Fancy giving your space the “Fixer Upper” treatment? If you’re a fan of design guru Joanna Gaines’ farmhouse-chic style, you don’t have to hire her personally to give your home a makeover. The former star of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” (in which Gaines charmed viewers not just with her expert decor tips but also her sweet relationship with her husband Chip) has shared dozens of interior design tips in her books and on her Magnolia blog.
Here are some of Gaines’ top tips to help you transform your space into one to be proud of.
Paint Walls White
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Think white walls are boring? Think again, Gaines says. In her opinion, it’s the perfect place to start. In her tips for the Lunar Lander House, Gaines explained in “Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave” how painting your walls white “can actually provide a neutral and clean foundation to design around that other colors can’t, giving you more freedom to get creative with decor.”
Nikki James, studio manager for Ashton Woods Dallas Division, whose work is pictured below, agrees.
“Painting walls white allows your eye to see the down-to-earth simplicity of a modern farmhouse,” she tells The Delite. “You get to see the textures of the worn wood, the vintage Edison bulbs that hang above your dining room table and the matte black finishes that give it just the right amount of down-home charm.”
Add Personal Touches
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This ledge in my office provided a unique way to have a gallery wall without actually having to hang much. To keep me inspired while I work, I chose to display some of my favorite pieces like the vintage metal street sign which reminds me of when I lived on 57th Street in NYC. The quote on the wall serves as a good daily reminder while the bird artwork is symbolic of my family. I'm all about filling walls and rooms with pieces that are meaningful and encouraging ❤️ You can read more about gallery walls and get inspiration in the winter issue of #MagnoliaJournal
Gaines loves adding personal touches to turn a house into a home, like the artwork she has hanging in her office.
“To keep me inspired while I work, I chose to display some of my favorite pieces like the vintage metal street sign which reminds me of when I lived on 57th Street in NYC,” she wrote on Instagram. “The quote on the wall serves as a good daily reminder while the bird artwork is symbolic of my family. I’m all about filling walls and rooms with pieces that are meaningful and encouraging.”
The beauty of a letter board (on which Gaines displayed the aforementioned quote) is that you can change the words and phrases as often as you like to create a decor piece that evolves with you.
Transform Old Areas Into Functional Spaces
A lack of open space isn’t an insurmountable problem, Gaines wrote in “Homebody.” She looks for closets that aren’t needed or spots under stairs that can be transformed into useful spaces.
“This is especially useful in rooms which are small with relatively large closets,” interior designer Beverly Solomon tells The Delite. “For instance, you could open it up and create a desk area without making the room feel too cramped. And with proper planning, you can keep some storage space above the desk.”
In a 2016 episode of “Fixer Upper,” Gaines showed how opening up the area under stairs can create a functional office space. She loved the results so much, she shared them on Instagram:
Backsplash With Something Other Than Tile
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Don’t know about you guys but this weather just makes me want to get cozy and bake cookies 🍪. . Design: @fig.st.design . 📸: @katefalconerphotography . Builder: @builders_collective . . . . #kitchendesign #kitchenremodel #kitchen #customhood #customisland #sherwinwilliamsblusterysky #stonebacksplash #archwaysandceilings
For her La Pequeña Colina kitchen renovation, Gaines chose a polished white macaubus quartzite over tile for the backsplash.
“I love that it adds texture without competing with the rest of the design details in the space,” she wrote in “Homebody.”
Most people use tile for a backsplash because it’s functional and can look amazing. But it can get repetitive, says Arbor Living interior designer Jemma Lane.
“An alternative that I quite like is the use of a large stone slab, which brings intense character to a space with minimal effort,” Lane tells The Delite. “It also adds brilliant depth and imperfections to a kitchen — cooking is an art form that will sometimes go wrong and that is often what is instilled into a lovely stone backsplash.”
This Instagram post by the Santa Cruz, California-based Fig St. Design shows how effective a stone backsplash can be in a kitchen.
We’re not talking about walls … they’re still white. But it’s no secret that Gaines loves plants and tries to incorporate them into her home designs as often as possible. For a 2017 “rustic coastal” design, Gaines added tropical plants.
