In the spring of 2021, I had been living in central Florida for four years and had come to love the vintage feel that surrounded me there. It was like a 1950’s postcard written to a dear friend stating “wish you were here” while reflecting palm trees and pink flamingos on the front.
But the time had come to make a career change and when searching the internet, I stumbled on a post for a retail position in Laurel, Mississippi. I had grown up in a large city then attended Appalachian State University in a little college town tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and then transitioned to a rural area in the sunshine state. Small town life suited me and I knew another quaint town would be ideal. Also, being a fan of HGTV’s Home Town, I knew my application resulting in a job offer was probably a long shot. But fast forward a few months and the moving truck was loaded and I was Mississippi bound.
From the initial visit, Laurel had wooed me with her charms and I was beyond excited about a new state, new town, new work and new friends. I was thrilled about this opportunity as the Laurel Mercantile Company was about the love of all things Southern, passionate about American made products, committed to restoring their town and providing work for the people in the community and the tv show had created a tourist destination. People were traveling here with such intent and I understood the need for beautiful retail spaces. The stores were and are lovely - kissed by an Americana vibe - and I was pleased to be the new General Manager.
It didn’t take long for me to admit that I was hooked on the kind of life Laurel provided. Historic homes and brick paved streets, friendly faces and kind hellos - I had found a great place to now call home. But to enhance my life here, I needed a house. I needed a place to call my own and one that welcomed new friends, old friends and family. I applied to be on Home Town and Ben and Erin showed me two houses on the same street and secretly I knew right away which one was “mine.” Not only was I going to have a home in Laurel, but it was going to be designed and decorated by the Home Town crew with Ben and Erin leading the charge. The street was dreamy and close to friends and downtown. At this point, I needed someone to pinch me as the entire process was incredibly surreal! Following directions, I didn’t drive by or peek in any way as my home to be was being changed, molded, updated, beautified! My style is eclectic but I lean heavily on vintage items as I love using old pieces whether it’s furniture or dishes or art or accessories. I like to think of grandmothers and how they used each item and poured their love into each and every one. I wanted that love to not just be tossed aside and forgotten but for. the love and care to continue on. However, I do like a touch of new mixed in too. I am a collector as I have traveled quite a bit - I spent a semester in college in Sweden, a summer in Europe working at camps for teenagers in 4 different countries, a semester in Disney’s College Internship program, a six month stint in northern California and each place I have traveled captured a small chunk of my heart. I wanted my home to represent me - pieces with rusty edges aligned with something bright and shiny, treasures from places with memories I cherished.
When reveal day finally arrived, I entered the house and couldn’t believe it! How on earth did they get it so right? The appliances, the colors, the countertops, the rugs, the wallpaper - It was all stunning and so me! There are two stars of my kitchen - the Viking appliances are one, specifically the gorgeous Bywater Blue hood vent and stove. And to know these appliances hail from Greenwood, MS made it even better. I had the honor of visiting the Viking headquarters where I participated in a cooking class and a tour of their facilities. To have Viking represented so beautifully in my home takes my breath away. Thank you Viking team!
The second star is the Scotsman butcher block island countertop
. Oh. My. Word. Talk about American made
! Not only is this a show stopper but so practical for every day living. And placed neatly underneath were 3 lovely bar stools made by Ben and topped with the perfect fabric chosen by Erin. Anna Rifle Bond, founder of The Rifle Paper Co
, is one of my favorite artists. Secretly I dreamed of something Rifle being included in my house but never said anything - at least not out loud. I felt like my heart was screaming loud enough for all to hear. As soon as I entered for the very first time, my eyes immediately were drawn to the Rifle rug on the main living area floor. But the biggest surprise of all was when I opened the bathroom door. Rifle’s Strawberry Fields wallpaper stared back at me! To say I was excited would be quite the understatement. Sure makes a gal want to brush and floss extra long!
And on the front of the house, the most amazing screen porch had been added! My favorite thing to do in Florida as the sun began to rest for the day and the temperature cooled a bit was to sit on the front screened in porch. Phoebe, my cat, and I would listen to the birds and the squirrels and children playing down the street. And now I can do this in Laurel!! The coastal cottage style is just perfect!
To be able to welcome people into this comfortable and colorful home is an absolute dream and just the greatest gift! Thank you Ben and Erin for caring so much and for striving to make each Home Town house uniquely distinct and personal. You certainly nailed it this time! And thank you to the Home Town team for working diligently and tirelessly and for making the entire process fun and crazy memorable.
This house immediately felt like home. It was the happy bungalow I had only dared to dream about and I felt as if it gave me a hug the moment I entered. Everyday feels I am living in a Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers movie. Now, if I can just get Hans Zimmer to write the music.
Welcome home, Hayley! We are so glad that you've made Laurel your home!
Mississippi Made is one of my favorite events in Laurel. Artisans from all over Mississippi apply to showcase their one of a kind products on these special days. The yard at the Laurel Mercantile is bursting with energy and contagious excitement. There is a certain thrill of finding a treasure you didn’t even know you were looking for. You can find anything from local honey, to handmade jewelry, to gourmet pet treats, to custom art. I love meeting vendors and creating personal connections, and learning about how their visions of their products began. There is nothing like getting to know the person who has poured their heart and soul in creating something perfect for the world to enjoy. They are the reason this event is so special.
I have found so many incredible pieces for my new home and it makes me happy knowing that I was able to support someone’s dream. It is an incredible way to support entrepreneurs and promote the revitalization of small towns specifically in Mississippi. We can’t wait to see you at our next event, Saturday March 11th!
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