30 Home Remodeling Tips From TV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines
Ever since they started flipping houses in 2003, Chip and Joanna Gaines learned a ton about home remodeling projects, especially what’s good or bad about a particular renovation. They landed on the pop culture scene in 2013 when HGTV premiered “Fixer Upper,” starring the Gaines, and they became a huge success with 1.9 million viewers.
From there, they made a career out of giving tips on all kinds of home remodeling projects. In 2018, after five short seasons, the Gaines suddenly shut the door on “Fixer Upper.” But they weren’t finished from reality TV. They started a new media company called Magnolia Network, and the show was back in business.
So, we thought, who better to find some tips about home remodeling than Chip and Joanna? Here are some of their best ones to help you get the most out of your home remodeling project.
Let the Sunshine In
Getting natural light in a house has always been a goal for Chip and Joanna on “Fixer Upper.” What they will do is install new windows where there isn’t enough natural light. However, creating a new frame is not the easiest thing in the world.
To maximize the natural light that’s already in your home, forget the window treatments, and try indoor shutters where you open them during the day for natural light and close them at night for privacy.
Don’t Forget the Ceiling
What Chip and Joanna see as one of the most overlooked areas when you’re remodeling a home is the ceiling. Spicing up the ceiling can really add that "wow" factor to your bedroom and living area.
As far as the ceiling, a great area to try is the bedroom, where you can use a dark color with recessed lights and perhaps a dark ceiling fan if you decide to use subdued colors. You get a relaxing kind of effect, which is exactly what you need when you rest in bed.
How About Light Colors?
Joanna has three colors as her go-to colors, depending on what part of the house she's painting. Neutral lights work well in areas that have a lot of traffic because it tends to make everything stand out. Be careful, however, because you don’t want a white shade that's too bright for the sake of your eyes.
Botanical greens work best in a farmhouse, especially if the house is painted with some shade of white. Joanna also likes something soft and natural like Magnolia Green or Silverado Sage for something darker.
Meanwhile, dark colors, such as blue, could be options for the bedroom, and maybe you can use something with gray undertones to give a nice cool feel.
Remodeling the Outside
Chip and Joanna are big fans of spicing up outdoor areas. In fact, you can use the outdoor area as a second dining room when the weather is clear and warm, or you can turn the outdoor space into just a place to hang out.
Also, you can set up a dining room table that matches your color scheme, and mix in some planters. Even a dark hardwood floor to match a light-color scheme can make a big difference when remodeling.
What to Watch for When Buying a Home
Chip has seen his share of flops over the years on “Fixer Upper.” However, there are three things he told KILZ you must address before before making an offer:
The roof: Don’t be afraid to do a little investigating with the roof. You need to find out the age and condition of the roof. For instance, if it’s 20 years old and beyond, you could have an expensive problem down the road, say about $10,000 for a new roof when it’s all said and done.
The plumbing: This could really hit your budget, especially if you’re dealing with shoddy pipes and sewers. Find out the age of the water heater since it has a shelf life of 10 years. What about the shape of your piping? Chip suggests bringing in a plumber to do a camera inspection of the main sewer. This could save you some bucks.
The electrical: Try to see the warning signs, such as a messy, disorganized panel or if the home is 30 years old. Call for a licensed electrical contractor to come out and do an inspection. Electrical updates are expensive, but you could use this as leveridge if you decide to move ahead with the purchase.
Get Rid of the Wall
Chip and Joanna love to knock down walls and open up some space, and what better place to do that than the kitchen? Typically in most homes, you see a wall separating the kitchen and dining room.
The idea here is to knock down the wall and give more space to the kitchen so you can use an island and a bar type of sitting area. Now you don’t feel so closed in.
What About a Small Space?
Chip says you should always embrace a small space and work toward making an impact for less cost. He also says not to settle for a cookie-cutter look when it comes to space. Visit other neighborhoods to get some inspiration. “Creative and unique neighborhoods are the most inspiring,” he told Brit + Co.
Further, Chip encourages people with a small space to remodel it to reflect themselves and not to box themselves in. Use the rooms and trends you like as a starting point, not where you finish. Also, have some fun with paint. Chip tells Brit + Co, “It’s a fun way to experiment,” so try some different colors to see what style works for you. And don’t get stuck dreaming about what the house will look like. Just get in there and do it.
What Is Shiplap?
If you ever watched “Fixer Upper,” you probably have heard Chip and Joanna use the term “shiplap,” but what is that? It’s a technique in which horizontal slabs of wood are installed, overlapping one another slightly.
The idea is to create a water-tight surface that will be safe from mold. In fact, a lot of old farmhouses are built with shiplap.
Using industrial pieces is high on Joanna’s list. You can use them in many ways. One of the best ways to use this type of design is with light fixtures, especially with darker, wrought-iron light fixtures and hardware.
