Joni from Cote de Texas, one of my favourite blogs - not only for the blog but the comments - mentioned the show Fixer Upper and the hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines in the post here. I couldn't comment as I had never even heard of them but the other week as I was waiting for some old episode of housewives in some metropolitan city to bicker this show came on instead.
This post could easily be about me opining about their design aesthetic. Joanna is known for her American country look dotted with personalized sayings to put on walls.
But I don't think it would be the point because it would be a matter of some like it and some don't. End of.
It could be a post about dissecting the meteoric rise to fame and their presence in the US design channel called HGTV. They seem to be the new darlings of the suburban design community and most American housewives.
They live in the home above in Waco, Texas - yes that Waco.
Of course they live the dream of having chickens on a ranch so their lifestyle adds to their appeal of the crude marketing ethos of - if you do as I do you can live my life!
The show is such a clever format of a young couple who tend to look so well scrubbed, good looking and likable like most Mormon missionaries I have come across.
Everyone loves a new start and home shopping so we get to go along for the ride to view 3 houses with a custom wishlist for the respective couple.
Budgets are rather foreign. The budget is $120k.
Even for America, this seems rather low.
They showed this 1930's bungalow that in Melbourne, Australia would be at least a cool million.
At least. These style of home oddly doesn't exist in the U.K.
And yet it was....
$88,900! I was ready to move to Waco on this alone.
But then Joanna and Chip were going through costings of the things they could do. $3k for a custom island? Even Ikea would charge more and that's without labour.
I know this varies depending on where you live but look at the renovation estimate. The prices just seem unrealistic. Does Chip working on site keep costs down? It looks like one of those quotes by builders desperate for pitching at a job.
Look at this other house for less than 100K. My head was spinning and by the way for those who don't know - one of the episodes had a house for sale for 10,000 dollars! I mean I don't even know where to start with that sort of price point. The couple then spent 50K on the home...
Of course another section that appeals to the viewer is that Joanna lets
the couple choose three options on which to spend their money.
At the end of the show, Chip and Jo predictably show off a comfortably decorated home to an elated couple.
Most times they go through the numbers and in most cases the couple through the renovations have made instant equity ranging up to $50,000. This seems the way Chip and Jo have made their initial business flipping homes. They now have a business empire built up on the ethos of the show. Their business not only comprises of a construction company tailoring homes to their aesthetic but they have a furniture range and a store along with a bed and breakfast for all the tourists who travel so far just to buy into their philosophy.
They are an influence to be reckoned with going by the TV show's ratings and the numerous forums and blogs dedicated to pursuing this first perfect home ideal presented by the Gaines couple. Oddly this had the same effect that many of us civilians might feel when we go through outlandish and impossibly expensive homes when flipping through an average issue of Architectural Digest. Even though the houses featured on Fixer Upper are "affordable", I kept thinking but are there enough jobs there in Waco for people to live on? Also if a home is on average 60 to 80K, is it wise to spend almost the same amount on renovations?
I don't think it is wise to spend even half the value of your house on refurbishments. Unless you can afford to that is. This goes against what most couples around the world have to endure which is that they have spent all their money for the deposit and closing costs that they have to wait another few years to save up to decorate and refurbish the home.
It isn't hard to see why people gravitate to this show because it seems so plausibly doable.
Instant gratification works for human nature.
Everything is so seemingly easy where home purchases are done within a month and your builders speak perfect English and all you have to do is doodle something on paper.
Even I was googling where Waco was and dreaming up decor schemes and relishing the increase in budget in decorating a house I could buy for a small sum.
But would it not be crazy for me to buy a house for 60K then install Gracie handmade wallpaper, matchstick marble for my bathrooms, and an Aga in my kitchen? But isn't this just going to lead to the very recent sub prime real estate market?
Do people have such short memories?
Or is this show aimed at the demographic in their mid twenties that they would have still been in high school or starting out in college at the last financial crash?
Or are they empty nesters and baby boomers getting ready to downsize and release some equity for their impending retirements? I can just imagine loads of people out there getting their calculators out and making some bad financial decisions in order to invest in decorating the home rather than investing in the home itself. I am generalizing here of course but those days of the amateur real estate developer are over - except it seems in Waco, Texas. In Europe, unless you are in cahoots with an estate agent you will not see any bargain advertised and they will be sold in what is known as "brown envelope" transactions. This is where you make sure the agent is rewarded with giving you first dibs on a home being sold by someone who doesn't care or doesn't know better.
