According to urban legend Oscar Wilde spoke these words on his deathbed–just one example of what a powerful force home decor can be. This explains in part the nations’ current obsession with the remodeling show “Fixer Upper” or more specifically Chip and Joana Gaines. Their first book “The Magnolia Story” made number one on Amazons best seller list the day it went on sale as a pre-sale. A pre-sale. So apparently it’s not just me. It seems the whole country follows them around virtually. I’m telling you this in an attempt to excuse my personal (some might call it excessive) appreciation for all things Joanna.
My husband and I recently took a small trip into home remodel world, and I have to say we barely survived. Chip and Jo Jo saved us and it was a revelation. I love my husband and I think we have a good, solid, loving and mutually respectful marriage, but there were definitely times during this process when I fantasized about walloping him with my cast iron skillet. So we found it useful to use Chip-and-Joanna-isms like “Trust your wife”, and “You’re right, Chip, I’ll leave the construction to you”, or, “Good job Buddy!”, and my personal favorite, “Whatever you want, Jo Jo”.
But binge-watching Fixer Upper taught me a few other, more important things about creating a home filled with light and love. Below I’ve compiled a small list I call ‘The rules of Joanna:
1. Cool it down.
Studies show your surroundings may be influencing your emotions and state of mind. If you find certain places irritate you, or are especially relaxing and calming, there’s a good chance the colors in those spaces are affecting you in a subliminal way. For some people the color red triggers a spiked heart rate and additional adrenaline pumped into the blood stream. I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not need to feel heart-poundingly anxious at home and if you find yourself feeling that way, maybe color is the culprit. Joanna Gaines has an identifiable style—cool farmhouse. But adopting this turned out to be a difficult thing for me–after all, red is my color. But could I live without it in my home? I was willing to try her cool pallet thing. “Trust Jo Jo” I told myself.
So I went through my house and packed up red dish towels, orange pottery bowls and russet throw pillows. I put pale gray slip covers on my slipper chairs. I stashed everything I could find in the range of warm colors and the result was startling. My living room suddenly became calmer. I felt calmer. Even in my outside flower beds I kept my seasonal plantings to a cool palette this year so now we’re engulfed in scent and cool, calm color as soon as we walk through the front gate. And in our frenetic culture isn’t a calm home a powerful gift to its occupants?
2. Pay attention to your curb appeal.
Curb appeal is my business. It’s my Dharma, you might say. And while I appreciate the search for inner value, if your outside doesn’t match your inside everyone you meet will sense a disconnect. Sometimes the longer we live in a space (or clothing style or hairdo) without changing it the more blind we become to it, in decorating and in life. Exteriors can either encourage people or put them off. Ask any realtor. The first thing Chip wants to know when showing a new house to new clients is “What’s your first impression?” Clients always have a hard time getting past that first impression, but Joanna never met a house too old or too dilapidated she couldn’t make beautiful. Chip and Jo Jo appreciate age, history but also potential. The ‘Reveal’ at the end of each episode shows their clients’ shock and happiness with their newly beautiful home, sometimes bursting into tears before they even step through the front door. First impressions may be hard to shake but fresh paint and petunias, or a new haircut, can change your whole attitude.
3. If your partner does something really stupid in front of a bunch of people, laugh.
And say something sweet. It’s one of those things Joanna does in every house, in every episode and she probably does it every day in her real life. No matter how ridiculous or inappropriate Chip acts, she smiles and pats him on the back. As she leaves she says “Good job Buddy”. She looks up at him as him as he clambers over rooftops and under floor crawl spaces and coos “You look real cute there Bud!” She compliments her carpenter Clint when he brings her the 10′ kitchen island she designed. She fusses over her favorite metal artist Jimmy Don telling him how amazing he is, though she micromanages every detail of the cute little signs he makes for her. Jo Jo thanks and compliments and fusses over everyone all the time and she even thanks her children when they do what she tells them to do. She is grateful and thankful and complimentary. So I learned this from her: If your partner tries to karate chop his way through a wall, let him. Then smile and give him or her a compliment.
2. Open things up to nature.
Joanna believes in the healing power of nature, and so should you. Science has proven that women who are surrounded by nature live longer than those who do not (Environmental Health Perspectives). Women who had the most vegetation within 820 feet of their homes had a lower mortality rate than people living in the least vegetated areas. Whether Joanna read this study or not, she’s intuitive about what makes us feel closer to nature. She creates new door and window openings, removes blinds, takes down dark draperies, knocks out walls. She brings the outside in and the inside out with pergolas and outdoor dining areas. Pretend she’s standing behind you whispering, “let me help you love your home” and clear junk from your back porch, add a few tables, chairs, and hanging plants. Have your coffee outside in the morning and wine there after work. It’ll start and end your day and put a smile on your face and peace in your heart.
4. Give yourself an amazing master bedroom suite.
It’s one of those design things Joanna does in every house too, and we need to pay attention. She knows it’s important to give yourself a private space, a place to recharge or retreat so while most of the other bedrooms in her remodels get a cursory cosmetic upgrade she spends quite a bit of her mental energy and dare I say it, budget, on the master bedroom suite. Standard Feng Shui practitioners ask you to consider your view from each side of the bed. What is the first thing you see on awaking? The last thing you see just before you nod off to sleep? These questions seem trivial but consider this physics principal: “The observer affects the experiment, always.” So if your life is an experiment, shouldn’t you program it in the most positive way possible using the tools you have available? Consider your master bedroom suite a powerful life tool.
5. Embrace “Demo Day”.
When it’s Demo Day on Fixer Upper, you know it. Chip gets excited. He hammers walls, rips out cabinets, sweats and makes a loud, noisy mess during every job. Joanna could resist Demo Day, or avoid it, or complain about it. But she doesn’t because she knows you have to kick up some dust to create big, positive changes. Don’t be afraid of changing your house or an old habit pattern or job. Kick up some dust, tear down a few walls, replace windows with doors. Don’t fear the process of remodeling either your home or your life. Change is a necessary processes for growth, and radical change is crucial to radical growth. Embrace it.
6. Make family the most important thing in your universe.
You may not get this fact while watching “Fixer Upper” but nothing gets in the way of Chip and Joanna’s family time. Nothing. You have to wonder how those California TV producers handled the first season when they learned that Chip and Jo Jo go home every day between 5:30 and 6:00. They have their own TV show but no television in their house. But their commitment to family doesn’t stop them from working. Joanna tells a story about her first little shop, how she brought her firstborn son to work with her every day and it reminded me so much of my first little plant shop. My eldest daughter Brooke took her first steps in that little shop. Chip and Joanna bring their kids to work with them all the time. If you work a lot and love your kids, you might be able to find a way to combine them. I still like to keep my kidletts close to me and they are all grown up now.
On Facebook recently I saw this: “In a world of Kardashians, there is Joanna Gaines.” So my new goal now is to be Joanna a little more. I think it just may work.