Behind the Scenes of a Fixer Upper
You know that friend that you run into every now and again; and, inevitably, you remember how much you like this friend and think to yourself, “I just don’t spend enough time with this person. I really like her.” So, as your conversation wraps up you mention, “We should go to lunch sometime.”
Then, you run into said friend a few months later and you hug, catch up, and as your conversation wraps up you mention, “Really, we should go to lunch soon. I mean it.”
Several more months pass. Same song. Second verse, “For real, lunch soon. Let’s not just talk about it.”
Eventually, you see said friend and she hasn’t seen you yet, so you walk really quickly hoping that she doesn’t see you because one, you’re embarrassed you’re so terrible at follow through and two, you hope she’s not mad at you because you just can’t seem to get your crap together.
So, I’m hoping you’re not mad at me and really, I am embarrassed it’s been so long.
Instead of giving you ALL THE REASONS why I haven’t blogged lately (they will come in later posts, pinky promise), I thought I’d blog about something I know you will LOVE. Think of it as my make-up present to you.
My sister, Val, had the (enviable) privilege of being on season 3 of HGTV’s huge hit, Fixer Upper.
I know, right?
As a long time Wacoan, it’s so strange (but exciting) to see our #WacoTown step onto the world’s stage. Thanks to Chip and Joanna, Waco is now a hot spot destination. Which is crazy to most of us who live here. Believe me, when I was 15, I could not wait to leave this town because “there is nothing to do here.” Now, we get to watch our sweet-little-baby-town blossom into a star. It’s almost like J.Lo’s transformation from Fly Girl to Vegas Girl. Almost.
I sat down with Val (like a real reporter except exact opposite) and asked her about the process, the show, Chip and Jo, and what her house looks like now. We asked for questions from social media and you guys had A LOT of questions. Hopefully, I asked her everything you want to know.
Me: How did you get picked for the show? What was the process?
Val: I submitted an application online, skyped with casting producer, and after that, signed a contract. But, I think the process is different for every person.
Me: How long was the process from when you first submitted your application to day one of filming?
Val: Well, it’s hard to answer because I really think each couple (on the show) has a different experience and timetable depending where the show is in the season. For us, it was about a year from when we submitted to when we started filming, but, we signed a contract while they were filming season 2 so we thought maybe we were going to be on that season. Basically, we started the process in February 2014, but started filming February 2015.
Me: Once all the interviews, applications, and contracts were signed, and house was secured how long did the actual renovation take?
Val: 2 1/2 months. Middle of March 2015 to the end of May 2015.
Me: How much design input did you have?
Val: I sent pictures of spaces I liked so they knew my style; and, I told them I wanted the honed black granite and marble countertops for the kitchen. I also said I wanted subway tile and wood floors. That was it. I trusted them with all the other design decisions.
I also know Joanna’s style and wanted the look that she has perfected. I wanted the white cabinets, the shiplap, the subway tile. There is no one that does it better as far as I’m concerned. Her signature style is farmhouse, rustic, and white so I’m always surprised when people (on social media) offer critiques like, “I’d like to see wood cabinets or not so much shiplap.” It’s like asking Justin Beiber to sing opera. That’s not his gig. Let him do what he does best.
Me: Really? That’s the analogy you’re going to give?
Val: It was all I could think of in the moment.
Me: This question is from your instagram post: Does Joanna do all the design?
Val: She definitely has the vision and the final say in design, but like all great designers, no one works alone. She has an amazingly talented team.
Here’s what a lot of people may not know, Joanna isn’t a surprise to Waco like she is to the rest of the world. She’s been a Waco staple for design and inspiration long before HGTV. You don’t get to be on HGTV without immeasurable talent and proven work.
Me: THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION PEOPLE ASK: Do you get to keep all the stuff they stage on reveal day?
Val: Some things. For example, I got to keep the custom table that Clint made for my craft room. And, the lighting fixtures stay (someone asked about that). Joanna gifted several things–the ‘M’ sign in the living room, the botanical print, and the color-swatch prints in the craft room.
The furniture, decor, rugs, etc. are not included in the budget, but are available at cost.
Me: What did you buy/keep from the staged house?
