If you love Fixer Upper from HGTV, then you already know Joanna Gaines. Together with her husband Chip, Joanna rehabs houses to turn them into dream homes. Their family brand, Magnolia, has blossomed into a huge company, which will soon be their own television network. The Magnolia headquarters in Waco, Texas includes their silo event center, a coffee shop, and they will soon have a new hotel. Basically, Joanna Gaines is a force to be reckoned with, and she definitely knows her way around an interior renovation. People around the world look up to her as an expert in interior design, so her advice is truly valuable. Here are some of her top tips for decorating your home.
30. Identify Your Favorite Design Style
Before you get started on designing your house, try to identify your favorite design style, as well as your partner’s. This gives you a great starting point of where to begin with your home makeover. In her bookHomeBody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave, Joanna Gaines helps you identify what your favorite interior design style is. Are you a fan of modern, bohemian, farmhouse, or industrial? If you are not sure what to call your style, do some research on Pinterest, and save the decor style that jumps out at you. Once you start to find boards with pins of a certain style, try to identify what those styles are called, so that you know how to articulate your taste.
If you live together with a partner, it’s also important to get their feedback so that you can find some common ground. Show them your Pinterest board with all of your favorite designs, and pay attention to their reaction on what you can both agree on. Both people should feel happy in the home that they share together. So it might require a bit of time and compromise. However, it’s best to try to find something that you can both agree on, instead of one person taking the lead with the house redesign.
When most people try to decorate their homes, they might feel intimidated, because they don’t have any interior design experience. They feel as though they don’t understand the rules of decorating, and are therefore going to make a mistake. Some people also try to find a photo in a magazine to model their home after, or just buy whatever is trendy in the moment. If you choose to decorate based on trends, you are likely to get tired of it very quickly. During an interview, Joanna Gaines said, “It’s not about rules. It’s about ‘How do we tell our story?
Your home should be a reflection of you as a person. What are your priorities, interests, and goals? A great way to get started is by discussing your interests together with your partner. Once you have identified who you are as a couple, you can begin to tell your story. For example, if you both enjoy horseback riding, you might want to create an homage to equestrian sports in your home. Or, if you love to travel, you can show off some of the things you have done around the world. The key is to be able to walk into a room and think, “This is very ‘me'”.
Sometimes, interior design can be too “perfect”, because people want to dress up their living rooms to almost look like a museum. If you’re afraid to touch anything in a space, can you really call that living? Joanna Gaines recommends creating spaces that are truly meant to be lived in and enjoyed. After all, you are designing a home where you can go at the end of the day, play with your kids, and relax. Nothing should be too precious to touch, or so expensive that they are irreplaceable.
When you are picking furniture, try to choose a fabric that you know might be more forgiving in case there is a spill. And if you have kids, try to anticipate that something might get broken. For example, if you have young children, it’s probably not a good idea to have white carpets and furniture plus glass-top tables all over the house. That’s just asking for a disaster. When your circumstances change, you can always get the nicer things later in life.
When some people think of giving their home a makeover, they imagine clearing out all of their old decor and buying brand new things. Joanna Gaines always blends both old and new items in a home. In fact, before she was on TV, Joanna opened up her little Magnolia store filled with home decor items that she gathered from flea markets. On Fixer Upper, you have probably seen her incorporate family heirlooms into a space. She also continues to go to thrift stores and flea markets to find antiques to tie a room together.
During an interview, Joanna mentioned the fact that people used to ask her for interior design advice when she owned her first Magnolia store, even though she had little to no experience. She had to learn and make mistakes along the way, since she never went to any proper design school. Remember that the core of interior design is expressing your individual style, and the story of your family. So it would only make sense to use the objects that you have had for years. And once you find a new and creative way to incorporate something you have owned for years into a brand new space, it makes that object all the more precious to you.
If you’re a fan of Fixer Upper, you already know that the Gaines family buys furniture, ceramics, and metalworks from local artisans. This handmade quality is part of the charm of Joanna’s designs. In some cases, paying a local craftsman to create furniture for you can be cheaper than buying from a store. Plus, you get the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that you are supporting your local economy. Check out Craigslist, Etsy, and Facebook Marketplace to see if you can find affordable options in your area.
Speaking from experience, my aunt lives in an area of Pennsylvania that’s known as “Amish Country”. The Amish are known for their amazing woodworking and craftsmanship skills, so she hired them to help build her new house. Her kitchen table is a 10-foot long wooden farmhouse table that was created from reclaimed hardwood floors, and her cabinets were all handcrafted for a fraction of the price she would have paid from somewhere like Home Depot. Not only was it cheaper, but it also gives her home an amazing look that you can’t buy in a store. If you don’t have any skilled artisans nearby, you could even make your own items! Check out your local area for a ceramic workshop, or watch a DIY furniture video on YouTube.