“Plants add life to any space,” interior designer Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home, tells The Delite. “Just be careful when choosing fake options. There are many new artificial options that have been developed and look really amazing… but there are also some bad ones!”
Think About Rug Placement
A rug can make a huge difference in a space, adding texture and tying a theme or color scheme together. But you can’t just throw it down and hope for the best. Gaines is big on rug placement and has rules for different rooms in the house. For instance, a rug in the dining room should extend about 24 inches beyond each side of the table, and a small, half-round or rectangular rug in front of the sink is perfect in a kitchen.
“A rug’s position is so important because it serves as an anchor for the room,” Falsone tells The Delite. “If you don’t pay attention to placement, it could easily make the room feel smaller than it actually is.”
Mix Old And New
Something else “Fixer Upper” viewers will have seen Gaines do, time and time again, is combine old with new. In her design tips for the Lunar Lander House, Gaines said it’s always been one of her top design rules.
“I chose to mix the worn-in, vintage couch with the new, modern accent chairs to bring a balance to the room and soften the lines,” she wrote in “Homebody.” “Because some of the larger pieces in this room were old, I made sure that most of the accent pieces were new, with clean lines — to be sure the room didn’t feel like an antique store.”
Falsone is another fan of this concept. “Mixing old with new allows for a more eclectic and timeless look,” she tells The Delite. “A vintage rug with a modern sofa looks great.”
Use Pillows And Throws To Tie Everything Together
Beautiful pillows and throws are home decor items Gaines just can’t do without.
“To me, rugs, pillows and throws are the finishing touches that make a space feel like home,” she wrote in a 2016 blog post. “Throws can be used on the back of a couch to add texture, or fold a few and toss them in a basket or crate in the living room or guest room for easy access.”
“If you have a neutral base with your furniture you can change the theme of the room with throws and pillows,” Falsone tells The Delite. “You can soften up a masculine modern sofa by adding a plush fur throw and complementary pillows.”
Put Your Essentials On Display
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Open shelving looks good just about anywhere and I love how it displays the items I use most while also helping me stay organized. On the blog, we’re sharing lots of open shelving ideas and how you can easily incorporate this design element into your home! (Magnolia.com/blog)
One of Gaines’ most functional design tips is displaying the most-used items in a home.
“By having things out in the open and in cute containers, you actually reduce the clutter,” Lane tells The Delite. “The fact that everything is accessible right away is cool because it means that the space is really functional, and by investing in a set of nice jars and containers, you can achieve a great balance between functionality and style balance — which is every designer’s dream.”
Choose Clean Lines Over Fuss
Although Gaines’ decor style always stays true to a farmhouse aesthetic, she also favors clean, classic lines and modern finishes. She opts for simple yet sleek pieces that complement a range of spaces, like classic leather couches. An added bonus: They get better with age.
Never Neglect Lighting
You don’t have to have floor-to-ceiling windows in every room to fill your home with light. With overhead lighting, floor lamps and table lamps you can turn dark, gloomy spaces into bright, welcoming ones.
The right artificial light has another benefit.
“The use of soft yet warm lighting helps create the illusion of a slightly larger area,” Aaron Cambden, an interior designer at Fairview Estates, tells The Delite.
Don’t Forget About Curb Appeal
The home reveal moment on “Fixer Upper” is one of the best parts of the show, and a lot of the satisfaction comes from the homeowners’ response to the exterior of the property. Gaines might add a porch, upgrade the front door, plant shrubbery or give the entire exterior a new coat of paint.
Curb appeal is also important if you’re trying to sell a home.
“The outside is the first thing people see, so it needs to be as good as possible,” says Cambden. “If the viewers don’t like the outside from the start, they’ll be in a bad mood all the way through and more likely to pick the property apart.”
Keep Knick-Knacks To A Minimum
Each of Gaines’ remodeling projects has its own character and style, but there’s one thing you’ll never see in any of them: clutter.
“Light, airy spaces feel more appealing than heavy, cluttered spaces,” Fasone tells The Delite. “This minimalistic concept also gives people a chance to use more meaningful furniture in the space itself.”
Create An Accent Wall
“When you do it right, it’s not an accent wall,” she said.
In other words, don’t have an accent wall for the sake of having an accent wall — make sure you have a reason for it, like reaching a compromise between light or dark walls.
