from one of the walls in demo. Let me clarify: I'm not like a geologist. I had collected these rocks from when I traveled and climbed various mountains. It's kind of a tradition to take a rock from the top, so he built this shadow box to display them in a cool way. It has a pull-out drawer with a black felt bottom, and I can't wait to add more to the collection over the next few years."
Ben also created a ping pong table/dinner table for his main dining room.
Luke laughingly remarks, "It was such a creative build that is multifunctional. I'm getting better at ping pong every day."
This house is a great launching pad for Luke's adventurous life, from the stunning bookcases to the new kitchen to create his grandmother's blueberry cobbler. Luke is most excited to renovate the rest of his rooms and open the doors to share his home with friends and the community soon.
Welcome home, Luke! We're so excited to have you back in the Laurel community.