When you are designing your home, make sure there is somewhere that you can retreat from everyday stress. Whether it’s a reading nook, an office space, the living room couch, or a cozy hammock, there always needs to be a place where you can decompress for a few minutes to an hour. Sometimes, you can find a little piece of paradise in the places you least expect. You could have an amazing design, but if it’s not comfortable, it’s awful. For example, I have a friend who got a brand new luxury apartment, and he very picked stylish furniture. The only issue was that the couch was uncomfortable, and so were the chairs and bar stools. The one and only place in his apartment where you could actually relax was the bed!
Joanna Gaines uses her laundry room as a retreat to relax after a long day. She has a table and chair that are meant for folding laundry, but she uses it to go on her laptop and drink a cup of coffee. On her Magnolia blog, she says, “The laundry room recently become a place in our house I retreat to. Which probably sounds a little funny—to retreat to the laundry room. But I’ve learned that when you make your spaces creative and fun, it helps make the chores, like laundry, not so bad.” Laundry time becomes a moment of zen when she can get housework done while also taking some time to be alone from the hustle and bustle of family life.
Some people don’t bother to dress up their entryway, because they simply see it as a space to hang your coat or place your shoes when you come through the door. Remember that entryways make a first impression to your guests, so it says a lot. Clear your entryway of clutter, and pay attention to where your eye goes when you walk through the door. Decorate that space to reflect the vibe of your home, and portray the message you want to say to your guests.
Having a well-designed entryway is also beneficial for everyone who lives in the home, as well. Whether you realize it or not, it can have a subconscious effect on you. Joanna said during an interview, “How is my family going to feel when they come home from school or work? I want it to be a warm welcome.”
When she was designing her first house, Joanna Gaines made the mistake of giving every room in the house a different theme. One space was nautical, and the next was rustic farmhouse, while the next would be French country. Her guests could tell right away that this wasn’t exactly top-tier designing skills. She learned as she went along, and made mistakes so you don’t have to. Basically, what Joanna walked away with is the knowledge that you need consistency throughout your entire time.
Earlier on this list, we already mentioned how you need to identify your design style. Once you have that established, there needs to be consistency throughout the home. Call back to the same color palette used in every room, as well as the theme. The vibe should also match as well. So if you want a soothing zen vibe in the living room, it should match throughout the rest of the home, too.
In most cases, Joanna recommends that people should keep their style consistent throughout their entire house, even in the bedrooms. You don’t want one room to look like it’s modern industrial, and then suddenly turn a corner and feel like you’re in a French Rococo room. However, in some cases, it’s appropriate to be distinct.
For example, if you have a pool house, game room, finished basement, or converted garage, you might want to turn it into a completely different vibe than the rest of the house. Many people also allow their kids to design the rooms any way they like, even if it looks over-the-top compared to the rest of the home. This is completely fine. As long as you make a plan and do things with intention, it should work out in the end.
Believe it or not, Chip and Joanna Gaines don’t own a television in their home, and they are raising their kids in a completely tech-free environment. Sure, they star in a series and are soon to have their own television network, but that has now become a part of work for them. For most people, watching TV is a way to unwind at the end of the day. But the Gaines family would rather relax with board games, cooking, or reading books.
While most people already have loads of tech in their house, you could potentially start with a tech-free bedroom. This is considered to be good Feng Shui, but it’s also proven to help you sleep better at night. When they get ready for bed, Chip and Joanna plug their cellphones in another room before they go to bed. This way, they aren’t checking their phone as soon as they wake up in the morning. They have the ability to wake up naturally, shower, get dressed, and be fully awake before they start looking at emails.
20. Strike A Balance Between Masculine and Feminine
Everyone knows at least one person where you walk inside of their house, and it looks like a doll house. You’ll see pink, floral patterns, and over-the-top feminine design, even though both the husband and wife live there. Personally, I know one woman who had her creepy doll collection on display in every single room. Clearly, this is a case of the wife choosing to decorate the home the way she wanted, without ever consulting her husband.
While this might be an extreme example, a lot of people fail to strike a balance between masculine and feminine. One of the many reasons why Joanna Gaines’ designs appeals to so many people is that she always picks things that are gender-neutral. Keep this in mind when you are creating a space of your own. If it leans too far masculine or feminine, it is not likely to have that universal appeal.