These pieces add contrast to the soft, white base, and they’re reminiscent of antique farm equipment.
Keep the Original Fixtures
Of course, if an original fixture already looks industrial, you shouldn't be afraid to keep it.
Maybe all it needs is a polish and some new lightbulbs to complete the modern, industrial look.
White Is Right
One of Chip and Joanna's favorite remodeling tips has to be starting a room with nice, clean white walls, but the trick is to find the right shade of white. Do you go with warm, cool, gray-toned or cream? On Joanna’s Magnolia blog, she says, “Choosing the right neutral paint color can often feel like looking for a needle in the haystack.”
For a solution, she adds, “Shiplap equals creamy; One Horn White equals warm with a beige tint; Locally Sown equals darker-hued and can sometimes read as beige; Blanched equals traditional white with creamy beige undertones.”
Using this guide should help you find the right shade that works for you.
Don’t Discard the Original Elements
When it comes to renovating the home, it’s tempting just to throw everything out and start new. Yes, that is an option, but Chip and Joanna believe that keeping the integrity of the house can be very effective. For instance, hold on to some of the original elements such as fireplaces, windows, doorways and built-in cabinets.
However, be careful with what you save. Structural integrity is a big deal in keeping your house safe, and sometimes, the original structures are too old and decayed. Chip and Joanna take the next step to restore these elements while making it safe at home, even if it means moving a door frame and window. True, it’s a lot of effort, but it pays off in the end.
Add a Little Curb Appeal
Indeed, the outside of your house could be as important as the inside for a remodel job since that’s the first thing people see. The front door should be first and foremost on the list. Chip and Joanna suggest going with a color that represents you, such as teal, pink, purple or maybe even bright red or stained wood.
The duo has other ideas to enhance the entryway, too, such as large planters on the front porch, rocking chairs, window boxes with flowers, window awnings, white painted brick, wrought iron door handles, gas lamps, wooden fences, shutters and wood beams.
Go to a Flea Market
Joanna likes to find hidden treasures and antiques to go with a house that’s going through a remodel. “One of my favorite things to do is go antique shopping at off-the-beaten-path shops and flea markets. I always get inspired when I see pieces from the past,” she wrote on her blog.
In fact, Joanna will sometimes base the design scheme of a room around just one item she finds.
Books for Design
Let’s say you’re at the flea market looking for antiques, and you run across some cool-looking books. What better way to spice up a room than books? They’re inexpensive and add colors to a room.
Joanna suggests either collecting old books at flea markets for a rustic vibe and stacking them on a table or organizing them on a bookshelf. You can also try for a modern look and organize books by color to create a crisp, clean palette on your bookshelf or built-in.
Dark Grout and White Tile
Something you would see in a Gaines remodel is dark grout to add contrast to a standard white subway tile. While some people are moving away from subway tiles, it still has a place for a modern farmhouse look. Maybe you give dark black grout a try for a crisp, modern look. For a softer tone, use charcoal or gray.
Furthermore, add visual interest to a backsplash or shower wall by going with an elongated subway tile and installing it in a diagonal herringbone design. Of note, that was something Chip and Joanna did in “The Americano House,” the last home featured on “Fixer Upper.”
Black Is Beautiful
Joanna is not shy when using bold colors, often using black accents, hardware, tile and cabinetry to bring in a clean look. In fact, she went with a black fireplace in the Gaines’ new home.
So, as long as the room is light and airy, bringing in large, black statement pieces or walls can add a nice mix.
Wallpaper Works in Small Areas
Wallpaper can be a challenge depending on what part of the house you want to use it. For instance, if you need to cover up a large area, wallpaper can give you a cluttered feel. But for a small space, such as a bathroom or entryway, that’s “fairly low-risk in terms of the amount of real estate you’re covering,” Joanna said on her blog.
She added, “There are other benefits to incorporating wallpaper in small spaces. For example, in a bigger area, like a living room, you have more opportunities to bring in colors, textiles, wall hangings or design elements that are representative to your style.”
Try Out Some Area Rugs
Joanna is a big fan of area rugs, and she recommends that you decide what style your home is going to be first before you start laying area rugs. In her design book, “Homebody,” Joanna illustrates six styles of rugs that you should look at.
- Farmhouse style: Simple patterns and colors like black and white and other neutral colors.
- Modern: Minimal, symmetrical, clean lines and geometric patterns.
- Rustic style: Has texture, raw materials, asymmetrical patterns and looks distressed.
- Industrial style: Contemporary, minimal and complements metal and concrete.
- Traditional style: Classic and time-honored. Think Oriental and Persian rugs.
- Boho style: Casual, vibrant, bold, mixed patterns, layered and quirky.
Be Careful With Open Shelving
Joanna really likes open shelving in the kitchen because you can display your favorite dishes and fine china while breaking up a wall of cabinetry. “Open shelving is a functional design element that is easy to love,” she said on her blog.