Most homes even if it needs renovation has the price built in. Otherwise, you could buy something at auction. Did I tell you that I flipped a few houses more than a decade ago? I stopped because it was so easy... Le grand sigh. I was young and didn't know better and went on to a challenge like my coffee shop that wasn't so financially rewarding. But even then I had to take risks and once bought a house that was a crack den in Liverpool, U.K. But that's another story for another day.
Things aren't as easy as this tightly edited show where you shop for a house then do it up and every last fork is installed.
I will continue to watch the show for the novelty and gawking at all the ridiculous house prices and laughing at how quickly sale transactions take in Texas. But I would be lying if I didn't admit that I couldn't help but feel like this show was the sanitized, chirpy, polished suburban real estate version of Jerry Springer. *If you made it this far, thank you because this post was half wiped out due to Mercury retrograde but I decided to post patched up!*
I didn't do anything other than what is expected of the season.
My brother has become a well versed cook which is a long way from a few years ago when he asked how to make a cup of tea. The pink ramekin is lined with cocoa powder and the blue ramekin is lined with sugar and he says that it rises more evenly.
He has come a long way although he wasn't impressed with me when I said his souffle tasted more like chocolate fondant.
But all of us laughed over playing Cards of Humanity.
It is an amusing game which isn't as cutthroat as Monopoly. I gave myself a present and got one of MaiTia's shawl pouches to put in your bag so it doesn't pull when mixed with other items.
I also got a book I had my eye on which I am still pouring over.
Meg from Pigtown Design is a star because I put my name down for a giveaway the Washington post editor was doing for this House and Garden issue from the 90's and Meg sent it over to me and that has been such good entertainment value. Thanks Meg!
It was so nice not to have traffic in town and driving around with Millie was such a joy. It makes you want to actually go about London and get out there rather than having that dread of facing traffic.
The Christmas decorations were on the sombre note this year. The best uplifting one was done by Cartier and they do this on most of their flagships - an oldie but a goodie.
I must be getting older because I am loving these Bvlgari wraparound watches. These are limited editions in all sorts of colors.
I used to think they were slightly "old lady" but now that I am getting there myself as if on cue I want one hehe.
Didn't ask the price but I bet that workmanship doesn't come cheap.
Went for a quick drink at St Martin's Lane hotel. It was so avant-garde in the 90's... Its claim to fame was that Samantha's gorgeous boyfriend in SATC with the blonde tresses was discovered here while working as the doorman.
I wish I could make these dahi puris which are puffed biscuits that you pour the liquid in and eating it is so much fun. But lately I am not in the cooking mood and one of my new year resolutions is that I need to cook more the way I used to.
Just the way I like it - slightly tart and sweet all at once. I even got to meet her too! We chatted so much with such ease and was such a pleasure to meet someone through the blog I would have otherwise not probably met.
I have done a lot of lazing around but was super busy watching the latest buzz called Making a Murderer on Netflix. I will not be the only one annoying you and nagging you to watch this 10 part documentary. It is a must watch and even if you aren't into documentaries I warn you now that you will be left out of so many conversations. It's not just me but every publication out there is obsessed about it.
Then I followed up with the Jinx which was a HBO special and equally blew my mind.
Instead of a civilized chat and a coffee, my friend and I decided we would go for a quick ride of the Blizzard and a shout.
It gets bigger every year and now it has a designated entrance which puts me off a bit because I like to glide in and out at will. Especially with heightened security in the city I wonder why they would encircle people in this manner. I really must attend those council meetings.
I always appreciate the bright lights and decor around the city
as it gets so dark early even if it is bright like this.
It's not a vintage year in terms of the holiday decor around town.
This is the Fortnum and Mason decor.
Nice but a bit sparse.
It seemed as if they were on some sort of budget when the only reason I fight the crowds is to have a look at them so I want them to be worthwhile.
The Christmas tree at Claridges which is highly anticipated every year was a let down of a bunch of umbrellas done by Burberry. I could see where they were going with it but I thought it was depressing.
My favorite tree was at the Beaumont Hotel.
Simple yet seemingly achievable with its cinnamon sticks wrapped in ribbon.
Oxford Street has a simple light decor on the street which is a wasted opportunity considering it is Europe's biggest shopping street so it is a bit weak considering.