Erin Napier of HGTV’s “Home Town” is having a busy week. Not only is she releasing her first children’s book “The Lantern House,” but her younger daughter, Mae, is also turning 1.
In an interview with TODAY, the mother of two talked about what she has planned for Mae’s birthday, new projects she has in the works and the inspiration for her debut picture book.
“I want to teach our girls why we do what we do,” she said of the book. “Why do we care so much about restoring old houses?”
Illustrated by her friend and local Laurel, Mississippi, artist Adam Trest — who’s made appearances on “Home Town” — the book is about a house that watches a young family’s journey of growing up and growing old while protecting them and keeping them safe. Once the family is gone, the house sits vacant until a new family rebirths the house and makes new memories within the four walls.
“The way we all leave a mark on a house and it remains even when we’re gone,” is the message of the book, according to Erin.
Even though Napier paints a watercolor of each completed house she and husband Ben Napier renovate on their hit show, she had no interest in illustrating the book.
“I do a painting of a still life, and I guess that tells a story in one way. But illustration literally tells a story, and it requires a totally different skill set than what I have,” she shared. “That’s what Adam specializes in. All of his paintings he’s ever done felt like they could be illustrations from a children’s book.”
Trest included poignant illustrations in the book, including an expectant couple painting a room green, the couple bringing a baby girl home and years later, their grown daughter getting married in front of the house’s fireplace, which are based on the history of Napier’s current Laurel house.
“We’ve heard stories from the previous owners of this house. Their daughter got married at the fireplace hearth,” she said. “We painted the nursery green when we were waiting for Helen to arrive. So it’s a little bit us, and it’s a little bit the past, the people who’ve lived here before us, which is really what is the heart of the book.”
The 36-year-old mentioned her older daughter, Helen, 4, approves of the book, but her reaction to seeing the finished product surprised the famous mom.
“She’s basically memorized it,” she said. “We read it so much when I first was writing the proof that now that the actual book is here, she has memorized the story and is not as interested in reading it which just kills me,” she said, laughing. “It’s like, ‘No, baby, this is a real book. Before, that was just typed pages with words, but look at this!’”
Napier revealed that Helen enjoys looking for her green nursery in the book in addition to the cardinals — something she noted that was very special to her.
“It’s an especially big thing in my family. We always have said when you see a cardinal it means someone you love that’s passed away is checking in on you, and that’s a big part of the story,” she shared.
The designer has also had her hands full dealing with another house-related project — renovating a farmhouse in the country.
“We just finished it,” she shared. “It’s been amazing for the girls to have a place where they can stay outside all day long. They’re absolutely filthy when they come in at night when we’re at the farm, which is how I grew up.”
Napier revealed that she doesn’t give the girls screen time but instead encourages them to play outdoors. “That’s what the farm is all about.”
The farmhouse transformation will be featured during the sixth season of “Home Town.” However, the artist gave fans a sneak peek into what life on the farm looks like.
“Ben has had this really strong urge to have a garden. He’s got tomatoes and green beans planted,” she said. “Helen is enjoying helping him tend to the garden. Mae is enjoying babbling and crawling and crafts.”
Mae — whom the pair welcomed last year — turns 1 on Saturday.
“What we did with Helen every birthday so far, we’ve just had a tiny little family get together and we’ll let her smash some cake and eat it with her hands,” she revealed about Mae’s big day. “I just want a picture of her with her first birthday cake. We don’t have to have a big elaborate thing.”
The famous parents are also embarking on several new projects, including another HGTV series that Napier disclosed “you’ll hear about soon,” and a wallpaper collection scheduled to debut this summer.
“That has been a dream for me because as an artist, wallpaper is one of those incredible mediums, especially in interior design,” she shared.
Napier credits a good support system with being able to take on multiple projects while raising two daughters.
“You’ve got to have great grandmothers,” she said. “And we have an awesome nanny — it was my babysitter when I was little,” Erin explained, noting that “she’s like family to us.”
She also mentioned that she and Ben set clear boundaries when filming “Home Town.”
“Every day at lunch we come home and eat with the girls, and we see them at least once or twice between eight and five,” she stated. “It’s a very strange career we found ourselves in, and we want the girls to be a part of our life in every way.”