Before every renovation, Joanna Gaines takes measurements and draws up designs of where everything is going to go in a home. This is crucial for you to do before you buy new furniture, artwork, rugs, and more. Even if you are redecorating without a lot of demolition, it is still important to have a plan. If you want to try making a digital layout, try out Google Sketchup.
Maybe you are thinking of redecorating your house, and you don’t necessarily need an entire blueprint of your home. Either way, all you need is a notebook and a pen to get started with your plan. But if you need a little bit of help, we’ve got you covered. In her book Home Body, Joanna Gaines actually has some fill-in-the-blank sheets to help you make a plan for your home renovation.
Most people like to give their kids the freedom to have a playful bedroom. Loads of people have bright green and pink bedrooms with decals on the walls. The only problem with this is that it can be completely different than the style of the rest of your home. And as your kids get older, you will eventually have to redecorate those bedrooms.
Joanna’s children’s bedrooms are still cohesive with the rest of the house, but they’ll have whimsical elements. For example, her daughters have a canopy bed, flowers, and a chandelier. Also incorporate the children’s interests. In one boy’s bedroom, she added a mural of mountains on the wall because the boys loved camping. Most of these rooms are easy to transition from childhood to teenage years without making a lot of changes in the decor.
On the Magnolia blog, the staff jokes that Joanna is the “ultimate plant lady”, because she loved having plants and flowers in her homes. If you watch Fixer Upper, you have probably spotted a few fiddle fig trees and wreaths on the front doors of the completed homes.
Plants can seriously help tie in the theme of a room together, and you should always consider your theme before choosing your plants. For example, if you are going for a western bohemian vibe, you will probably want to use cacti and succulents. If you travel a lot, you may want to buy faux plants, but it is far cheaper to buy real plants from your local garden center. Always make sure to research how to properly take care of those plants to ensure that they stay alive.
When looking for a fixer-upper, you really need to use your imagination, because your future home might look like a wreck. You need to look past what a house currently looks like, and imagine what it could be in the future after it’s fixed up. A surprising amount of people will go on a house tour and immediately pick apart the wall colors or carpeting as a reason not to buy the home, even though it’s so easy to fix.
During interviews, Joanna has expressed how it’s easy for her to say “no” when a project looks too difficult, but her husband Chip’s enthusiasm helps her to see the potential. This was especially crucial in two of their newest projects- opening a Magnolia Hotel, and renovating the Cottonland Castle.
When you go through your home, you need to do some troubleshooting before you begin a redesign. First, identify the “problem areas” in your house, and try to imagine what could be done as a solution. It could be as simple as searching on Google or Pinterest for your particular situation, and seeing what other people have done. For example, if you have an awkward corner shower, that’s something you can easily Google on how you can make the best out of a bad situation.
Even after you begin your process, troubleshooting will come up again and again. There is no such thing as a renovation that is completely smooth sailing. As time goes on, you will have to do some troubleshooting to get yourself back on track. When you watching Fixer Upper, they have the budget to knock down walls and rearrange living spaces. Even if you don’t have enough money to have your own “demo day”, remember that there are usually creative solutions to almost any problem.
During an interview, Joanna Gaines suggested that people should focus on whatever stage they are in their life at the moment. For example, if you have young children or babies, your needs are going to be very different than someone who is single and unmarried, or an empty nester.
Plenty of people out there have a home that is stuck in the past, and it looks like a bachelor pad. Or, it’s way far off in the future with sophisticated items that don’t really belong around kids. The best thing you can possibly do is try to live in the moment, and do what is best for you right now. Every stage in life lasts for a few years at a time, so you should be able to enjoy your current stage to the fullest before it’s time to move on to something new.
Like most things in life, less is more. Instead of cluttering your space with too many objects, it is best to have a focal point. When you look at photos of Joanna Gaines’ designs, she usually has one amazing piece of art that stands out. For example, in the living room of her farmhouse, she has a giant black clock on the wall, which contrasts with the white walls. It’s simple, but bold, and it looks great. In other people’s homes, she might commission an original piece of artwork.
Too many people make the mistake of going over-the-top with their designs. They think that being “designer” or “fancy” means having a lot of stuff on their walls and countertops. But it truly is all about simplicity. Sometimes, all you need is just one beautiful vase of flowers, or a centerpiece that expresses your style.
Chip and Joanna Gaines are known for taking the worst house on the best street. They buy properties that most people would want to tear down, because they feel confident that they can find a diamond in the rough. So if you really want to be like the Gaines family, you need to take on a challenge. During an interview, Chip said that he tells his kids, “Gaines do hard things.” This helps their kids get through difficult experiences, whether it’s in school, sports, or life in general.
