On “Home Town Takeover,” HGTV power couples Erin and BenNapier and Dave and Jenny Mars have been working hard to revitalize Fort Morgan, CO. And on the latest episode, they focus on a few key outdoor spaces around town.
In the episode “Welcome Party,” the Napiers turn an empty dirt lot into a peaceful little park, while the Marrses tackle the home of Arnold Akele and Houfa Akpamoliwho’ve been affectionately dubbed the Mama and Papa of Fort Morgan.
This family had moved here with their five children from Benin, West Africa, many years ago, and once they got settled, they started welcoming other newcomers to the area, throwing dinners and parties so that everyone would feel more at home. The Marrses aim to make this family’s house feel as welcoming as its residents.
As these design experts work to spruce up their respective areas, they let us in on a few tips and tricks that will help us make our own homes feel more inviting every day. Check out the ideas we learned this week.
Check the setback of the house
Akele and Akpamoli have a small front porch that doesn’t accommodate a lot of people and would like a larger welcoming space in front of the house.
But the obvious solution, expanding the front porch, is not an option.
“You might be up at the front setback of the house,” says Dave, referring to the distance they are legally required to have their home “set back” from the street.
So when it comes to the house and the porch in front, “we can’t expand it or grow it,” he explains. But he does have another idea.
“You’re on a corner lot,” he says, “so could we capitalize on the side of this house and maybe make a gathering place here, instead.”
They cleverly achieved this by landscaping and by laying down pavers, rather than building an extension onto the house or expanding the front porch. It’s a great way to use front yard space.
Stencil your steps
In addition to the yard’s new seating area, the Marrses make this house more welcoming by adding a cool stenciled pattern to the stairs.
“These front steps, everyone can see them,” says Jenny. “I just need to focus on making these steps more inviting. I wanted to have this really eclectic, unique pattern that gives it some character. So I am adding stenciled tiles onto these front steps. All we need are templates and some concrete paint to give it the look of tile.”
Prefab kitchen cabinets save time and money
Inside Akele and Akpamoli’s home, Jenny renovates the kitchen.
“We’re tripling the prep space and the storage with new Shaker cabinets,” she explains.
They’ve expanded the kitchen considerably and see no reason to go to the time and expense of having custom cabinets built when prefab cabinets that fit the dimensions perfectly are readily available. In order to make them look custom-made, they paint the cabinets the same color as the surrounding walls, which helps them blend right in.
A prairie maze adds a Zen calmness
Meanwhile, the Napiers have a unique idea to fill an oddly shaped lot in downtown Fort Morgan: They will build a prairie maze.
“The prairie maze is kind of like a mix of a corn maze and a Zen garden,” explains Ben. “I grew up going to a church camp that had a prayer maze. You would walk around it and meditate or pray. It was literally just a path on the ground.”
Ben and Erin added landscapes and benches where people can sit, meditate, chat, and do whatever strikes them.
Woodwind chimes won’t annoy your neighbors
Love the idea of wind chimes, but you (and your neighbors) can’t stand the thought of those tinkling notes playing all day and all night long? Ben has a novel solution for that.
“This is going to be a quiet wind chime,” he explains as he ties on his apron and considers some pieces of wood in his workshop.
“The sound that woodwind chimes makes is very different from the sound of a tinkly, metallic sound,” says Erin. “I don’t want that. This is like a softer sound.”
Ben builds this unique chime made from “great pieces of wood from all over the world,” cutting them into pieces of “random lengths, random thicknesses, random sizes, then we’ll drill holes in them and attach the cables to them. As the wind blows, they make contact with each other and they form a sound community.”
Best of all: “It’s not a loud sound—it’s almost unnoticeable,” Ben concludes. “And that’s nice, because if you’re out there and you’d like to have a quiet moment, you don’t want something really loud to distract you.”