Joanna Gaines Opens Up About ‘Daunting’ Castle Renovation

Fixer Upper: The Castle


Joanna Gaines was more hesitant than her husband, Chip, when it came to renovating a 100-year-old castle, she revealed in an essay for the Spring 2023 issue of Magnolia Journal. The couple renovated the Cottonland Castle in Waco, Texas on “Fixer Upper: The Castle,” a six-episode series that aired in 2022.

Magnolia Journal 2023 Spring Issue

Cody Ulrich/Magnolia Journal

“For years the castle sat empty. Graffiti coated the walls. Animals found a new home,” the interior designer wrote in the essay. “If you’ve followed our story, then you know that none of this scared Chip. It fueled him.”

The 6,000-square-foot property sits in the Castle Heights neighborhood of Waco, Texas. While construction on the building began in 1890, it was transformed into a castle after architect Roy E. Lane was hired in 1913, reported Waco History. According to the outlet, Lane was inspired by German castles.

“It sat vacant for probably 20 years,” Joanna explained on “Good Morning America.” “I think Chip tried to buy this project eight different times.”

But, as she admitted in her essay, each time Chip’s offer was declined she would sigh “a breath of relief.”

“Not because I didn’t want Chip’s dream to come true or because I didn’t want to step into this castle’s legacy and write our own chapter in its unfolding story,” she explained in the Magnolia Journal. “That’s the kind of work Chip and I live for. But tackling a project like this—one at that scale with 130 years’ worth of history—felt daunting.”

The intimidating prospect became a reality when Chip’s offer was accepted in 2019. As the couple revealed on “Good Morning America,” her husband bought the castle without telling Joanna. In a clip from “Fixer Upper: The Castle,” Chip surprised her during a lunch date and exclaimed, “Joey, the castle! I got it.”

But the couple waited another three years to begin renovations. “We knew we couldn’t rush its ending,” she wrote in the essay.

Chip & Joanna Gaines Returned to the ‘Castle’s Roots’

The former HGTV stars finally began renovating after they decided to return the castle to its former glory, Joanna revealed in the essay.

“During the year-long renovation process, we kept coming back to the building’s roots, studying the German castle that inspired its original design and trying to find ways to either restore or replicate its stunning details—its crown molding, wood paneling, and narrow-plank floors,” she wrote. “At the same time, we wanted to create an updated home that could, one day, serve a family well and feel current.”

Joanna is known to favor the “modern farmhouse” aesthetic, often featuring shiplap in her home designs. She admitted on “Good Morning America” the preference for paneling was often driven by her clients, but, unlike on “Fixer Upper,” the couple did not have a client for Cottonland Castle.

“So, I made one up,” Joanna revealed in the Magnolia Journal. “I imagined an older couple who love to play cards, sip wine, and host friends and family. Maybe that sounds funny, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that crafting a story would help guide our final decisions.”

During a walkthrough of the property on “Good Morning America,” Joanna opened up about her changing design style. As she told host Lara Spencer, “I’ve evolved into, I have a love for multiple styles. I don’t want to be put in a box.”

When it came to restoring Cottonland Castle, Joanna admitted in her essay that it was “quite the dance” to blend their style with the history of the property.

“As a designer, it stretched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined until we were in the thick of it,” Joanna wrote in the Magnolia Journal. “But I’m glad we trusted our instincts and swung back to the castle’s roots instead of trying to create something completely new.”

The couple also employed modern techniques during their renovation. Chip revealed on “Good Morning America” that in one instance they used Styrofoam as a more affordable alternative to plaster mantles.

Renovating the Castle Taught Joanna Gaines a Lesson About ‘Forgotten Things’

In the Magnolia Journal, Joanna revealed she knew a lesson would unfold as they renovated the Civil War-era castle. “The castle taught us that sometimes the forgotten things in life don’t need a reinvention but just a little dusting off,” she wrote.

She added that “deep-seated dreams” are worth holding onto.

“Yes, even the ones 20 years in the making,” Joanna wrote. “Because in that waiting, pieces in and around us fall into place, letting that which is meaningful and lasting have its way. When we allow ourselves that space to wait, it’s amazing what beauty reveals itself in the end.”

The future of Cottonland Castle remains unclear. As Chip and Joanna explained in a November 2022 interview with Variety, they originally intended to sell the property as a home but worry it could end up being rented out as an Airbnb. The couple also considered they might one day need the home for their own extended family.

“I would hate to let this thing go, make a little profit or cut our losses, whatever pops out of it financially, only to then regret it a year from now,” Chip explained to Variety. “I think we’re just really slow playing this.”

The spring issue of Magnolia Journal is available online now and on newsstands starting February 10.

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