However, this is an element that needs to be processed a little. It's important to consider the fact that you won’t be able to have messed up shelves because everything is out in the open.
Go Big but Not Too Big
It seems like most people who are doing home remodeling are looking to open spaces throughout the house, such as knocking down a wall between the kitchen and dining room. But opening up spaces can lead to some challenges you may not anticipate. You need to define areas around the house, such as where the living room ends and the dining room begins.
Joanna will use area rugs and light fixtures to help define what is what. True, larger spaces can be daunting, so Joanna’s solution is to create “vignettes” in the space. Vignettes are small spaces created within a bigger one. Smaller defined spaces will make the open area feel cozier and inviting.
Maybe Throw in Some Plants
Plants are often a great way to spruce up most spaces within a house. Joanna talked about her favorite plants after season four fans of “Fixer Upper” sent requests for her to reveal them. This is what she told Popsugar:
- Hoya is a fast-growing, leafy vine that either dangles from a shelf or in a hanging pot.
- An Olive tree is a sun-loving tree that can be used indoors.
- Pilea is versatile and can be used as soft, textural ground cover or a small pop of green for a table.
- A snake plant is low maintenance, and having this plant is actually good for your health.
- A string-of-banana vines are less leafy and more sculptural.
Fresh flowers smell good and look great and can bring joy to any space around the house. In fact, Joanna says this is how she got her idea to start Magnolia. She got her inspiration watching people carrying “fresh-cut flowers wrapped in simple brown kraft paper.” That’s when she decided to open a shop in Texas.
Joanna offered a few suggestions for doing a professional-type floral arrangement. Use floral foam soaked in water as the base of your bouquet, have an uneven number of flowers, cut the stems at an angle and add filler like greenery or small flowers. Or just go out and buy an arrangement.
Spruce Up the Workspaces
As we attempt to navigate through the post-COVID era, more people are working from home than ever before. So, for those who do work from home, why not spruce up your workspace a little bit?
Perhaps, the biggest thing to consider is lighting. Of course, the more natural light, the better, but if you don’t have that luxury, try a lamp that projects warm, soft lighting for your desk. Also, you may want to consider a lamp that hangs from the wall to save space.
What About Awkward Places?
Oftentimes, the remodeling project is going great until you realize there's an awkward space that has very little use for your plans. Joanna runs into this problem a lot, so you have to get creative. “Take a moment to consider the things that inspire you or that you want more of in your life,” Joanna said on her blog.
With that in mind, a good suggestion is to turn a tiny niche in the wall into something that has some purpose, such as a small space for seating, hanging a painting or using for overflow items.
Out With the Old and in With the Old
One way to make an old item look cool again is to improve it without taking away its original look. Case in point: this fireplace that Chip and Joanna worked on for “Fixer Upper.” The fireplace was constructed 100 years ago, and they wanted to keep the look but make it function. On her Instagram post, Joanna said, “New fireplace made to look old … We used antique bricks to build a fireplace where there was once one originally built 100 years ago.”
In other words, if you see something that’s old, try to improve on it. Use your imagination, and you might come away with a nice piece.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Sometimes, something as simple as a light fixture can bring the entire exterior of your house together.
Doing so made these garage doors match well with the home design while also giving it a classy look.
Through the use of statement floors, whether it’s bold vintage-inspired rugs or dynamic floor tiles, the Gaines use feature pieces to create a focal point.
Patterned floors can add character to what would be a rather dull room, or you can use it to draw your eye away from a flaw.
What Will the Future Entail?
You never know what life is going to throw at you, especially when you have kids that are grown up. During one project, Chip and Joanna noticed the kids' bedroom had bunk beds. The family who bought the house had older children who had already moved out.
But the parents wanted enough room for the children to stay whenever they wanted to visit, so the bunk beds worked. As Tiffany Taylor of Morning Chores noted, “When building a house or redesigning a house, it is important to remember where you’re at in life and where you’re going.”
Renovation Has Limits
Chip has run into his share of challenges when fixing up a home, but believe it or not, even he knows when to throw in the towel. Here are two big red flags to watch for while deciding on the property.
Black mold: There are a number of bad things going on here, such as leaky pipes, bad ventilation and flooding, and mold feeds on drywall and insulation. It’s costly to remove and replace, and it’s a health issue. “Black mold, which is officially called ‘Stachybotrys,’ has definitely been a deal breaker in the past,” Chip said.
Foundation problems: If there are issues like cracked drywall, pooling water in a basement and large cracks to exterior concrete, these signs point to something much more serious, and it requires a structural engineer to check it out. If, for example, you need a new foundation, you’re talking a $100,000 hit. No fun.
“Everything can be fixed,” Chip said. “It all just boils down to budget and expectations.”