At the Greater Kansas City Home Show on Sunday, Erin and Bret Brown were intrigued by the cool stuff they were browsing from Restoration Emporium, a West Bottoms vintage warehouse.
But they had to watch the time. HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, the new rock star couple of home renovation, were about to hit the Home Show stage at Bartle Hall.
The Browns of Gardner in Johnson County were among the many hundreds who filled seats and stood 20-people deep to see the Gaineses, hosts of “Fixer Upper.”
“I started watching and got Bret hooked on it,” Erin Brown said. “I really like all the repurposing ideas they have.”
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“They show you things you could do yourself,” Bret Brown said, “or should I say, things you hope you could do.”
The Gaineses assured the crowd that no one is as surprised as they are by the huge following the show has engendered. The couple acknowledged they came out of nowhere — well, out of Waco, Texas — and have made only a handful of public appearances.
“We did not see this coming,” Chip Gaines said. “We are humbled and honored.”
On stage, the Gaineses presented the same playful and teasing exchanges that have made them so popular with TV fans. They explained the rocky beginnings of their business collaboration — she as the designer, he as the contractor — a dozen years ago.
The couple had returned from their honeymoon to bunk down in a ramshackle house Chip Gaines had bought to refurbish, a place without electricity and reeking of its former college athlete inhabitants. It was summer, with old food still in the refrigerator.
“There were a few details he didn’t take care of first,” Joanna Gaines said. “So I’m crying. I’m telling him I’m not going to sleep in this disgusting pit.”
“She said she hated her life,” Chip Gaines joked.
“I was thinking it,” she said. “I didn’t say it.”
The Gaineses’ “Fixer Upper” show, now in its second season, launched after the couple found success with their Magnolia Homes business in Waco — and after having four children.
On the show and in real life, they renovate decidedly modest homes and bring a repurposing bent to the task. They see their style as simple and practical.
“It’s about what works for your family,” Joanna Gaines said, “so be unapologetic about it.”
One of the top questions from the audience Sunday went to Chip Gaines: “Did you really eat the cockroach?” It was a reference to an episode in which he appears to do just that, inside a house with “piles” of dead cockroaches.
The answer: no, then yes. The original idea was to gross out everyone but with a fake cockroach, planted among the dead ones. But he was offered $50 to chomp down on an actual dead one, so he did.
“It was nasty,” he said. “You could about taste the pesticide that killed that thing.”
Friends Natalie Schweda and Ashton Williford of Topeka came to the Home Show specifically to see the Gaineses. The show ran from Friday to Sunday.
“I love her style, and he’s a card,” Schweda said. “And they’re just so down-to-earth.”
“I like how they show their own home and involve their whole family in the show,” Williford said.