Waco has its own version of Hollywood’s star homes tours. Everyday, buses cruise through the tiny Texas town, stopping at all the haunts the city’s most famous couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, made famous. There’s Magnolia Market and woodworker Clint Harp’s shop, and a coffee spot locals love plus the neighborhood park. And then there are the houses — the ones featured on Fixer Upper that are filled with nobodies-turned-celebrities thanks to the hysteria surrounding the HGTV show.
Jill and Josh Barrett don’t mind when the bus drives by. In fact, they flag it down and let guests wander through their home. “We’re kind of like, come one, come all,” Jill laughs. The couple owns one of Fixer Upper’s most memorable houses: the Midcentury Modern from season two. It was the first time viewers saw Jo tackle the style — the bold colors, sleek kitchen, and brass details a departure from her typical farmhouse ways.
Jill will tell you all of this on her mini tour, if you’re lucky enough to cruise past when she’s there. But if you want the place to yourself, you’ll have to get in line.
“I’ve known Chip and Jo since my college days,” Jill says, “and she’s probably the only person I would trust to just take on my house.”
The Barretts began renting their house (you can find it on Airbnb and VRBO) almost as soon as the episode aired, and it’s already booked out through July 2019, with pockets of availability here and there. And before you tear them down for their decision, hear them out.
After a major change at Josh’s work, he and Jill needed a new source of income. But rather than sell their new home — which they knew was on its way to becoming a piece of Waco history — they resolved to let fans experience it.
“That was really before anyone was putting their Fixer Upper homes up for rent,” Jill recalls. “A lot more people were coming to Waco. It was becoming sort of this pilgrimage point because of Chip and Joanna.”
The couple spoke to Chip and Jo about their situation, and the Gainses gave them their blessing to rent the space. Some people still give them flack, but others can’t thank them enough. Shortly after they listed the house, a man got in touch. His wife was a huge fan of Fixer Upper, and she’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He booked a stay at the Midcentury Modern house with his family, and when his wife passed a month and a half later, he reached out to Josh again. It was the last happy memory their family had together, he said.
It’s moments like those that remind Josh and Jill they did the right thing. “Putting our house on a vacation rental site didn’t hurt Chip and Jo,” Jill says. “It just gave people these great experiences of touching something they did — and they knew that.”
During construction, the Barretts didn’t peek at the space once — a feat that shocked Chip and Jo. That doesn’t mean they weren’t tempted to, though, if only for the fact that they didn’t know if Jill, who was nine months pregnant, would stay pregnant until the big reveal.
But she did, and she ended up giving birth the evening the episode aired. They brought their baby home to her new room the next day.
Stay in the house — or just tour it online — and you’ll notice a few key differences in the design from when the episode originally aired. Fixer Upper couples give Chip and Jo a budget and a timeline, and there was only so much the Gainses could do with what the Barretts offered.
On television, viewers saw the open common space — which consists of the kitchen, a dining area, and a family room — get a gut renovation, and the master bedroom, with its adjoining room for the Barretts’ baby, was completely redone, too. Jo outfitted the living space with tile floors, wood beams, and brass-and-glass shelving for a ‘60s vibe.
Jill collects furniture — she’s got a warehouse of vintage goods that could rival Jo’s — and when Jo agreed to adhere to the Barretts’ style, she asked Jill to source a lot of her own furniture. That’s where that iconic turquoise couch (that now lives in another room) came from. In the corner of the kitchen was the show’s other most notable space. Jo installed a floating counter along a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on a backyard so lush, it feels like you’re in a forest, not a populated Texas neighborhood. Five wood-and-iron stools sit underneath, and guest reviews often comment on how connected to nature they feel in that little nook.
Around the corner and down the hall is the master bedroom. Jill has only made a couple easy tweaks — but they’ve had a major impact. “The first thing you did that I remember, you painted that wall black!” Josh quips. When Jo was done with the room, the brick wall behind the bed was gray. But Jill had always wanted it to be darker — “Jo was worried it’d look like a tire shop,” she remembers — so she painted it after the cameras left. Now, the room has a moodier feel. “Another favorite thing that we found after the show was a Japanese midcentury watercolor,” Jill notes. It’s a serene scene — a group of deer in the snow — and it hangs over the bed.
The bunk room is the biggest change. Jill and Josh talked on the show about wanting a garage addition for their big family — Josh has four kids from a previous marriage — but it never got done. So Jill worked on it herself post-Fixer Upper: She installed two built-in queen beds, and the large seating area houses the turquoise couch that originally sat in the living room. The style flows so seamlessly from one room to the next that you’d never know it wasn’t the handiwork of Jo.
More than three years later, Jill and Josh are looking to expand their Fixer Upper home portfolio. They recently purchased another house that appeared on the show — one that was toured in the first season. Their hope is to remodel it themselves, then host guests.
Give Jill some time, but when the place is finished, she’d be happy to show you around.
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