Val: The coffee table, the bar stools in the kitchen and craft room, the chalkboard sign in the kitchen, and I tried my hardest to convince my sweet husband and family that I should purchase the thousands of dollars bookshelves.
Seriously, on reveal day, your emotions are so high and you look around at the beauty that is now your home and you want everything…and you tell yourself you’ll never be able to find bookshelves that beautiful ever again in your whole life. Thankfully, not everyone was caught up in the emotion of the day. I was wisely counseled to “back away slowly from the bookshelves.”
Me: What other rooms get done?
Val: Whatever rooms you want to include in your budget. For us, we did the game room, too. It just wasn’t on the show. I really want to put signs on the doors of the rooms that didn’t get renovated that read “Ran out of money.”
Me: Is the budget accurate?
Val: It was in our case.
Me: On a scale of 1-10, how enjoyable was the process?
(See, I’m not the only dramatic person in the fam).
Me: Are Joanna and Chip really like that (in person)?
Val: What you see on tv is what you get. Joanna and I are friends in real life, but it was my first interaction with Chip and he really is a goofball. They are real people–just like you and me.
Me: Tell me about the shoe closet. Does Mike really have 500 pairs of shoes?
Val: No, he does not, but he has A LOT.
The shoe closet was small, but it was a small space. What viewers didn’t see is that they customized the shelving to fit the size of Mike’s shoes. There was not another way to configure the shelves to accommodate the space. They made the best use of the space considering the restrictions they had to work with. So, it was small, but it was also customized for a size 14 shoe.
Me: Do you pay for the big reveal poster? Do you keep it?
Val: No and No. Where would I put that thing?
Me: Someone wants to know about the landscape. What kind of plants and such.
(lots of laughter)
Val: Oh, that’s cute. Clearly they don’t know me.
Me: I’ll just say they are green. For now. That work?
Val: Yes, perfect.
Me: The reveal. A lot of people were talking about your genuine surprise at the reveal. What made it so genuine?
Val: Okay, yeah, I want to talk about this. So much of the reveal is about personality. Mike and I are expressive, demonstrative people. I grew up with sisters (who are also dramatic and expressive) and I don’t know any other way to respond than with emotion, high emotion. I hate that some viewers pick apart (and question the sincerity or gratitude) of homeowners because their reaction or response was not what a viewer expected. I know some homeowners are so nervous that they are on the verge of throwing up on reveal day. Can we just agree that everyone on the show is super excited and happy and grateful to have a home fixed up by Chip and Joanna despite how their response or reaction may or may not live up to what someone expects? Unless you experience it, you just don’t know how you’ll respond.
Me: Well, that’ll preach.
Val: I think a factor that worked in our favor was that we did not go and look at construction one time. Once we walked out of the house on real estate day, we did not go back to look at progress.
Me: I did.
Val: And other family members–which resulted in a phone call from production that politely asked “please ask your family to refrain from visiting the house so often.”
Me: (guilty face emoji)
Val: It was so difficult to not swing by and check out the work, but I truly wanted the genuine surprise. I even had my daughter screen my texts…just in case someone wanted to let me know something about the house. We had to work for the surprise.
Me: So, if you wanted to see the progress you could, but you’d be less surprised on reveal day.
Me: Would you do it all again?
Val: In a heartbeat.
And, because I aim to please. Here’s a breakdown of some of the questions you may still have:
Living/Dining/Kitchen walls: SW Repose Grey
Kitchen pantry door: SW Magnetic Grey
Craft Room walls: SW Silver Strand
Kitchen Cabinets and Trim: SW Alabaster
Craft Room Cabinets: SW Dovetail
Master Bedroom walls: SW Mindful Grey
So many of you asked to see Val’s house now, after living in it for 9 months. I know I’m partial, but Val is a really good decorator and carpenter. I’ll let the pictures prove my point.
And, because I like to keep it real (and so does Val), you see the door to the right of the game room door?
That’s the bathroom. It didn’t quite make it on TV. I can’t imagine why.
Finally, no one asked, but I’m sure it’s because you were afraid I’d say no.
Of course, you can have my autograph. I was kinda the star of the show. Serving tea is a big deal.
It feels good to be back on the ol’ blog. I’ve missed you. We really should have lunch sometime.