The halls are decked, the house is perfect, ready for all your holiday guests. But at Chip and Joanna Gaines’ house, kids are sliding across the floor in their socks and creating masterpieces on Joanna’s favorite table. After years of aiming for perfection, Joanna had an epiphany – houses are for people. Looking down at the beautiful white sofa she’d placed in a home with four small children she realized that she’d created a home for things, not for the people who lived there. One afternoon, after finding little black finger prints all over her formerly pristine couch and briefly having a melt down, she “came to a brand-new conclusion: If all I’m doing is creating beautiful spaces, I’m failing. But if I’m creating beautiful spaces where families are thriving, then I’m really doing something. Doing that became my new calling.”
Once Joanna set aside her need to keep everything perfect, her house became “a space where creativity flowed, and that set me down a new path in all of my design work. It’s not just about pretty anymore. It’s about practical. It’s about children feeling that they can be at home.”
The way she designed homes changed. “From then on, everything I’d touch from a design standpoint would have that element of balance to it,” Joanna said. “It wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing, but it also fit into my (or my client’s) stage of life.”
Life hasn’t always been perfect for Chip and Joanna, their memoir, The Magnolia Story out this month reveals the story of a couple who have preserved, despite a few financial setbacks and in spite of Chip’s occasional impulsive purchases like the houseboat that lead to their hit HGTV show Fixer Upper. The show's success has inspired viewers all over the country. The couple gets fan mail and shout-outs from all around the world. In 2014, a friend of Joanna’s forwarded her a blog post written by a woman dying of cancer. Sitting in her hospital bed, after watching an episode of Fixer Upper, Kara Tippets wrote about how much she wished she could be home for the holidays with her four children, decorating her home for them. After reading Kara’s blog, Joanna was determined to help Kara and her family celebrate their last Christmas together. She and two close friends jumped on a plane and headed to Colorado. Joanna thought they were going there for Kara, but she found herself in aware of a woman who, “in the midst of her suffering, chose to find joy. Every inch of her home reflected beauty and life.”
It is easy during the holidays to strive for perfection. We all want to create memories that will last, traditions that will endure, and a place that people will want to come home to year after year. But in all the striving, it is important not to forget one of the big takeaways from The Magnolia Story – thriving is the goal. We often talk about surviving the holidays. We talk about “getting through” the visits from family, the endless meals we have to prepare, and the rounds and rounds of shopping that mark the holiday season. But what if we turned that talk to thriving? What if we looked for opportunities to make the holidays about fun, creativity, and play for every member of our family? What if we set aside perfection and expectation and made the holidays about the people around us? The lesson Joanna learned from Kara and so many of her experiences, is “thriving” doesn’t come when “everything is perfect, it’s actually down in the mess that things get good.”
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines (with Mark Dagostino) would make a great gift for the budding designer or entrepreneur on your list. Available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million.
You can find many of the items Joanna uses in the homes she and Chip design at MAGNOLIA MARKET