One of HGTV’s most popular shows is Fixer Upper, a series that debuted in 2013 and transformed Joanna and Chip Gaines into darlings of the renovation movement.
On the show, the owners and operators of Magnolia Homes, a remodeling and design business in Waco, Texas, help owners create comfortable, livable homes from properties with potential that need a little — sometimes a lot — of TLC. The Gaines’ personal and professional synergy has captivated viewers and transformed the couple into a household name for millions of fans. And, in addition to the projects, they have created a thriving brand around their Magnolia Homes business that includes rugs, furniture and accessories.
In Front of the Camera
Designers Today: You’ve empowered consumers to embrace a style other than contemporary and given them the assurance to create interiors with meaning. First, how did that aesthetic evolve in your work? Second, how does it translate into your own home?
Joanna Gaines: It really started when I noticed one day that my kiddos didn’t really have a space, other than their bedroom, to call their own. I’d decorated my whole house, and it looked great, but the kids weren’t inspired by it. It was essentially child proofed. I had an epiphany that day that perfection should not be my goal. And ever since then, creating intentional spaces for the kids to create, build and draw has been my priority, as well as carving out a space for Chip to relax at the end of a long day. For him, that’s our back porch.
DT: The Magnolia Home line is really intertwined with your Waco lifestyle and complementary business ventures. What are the top five adjectives you would use to describe the line to people who haven’t seen it?
Gaines: A few words that immediately come to mind are detailed, unique, inspired, practical and timeless. Blending collections really starts in the mind of the consumer—you have to decide which collections speak most to you. Choose pieces you love in matching wood tones. Mix fabrics and textures. Adding finishing touches like throws, rugs, greenery and accessories pulls the room and the look together.
DT: Specific to design, what are the top three key factors when creating a new space for a family?
Gains: For me the top three key factors that go into creating a space for a family are considering their season of life (how many kids, pets, ages, etc.), thinking through what they want their home to feel like (clean and modern, warm and cozy, timeless and traditional) and focusing on how we’ll personalize each space to tell their family’s story.
DT: On one of your shows, you redid what I would call a tiny house; how difficult was it to edit the pieces? Do you personally espouse a less-is-more design philosophy?
Gaines: I am naturally drawn to clutter free spaces. When there’s not too much clutter, your mind can think beyond the walls, and you can really allow yourself to relax.
DT: Based on your work with the furniture industry and with consumers via your projects, what are some of the key obstacles to good design in the 21st century?
Gaines: For me, the obstacle is more how to balance both design and practicality. In this line, I’ve tried to take extra care in incorporating interesting design elements, but also considering function throughout the entire process. It’s important to me that families feel these are timeless pieces that can be enjoyed, not the kind of furniture that is strictly ornamental.
DT: What are some of your favorite pieces in the Magnolia Home collection and why?
Gaines: Anything for the kitchen — like the islands, dining room tables and chairs. For me the kitchen really is the heart of the home, and I love imagining the families who will gather around these pieces and talk about their days and what they learned at school. That’s the ultimate goal in all of this — to center it all around that feeling of home.
DT: What is your favorite part of the design process?
Gaines: The very beginning stages, when I’m just kind of dreaming up what these pieces could be, and then seeing the designs pull together and come to life at the end. Those are easily my two favorite parts.
DT: What was the most challenging Fixer-Upper project you two have tackled? Why and how did you resolve it?
Gaines: Probably the Barndominium episode from season 3. The foundation of that home was laid for a horse barn, so the entire thing had to be reinforced to make it a strong home for the family. That project was unlike anything we’d ever attempted and ended up being one of my favorite homes we’ve ever done!
Behind the Scenes
DT: For fun, what’s your family’s favorite way to spend a Saturday?
Gaines: Just a Saturday on the farm when we have nowhere to be is my favorite. I’ll make biscuits and gravy to kick off the weekend, and me and my girls will go outside and work in the garden while Chip and the boys feed the animals. Those are the best days.
DT: What are the biggest challenges of your new celebrity status?
Gaines: We don’t feel like celebrities, I don’t think that will ever become a word we use to describe ourselves. But, it’s true, life has changed for us in some ways. The biggest thing is that we want our kids to feel like they have a regular childhood. Traditions, like family dinners, are very big in our house, and we are intentional about carving out time to spend together. That has always been priority number one.
DT: What’s your favorite place to visit for fun?
Gaines: New York City. I lived there for a while in college, Chip and I went there for our honeymoon and now we’ve even taken our kids a time or two. It’s our favorite getaway.
DT: What’s your favorite meal to make as a family?
Gaines: That’s easy, lasagna. My kids love pasta night, and going out to the garden to pick fresh veggies for the side salad has become a little tradition for them. Lasagna nights are everyone’s favorite in our house.
In the Factory
Designers Today: Why did you decide that Joanna’s design aesthetic and brand were the right fit for your company?
Todd Evans, CEO, Standard Furniture: Most importantly, we felt like Joanna’s design aesthetic was a perfect fit for end consumers and the industry, not just our company. Our ability to help her make it a reality is what excited us.
DT: What specifically is it about how she approaches design that was a factor in your decision?
Evans: Every piece is personal for Joanna. She believes in every piece and really has a unique ability to see how each piece can fit into the home, she also advocates that each consumer “own their space” meaning customize it for their personal and family needs.
DT: What are some of the new additions for the line for fall market?
Evans: Joanna is introducing a new genre that will once again surprise everyone. The architecture elements of these pieces will continue to solidify Joanna as a premier designer in this industry.
DT: How do you make the Magnolia Home line accessible to designers at market?
Evans: We will have plenty of help during market and software that will allow buyers to scan items and pull up instant product information and create orders on the spot.
DT: Finally, what would people would be most surprised to know about Chip and/or Joanna?
Evans: They are two of the hardest working people we have ever been around. They are always thinking of ways to improve every aspect of their business and their lives. The wheels are constantly in motion and they are hands on with every project they are involved in.
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Prior to her role with Designers Today, Cindy attended markets as both a consumer home furnishings editor and interior design client. She has written about the design industry for more than 15 years and still finds editorial inspiration in every corner of the world, from Italian villas to Atlanta urban lofts to country escape tiny homes.