Even if you can’t do multiple home makeovers like Chip and Joanna Gaines, you can still learn a big lesson from their attitudes. The best things in life are often the most difficult to achieve. Having a beautiful home is not going to magically happen overnight. So if you want to make over your house to be your dream home, it’s best to expect and embrace challenges.
On many episodes of Fixer Upper, the couple that Chip and Joanna Gaines are helping with their redesign might only be able to afford a small house. Everyone has a strict budget, and more people than ever are having to downsize. Even if the home is small, Joanna always finds a way to make a home feel bigger with her designs, because she is a master of maximizing space.
If you live in a small apartment or house, you need to learn how to maximize your space, too. Buy smaller furniture and reduce the clutter if you want to fit everything you can into a room. And consider buying mirrors, which will help to trick the eye into believing a space is larger than it actually is.
Earlier on this list, we talked about having the same theme running throughout the entire house. It is equally as important to pick a color story and stick with it. If you watch the first few seasons of Fixer-Upper, you’ll notice that Joanna Gaines uses a lot of neutral tones. There are a lot of white walls, black accents, and wood tones used in all of the homes. As the homeowner, you can choose whatever colorstory you want. The only difference is that a neutral color tone is a lot easier to build on top of. It’s a lot harder to figure out how to decorate a room differently if your walls are painted pink versus white.
In the new revamp of Fixer-Upper: Welcome Home, Joanna actually still uses a lot of the same color scheme that she always has. The only difference is that she’s utilizing that same color story in a drastically different way. The first two episodes show homes that seemed a lot more moody and industrial. Rather than being “Farmhouse”, it looks far more “Japandi”. But since she uses the same color story, it’s easy to incorporate much of the same decor that she has collected for a decade.
Most people paint their ceiling white, because it helps to make the room feel larger. However, in certain circumstances, it would be completely appropriate to paint your ceiling a different color. In the first episode of Fixer Upper: Welcome Home, Joanna decided to paint the ceiling in her client’s bathroom. At first, her husband Chip recoiled at that idea. It just sounded way too dark and cave-like. But the result was actually amazing. Painting the entire room forest green helped to make the room feel very moody and sensual.
In interior design, painted ceilings are often used as an accent wall, rather than painting the entire room a solid color. For example, if you have beige or white walls, a blue ceiling might look amazing. Years ago, it was popular for aristocracy to paint stars on their bedroom ceilings, or a mural of blue and white fluffy clouds. This works best in rooms with high ceilings, because the color helps to make it feel more cozy. It also works in rooms where you want it to feel cozy and warm, like a bedroom or bathroom.
8. Listen to What the Client (Or Your Partner) Wants
Unfortunately, there are a lot of design shows out there where the designer doesn’t seem to actually listen to what the clients want in their home. Many designers are a one-trick pony, and all they know how to do is the same style over, and over again. In fact, there are even some lawsuits going on over disaster TV home makeovers that you didn’t see behind the scenes. The great thing about Joanna Gaines is that she actually listens to what the client wants. Even if a certain design style is out of her comfort zone, she will do her best to learn something new, and make it work.
If you’re an interior designer, it’s important to listen to your client. And if you’re not, you’re probably not the only person involved in the design process. Most likely, you have a partner, children, or family members living in the home with you. Even if you’re the one financially backing the project and doing all of the design work, don’t forget to keep everyone else in mind. At the end of the day, you want everyone to be happy living there, no just you.
One of the most important parts of a home renovation is the “curb appeal”. In case you didn’t know, curb appeal is someone’s first reaction when they walk up to a house. It’s that “wow” factor that makes people want to come inside. Some people disregard curb appeal, because they care more about what the inside of the house looks like. But if you care a lot about the exterior, too, this will help you feel proud of your home every single time you return. It also makes you feel more proud to invite people over, and say, “That’s my house.”
If you plan to ever sell your house someday, curb appeal is incredibly important. You want future buyers to see your house and immediately imagine themselves living there. This also makes it possible for you to sell the house for a higher price. According to studies conducted by the University of Alabama and University of Texas, homes with a high curb appeal also sell for an average of 7% higher than homes that don’t. Sometimes, curb appeal makes an even bigger difference. In my area, someone purchased a house for $150,000, and fixed it up to look like a Joanna Gaines knock-off. Three years later, they sold it for $800,000, all because it had that “wow” factor.
6. Landscaping is Just as Important as the Interior
In the last bullet point, we just talked about the importance of curb appeal. One of the most important aspects of curb appeal is great landscaping. You can have the most beautiful house in the world, but if you have a dead lawn and virtually no plans to speak of, people feel off-putted by that. It doesn’t feel complete, or like a real home. Pay attention to the next time you watch an episode of Fixer Upper. Joanna always makes sure to cut away the dead plants, and keeps the beautiful large trees. She also makes sure that every house has shrubs or flowers in the front.
