Family history and pioneer ancestors may seem like unlikely subjects to be featured on prime-time television. But recently, both topics were highlighted on an episode of Chip and Joanna Gaines’s Magnolia Network television show In with the Old.
In with the Old focuses on the renovation of old homes, and for this episode, Latter-day Saint blogger Brittany Watson Jepsen, creator of the popular website The House That Lars Built, and her husband Paul's house fit the bill. Though it wasn't particularly “old” in terms of years—according to Deseret News, the Jepsen family home in Provo, Utah, was built in 1992—the house was unique since it was built in a Federalist Revival style meant to replicate early Latter-day Saint pioneer homes in Nauvoo, Illinois. In the Magnolia Network episode, that pioneer style was celebrated throughout the home not only in the remodel, but also honored Brittany’s own ancestor, renowned pioneer midwife Patty Sessions.
“We kind of made everything an ode to her,” Jepsen told Deseret News. In October 2022, Brittany explained to All In podcast host Morgan Pearson just how remarkable Patty Session's life was. “She was born in Maine and was converted, and then lived in Nauvoo and then trekked over and delivered hundreds of babies along the way,” Jepsen said. “She was really instrumental for a lot of reasons. [She] wrote in her journal every single day. And so the journals that Patty Sessions [kept] have been so valuable because they talked about the daily life of what it was like to cross the plains.”
Numerous projects throughout the renovation also drew from Paul Jepsen’s Danish heritage, like the Scandinavian-inspired staircase they constructed for their home. That inspiration is fitting considering the name of Brittany’s blog—The House That Lars Built—which suggests a home, family, and lifestyle influenced by their Scandinavian heritage and ancestors.
Though the project was anything but easy with time constraints and supply chain challenges, perhaps the reminders of the family’s heritage will be a strength to Brittany’s own children, just as her family history has long inspired her.
“I have always loved our emphasis on family history and learning who we are,” Brittany said on the All In Podcast. And so this ‘turning of the fathers,’ I see it in action all the time. … I think the foundation I set as a kid has really been helpful and has instilled this love in me. … We’ve got some incredible family history stories that I want to capture. And that is the spirit of Elijah. The spirit of Elijah continues when we do the work, but we can’t do the work unless we have a testimony about it. I [felt] the Spirit so much when I learned about these people, and I realized my tie to them.”
The Magnolia Network show In with the Old, featuring the Jepsen home and Brittany’s story, can be watched on Discovery+ and HBO Max. You can also read more about her experience on the show on Deseret News.