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Fixer Upper’s Joanna Gaines Answers All Your Renovating Questions

Architectural Digest asks expert renovator Joanna Gaines for advice on curb appeal, layout strategy, antique sourcing, and more.

Photography by Courtesy of Magnolia

If anyone knows renovating, it’s Joanna Gaines. As one half of the beloved HGTV show Fixer Upper [], which she hosts with her husband Chip, Gaines has made a name for herself by taking the worst houses in the best neighborhoods and giving them foundation-to-roof overhauls. The success of Fixer Upper and the Gaineses’ company, Magnolia Home, may have led to a furniture line, a collaboration with Loloi Rugs, and more, but the couple’s base remains in renovating. AD caught up with Joanna to ask her for a few tricks of the trade, from improving curb appeal and choosing a home’s layout and design scheme to decorating with antiques. Read on for her expert tips.

Where do you encourage clients to look for inspiration? “When we’re in the beginning stages of discussing the client’s style and what design elements they want to incorporate, I always tell them to build an inspiration board on Pinterest to get a feel for what they want in their space,” Gaines explains. “Both Pinterest and Houzz are great starting places when searching for inspiration and nailing down your style.”

How do you create the optimal layout for a home?“ I think about the family and their unique needs,” says Gaines. “Having young children lends itself to adopting more of an open floor plan. If you’re an empty nester, you may want to transform a spare bedroom into a workout room or an office. It all depends on your season of life—that is the biggest thing to take into consideration when drawing up a floor plan.”

How do you keep a space organized but still looking chic?“A great way to stay organized is to create intentional spaces for toys, craft supplies, and odds and ends,” Gaines advises. “I think storage is the most undervalued part of a home. Adequate storage can make every room feel more peaceful and beautiful simply by removing clutter and freeing up visual space. I like to purchase unique pieces that offer a lot of practical organizational space. For example, I bought an old wood chicken feeder at an antiques store that I love, and it lives upstairs in the playroom. It’s the perfect ‘built-in’ organizational area for the kids, and it matches the style of the farmhouse. If you don’t have room for a piece of furniture, use unique baskets, bins, and crates that help organize the mess. Look for practical pieces that tell a story and fit your style. These may take longer to find, but they’ll be worth the wait.”

What are some easy fixes—let’s call them weekend projects—that can refresh a home? “For the interior, simple changes like new light fixtures, a new backsplash, or a fresh coat of paint can go a long way,” Gaines says.

What are your top three tips for improving curb appeal? “Freshening up the landscape, adding new shutters, and wrapping dated columns with redwood or cedar wood,” Gaines shares. “These are all things you can tackle over the weekend and without killing your budget.”

What are the most important design elements to tie together a room or home? “I can’t say it enough—don’t design your home with meaningless elements simply to get it decorated,” Gaines recommends. “Take your time and gather pieces that mean something to you, whether they’re framed family photos, a beautiful antique clock that speaks to you, or a knickknack that reminds you of your grandmother. Take care in the process, and don’t rush. These elements are what make a house feel like home. Throw the idea that your house has to look a certain way right out the window. In my opinion, what sets a home apart is when you focus on your family’s story, rather than a style ideal. Find pieces that speak to you and give yourself the freedom to tell your story in your own unique way.”

What are the important things to look for in a fixer-upper home? “ One thing I want to stress is that every home has potential,” Gaines says. “But ultimately the potential has to meet the total renovation budget realistically. Always get an inspection to make sure the home is structurally sound; we’ve seen foundation issues that will cost up to $20,000. If the cost of the structural issues is cutting too much into the total renovation budget, we know it’s not ‘the one’ and encourage our clients to keep looking.”

Streets & Avenues Development Corp.



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