Never underestimate the power of landscaping. There is a house in my neighborhood that an investor tried to flip. He fixed everything about the house, and it looked brand new. But he didn’t touch the landscaping, and left the dirt on the ground that was upturned from construction. This was a terrible idea, because at least 100 families came and went without wanting to put in an offer. In his mind, he probably wanted to leave the landscaping up to the new homeowners, but no one wanted to deal with that. After an entire year of trying and failing to sell the house, they finally planted grass seed. This is a $15 solution to a huge problem. And if you truly don’t have a green thumb, consider hiring a landscaper to help.
It’s always astonishing to walk into someone’s house that they clearly put a lot of work and money into 30 years ago… And yet they never touched it since. Remember that trends come and go. The great thing about Joanna Gaines is that she really evolved over time. In the first few seasons of Fixer Upper, you’ll notice that everything she did was rustic country farmhouse. Because of her, the style became incredibly trendy, and it was copied by retailers over and over again from 2015 to 2020. Clearly, she realized that her style had become trendy, and pushed herself to grow.
Now, when you see Joanna’s style on her new Magnolia Network, you can see that she is growing and moving on. The interior of her kitchen in Magnolia Table looks like it belongs in a French country cottage or chateau. And a lot of her home designs are more in the vein of Japandi or Modern Industrial. Clearly, she is evolving with the times, and trying to make a home design fit in with what’s popular right now, instead of clinging on to the past.
4. Always Try to Reuse Existing Materials Before Jumping to Replace Them
When you watch a home makeover show, it looks like a lot of designers will just rip everything out and start over from scratch. However, you should never automatically assume that you need to rip everything out in order to make your house beautiful. If you have a historic home, it’s always best to try to use as much of the original building as humanly possible. This is especially true if you have a lot of beautiful original features like a staircase, crown molding, or hardwood floors.
Joanna Gaines does a great job of looking for these little hidden gems whenever she renovates a home. She will rip up a carpet to see if there was any hardwood underneath. Or, she finds something beautiful that already existed in the home, and tries to play on that feature. For example, there was an episode where the front door had a cute moon-shaped window, and she made sure to keep that. Sometimes, even if something isn’t working in one part of the home, a beautiful feature can be moved somewhere else.
Something Joanna Gaines does in every home is use natural materials. She uses a lot of dried flowers, foliage, and wreaths as decor. But she also makes sure to use real wood and metal in the designs as well. If you’re looking to use natural materials in your own home, you can go for rattan, bamboo, cotton, and more. These materials are made to last a lifetime.
Besides just looking and feeling better in every way, natural materials are also a lot more sustainable for the planet. They are often biodegradable, so if your home furnishings ever end up in the dump, they’re not going to take hundreds of years to break down in the landfill. For example, wood takes 50 years to decompose, but plastic takes 450. This makes a huge difference for the health of the planet.
One of the styles that Joanna Gaines made popular on Fixer Upper is combining industrial pieces with traditional home decor. For example, she uses a lot of those huge industrial lights in kitchens, but combines it with the soft neutrals in the actual furniture and home decor. Joanna did this because she was in the habit of buying secondhand items from antique stores. This started a huge trend, and a lot of stores began selling brand new industrial-inspired pieces.
Sometimes, you can save money by buying used industrial pieces to use in your own house. For example, I needed a large desk, because I work at home and have a lot of different equipment that I use for various projects. So I found a table with metal legs that was once used in a store that went out of business. I was able to cover the top with a faux concrete vinyl sticker, and it looks very cool. Unfortunately, with the economy being as it is, there are still a lot of stores shutting down. This could be an opportunity for you to spend between $20 and $50 for pieces that normally cost hundreds of dollars.
No matter where you live in the world, light is one of the most important aspects of interior design. Having access to natural sunlight makes a huge difference in your mood, because it helps you absorb vitamin D into your skin. On a practical level, sunlight also helps you cut down on electricity cost, because you don’t need to turn the lights on in the daytime. And it simply makes life better to have access to sunlight, especially if you tend to get bummed out in the winter time.
In all of her designs, Joanna Gaines pays attention to natural light. She might replace small windows with larger ones, or add an additional French door to the backyard so that the space has more sunlight. She goes above and beyond to make sure the house takes advantage of the sunlight. Even if you have a smaller renovation budget, take a look around your home and try to figure out how you could possibly bring in more light. It could be as simple as replacing the curtains, or moving furniture around.