And who says an accent wall has to be painted? This diffuser wall Gaines created for a home in the fifth season of “Fixer Upper” is more than a wall — it’s a work of art.
Give Your Least Favorite Room Some TLC
The laundry room might not be your favorite place to hang out, but there’s no reason it can’t be a fun space that you can enjoy spending time in. Gaines often adds handmade signs, storage baskets, hanging plants and antique-inspired accessories to laundry rooms to make them more creative and attractive. The same works for other rooms you might want to avoid, like an office or a pantry.
Put Larger Furniture In A Small Space
It might go against conventional home decor advice, but Gaines often puts larger furniture pieces in tighter spaces. A good example of this is having a king-sized bed with two small side tables as nightstands, instead of a smaller bed with heavier pieces on either side. You might expect this trick to make the room look smaller, but it actually has the opposite effect!
Go Bold With Wallpaper
You might think wallpaper would overwhelm a small area, but this is another home decor “rule” that Gaines isn’t afraid to bend.
“Small spaces like bathrooms, mudrooms, and entryways are ideal for trying out a bold pattern because they’re fairly low-risk in terms of the amount of real estate you’re covering,” she wrote on her Magnolia blog.
“Wallpaper adds depth and dimension to any space,” Fasone agrees. “The difference is drastic!”
Turn Bathroom Storage Into A Focal Point
If you’re tight on storage space in your bathroom, why not follow Gaines’ lead and put your necessities out on display? With a little thought and creativity, you can make a cute focal point, save precious surface space (and keep hidden the things you really don’t want people to see).
“The fun thing about being creative with the way you contain things is that things that typically wouldn’t be cute, like cotton balls and Q-Tips, you can make it cute by getting cute little glass jars and putting them in a basket,” Gaines wrote in “Homebody.”
Use Cubbies To Accent A Space
Cube storage needn’t be restricted to dorm rooms. Whether you stick to wire or go for wood (or a mixture of both), it’s a great way to add functional accents to any room. Cubbies can also be easily adapted to meet your family’s changing needs.
“As time goes on, you can add to it, take away, [or] modify it,” wrote Gaines in “Homebody.”
Create Natural Centerpieces
You don’t have to splurge on expensive centerpieces from the flower shop to impress dinner guests. Adding a few flowers or plant clippings in a plain glass jar or small vase has all the wow factor you need. And as the seasons change, so too can your choices.
Think Diagonal For Shelves
One of Gaines’ top tips will ensure you never look at a shelf in the same way again.
“When I’m doing open shelving, a trick that I like to use is using a grid that goes in a diagonal form,” she wrote in “Homebody.” “For instance, if you have a plant on the upper righthand side of the top shelf, you put a plant diagonally below it.”
“Creating a diagonal path for the eye to follow up or down is more interesting than having a repetitious squared look,” agrees Solomon.
Let Textiles Do The Talking In The Bedroom
Instead of going all-out with pictures and paintings on your bedroom walls, keep the focus on rich, plush, inviting textiles on the bed itself.
“Let the textures be the thing that makes the room feel complete, more than all the stuff on the walls because you want to feel like when you step in your bedroom, it’s a retreat,” Gaines told Country Living.
Add Pops Of Color With Books
Books are a great way to add flashes of color to an otherwise neutral space, or tie in with an existing color scheme.
“Choose a color you love and incorporate it throughout your space using books,” wrote Gaines on her Magnolia blog.
You could stack books on a table, line them up on a shelf or mantel, or create an entire wall of them if you’re feeling adventurous.
Give Every Family Member Their Own Space
Even if you can’t give each of your kids their own room, you can still create special areas for their belongings. Drake and Duke — Gaines’ sons — each have their own wall system in their room.
“Duke likes to collect things, so you see all these boxes — he’s got a ton of collectibles. And then Drake is really into trophies and sports stuff, and he’s got his open shelves,” Gaines told Country Living. “It’s about giving them plenty of space for their stuff, but then also carving out something that displays what they love.”
Make A Corner Matter
Gaines is a firm believer in turning even the smallest of corners into a meaningful space.
“Find spots that you can retreat to and then from there, add on to it. I don’t necessarily think you need to have an entire room,” she wrote in “Homebody.”