Joanna Gaines frequently finds herself in a position to make what’s old new again, recycling furniture, antique accessories, even whole houses. But in the latest “Fixer Upper: Behind the Design,” she has to work in the opposite direction: She has to make a brand-new house look old. Is that even possible?
In the episode titled “The Pahmiyer House,” we meet Dale and Nancy Pahmiyer, who have been looking for a house for ages, and can’t seem to find one that’s the right size and has a gorgeous sunset view. So Chip Gaines suggests they find a plot of land that has potential, and he will build their dream house from scratch.
The Pahmiyers are into this idea, and purchase an empty lot for $32,000. Then they spend $270,000 more to build a new home. But from there, they say they want to purge its shiny newness to look more cozy and have character.
That’s what almost stumps Joanna. “The biggest challenge on this project is creating an old-world feel in a brand-new build,” she says.
As she takes a crack at comfortable weathering, Joanna dishes out some excellent tips and tricks for giving all houses more character, regardless of their age. Take a gander!
‘Defer to her’
In his golden years, Dale is a wise man. When Joanna asks the couple about their design style, he says, gesturing toward his wife, “My style is her style. I defer to her.”
“That’s a good style,” Joanna says with a laugh, as Nancy starts talking about her penchant for a “European cottage.” The design process goes smoothly from there.
Have a clear definition of style
“European cottage” is rather vague, so Joanna runs a detailed description by the Pahmiyers: “European cottage style to me is light woods; it’s stucco accents. I also envision antique doors, aged beams, really cool dormers and flower boxes. It’s a really good style for families because it’s cozy and inviting.” It’s all good with Mr. and Mrs. P.
Divide and conquer the island
“Nothing says a kitchen built for entertaining like double kitchen islands,” says Joanna. “Splitting them up creates a direct walkway to the stove and the refrigerator without compromising the extra storage and countertop space of a large island.”
Make a special room for the grandkids
Nancy remembers a favorite aunt who had a special room just for her nieces and nephews, which made them want to visit her quite frequently. Since the Pahmiyers want their own grandchildren to come over often and feel welcome, they ask Joanna to design a room just for the kids. Joanna revels in this.
Eliminate the mess potential
Joanna notes that you need closed cabinets in a playroom to hide games and toys so it doesn’t feel messy.
“I don’t want this to be like you walk in and it feels like a day care,” she says. “I want it to be like you walk into this amazing space that’s pretty, not cluttery.”
So Joanna designs a book nook with a built-in bench along one wall, and lines that wall with horizontal, aged-look wood paneling. You realize quickly that the wall is both attractive and practical. If you’re going to be comfortable in a nook, you might lean against the wall, put your feet against it, maybe even accidentally kick it.
Bonus: The paneling won’t show marks like painted drywall would.
Create continuity throughout the house
Joanna notes that using the same colors throughout the house is not the only way to achieve continuity and flow.
“I’m going to anchor the living room and the kitchen with the same kind of wood,” she says, providing the rooms a lovely harmony.
Be on the lookout for ledgers
Whenever Joanna finds a big, weathered antique ledger at a flea market or estate sale, she snatches it up to be used later to add some cool design touches.
“One of my favorite things when I’m antiques shopping is these antique ledgers,” she says, fingering a fine example. “To me, it could be art. I tear out the pages, and get them framed and matted, and this is perfect for a gallery wall or in an entryway, or a living room where you want to keep things a little more muted, but really interesting. These ledger books are a really fun way to bring in some history, some character.”
In the end, the Pahmiyers are tickled pink by their new home—and Jo has proved that new construction can have old-world charm to spare.
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