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Q&A: Chip and Joanna Gaines

Joanna and Chip Gaines from HGTV's "Fixer Upper."
Joanna and Chip Gaines from HGTV's "Fixer Upper."

The duo behind HGTV’s Fixer Upper discuss the art of the reno.

You’ll recognize Chip and Joanna Gaines as the stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, but the resumé of this construction and design-savvy couple doesn’t end there. From their home in Waco, Texas, the Gaines operate a real-estate business, a bed and breakfast, a construction company, and an expansive retail store (as well as its online market).

But the couple is slowing down just long enough to make a speaking appearance at this month’s Greater Kansas City Home Show (March 18-20 at the Kansas City Convention Center). Before they arrive in the metro, we caught up with the Gaines to talk all about the art of the reno.

Tell me about your first fixer-upper.

Joanna: Chip had these houses before we got married, and we were always messing with one of them. Our first house together was this little fixer-upper. I went in and really did a number on that thing. I think there were five or six different themes going on. We had a blast and Chip did all the work by himself. We grew a lot together doing those projects!

What did you learn from that first endeavor?

Joanna: I learned as a designer to be a bit more true to my own style. We tried to hit our tastes, our parents’ tastes and anybody else’s taste that would give us advice. We learned how to balance our day jobs, with what at the time was a hobby. Chip really enjoyed working on those houses and quickly became good at it. The hard work we did those first years really set the foundation for who we would be as a couple.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken during a reno?

Chip: One of the biggest risks we took simply involved flipping a much nicer, higher-end unit. As fate would have it, it turned out to be our permanent home for a few years, because Joanna completely fell in love with the house! It turned out great, and because we held it personally for over two years we avoided a higher capital-gains tax. It was a big step for us to learn techniques and insights like that about our business.

What advice do you give to your clients at the start of a project or anyone beginning a renovation?

Joanna: Human nature makes it hard to stay content. We always ask our clients what it is they are “actually trying to accomplish” through the work. If they have had a child, let’s say, then space becomes an important issue. If they have become empty-nesters, then spaces previously occupied by children now become easy candidates for workout rooms or studies.

Chip: So we try to quickly get people past the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Instead, they need to be realistic about their budget, timeline and scope. Once we get those pillars established, things get pretty fun.