Togetherness is what makes the world go round for Chip and Joanna Gaines.
"I would encourage couples that that's the secret to our success, is just to pull for one another," Chip Gaines said on Steve Forbes' What's Ahead podcast in April. "At the end of the day, Jo and I care about each other. We care about each other's hearts, we care about each other's souls. We care that each other are taken care of, and are healthy and successful.
"And when you kind of put those fundamentals in place, it makes a lot of this other stuff feel a little less relevant. It's not the end of the world. If we've got money, it's she and I. If we don't have any money, it's she and I. It makes things a little less life or death."
"And it makes us want to tackle big things," Joanna added, "whether it be a network or a magazine. It makes us go, 'Hey, it's us against that, let's try it.'"
A magazine? They have one. As for a network? That's next.
If the last couple of years have been all about hitting re-set on their personal and professional lives, then the year ahead is going to be about reclaiming their place on the mountaintop as all the laboring they've been doing behind the scenes come to fruition in a network all their own.
Chip and Joanna have teamed with Discovery and will be taking over the cable space currently occupied by the DIY Network with the Magnolia Network, featuring their own slate of programming, including the entire Fixer Upper library, starting in October 2020. (The channel was originally supposed to launch in the summer, but anyone who's been through a renovation knows that delays are par for the course.)
The Gaineses are serving as co-chief creative officers, while former HGTV president Allison Page took on that role in the new venture.
"Our intention with this network is to create and curate content that inspires, encourages and helps to build bridges across our communities," the couple said in a statement in April. "We want honest, authentic programming that brings families together."
Their first show was just announced weeks ago: Home on the Road, which will follow singer-songwriter couple Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano Ramirez on tour with their band Johnnyswim as they—along with their two kids—strive to capture the comforts of home while living that nomadic musician life.
"Ever since we met them a little over five years ago, we've been drawn to the way they navigate family, community and life on the road," Chip and Joanna said about Abner and Amanda. "They're not just musicians, they're storytellers, and together, they are a true picture of the relentless pursuit of following a dream and making it a reality. But their dream doesn't stop with them—it's extended to their family and fans and everyone they meet."
But wading into Oprah Winfrey territory by starting their own network isn't even the only new thing Chip and Joanna are doing. They're opening a hotel, too.
As they explained last month to Sunday Today host Willie Geist, Chip had been in love with the old Karem building in their adopted hometown of Waco, Texas, for years, and finally got more adamant about wanting to buy it. Joanna admitted that she "had a lot of resistance," not least because the property freaked her out a little.
"It turns out, the more haunted a property is, the better deal we can get on these things," Chip, who also spearheaded the decision to buy the 100-year-old Cottonwood Castle last year, said cheerfully. "Quite the advantage."
Eventually Joanna went to check it out, hoping to see what her husband saw in the place. And "I could see the history, I saw the people in here, I saw the parties that were in here," she recalled," and I saw that this place is really special."
"To some extent, I mean, I don't want to sound like a prophet," Chip added, "but I go back in time to when this thing was in its heyday and I imagine" the possibilities.
They're either talking about The Shining or just another business venture that sounds right up their alley, from the location to the prospects for bringing people together to create memories—a goal that tends to be at the core of whatever project the Gaineses take on.
"This is a fun one because it's big and it's gnarly, and I think big and gnarly kind of excite Jo and I," Chip, who's celebrating his 45th birthday today, continued, "and then when you get to see this a year and a half from now and you see that ballroom activity that she's describing, with the people and the energy, you're gonna go, 'I can't believe I saw this before and after.'"
"Big and gnarly" may have been the last thing on Chip and Joanna's minds when they decided in 2017 that they wanted to stop making Fixer Upper, which was the highest-rated show on HGTV at the time, and just focus on their family for awhile. At the same time, kith and kin have been inextricably linked with their business, the ever-expanding Magnolia Homes that in a few short years grew to encompass a retail-and-dining destination in Waco, an online store, signature home lines at the likes of Target and Anthropologie, books, a magazine, and a cultural impact that helped land them on TIME's list of the 100 Most Influential People this year.
"We want to be good neighbors," Chip explained their think-and-act-locally approach to empire building on KCEN-TV this week. "We want to shine a light on Waco, Texas and kind of feature or showcase some of the really great features of this town that everybody knows exists here."
Added Joanna, "We like being famous in Waco. I'm sure it would be a lot more complicated if we were in a big city. Waco has been a great place for us. I mean, Waco kind of supports our little family."
Nevertheless, two years ago they found themselves needing a breather from the cameras.
"[T]he more staged something becomes, or the more required something becomes, it boxes me up, and I felt like toward the end of the Fixer Upper journey, I felt caged, trapped," Chip said in the January 2019 issue of Cowboys & Indians magazine. "Jo and I couldn't figure it out. I mean, why? You're getting to have all this fun, right? But it's like if I put a camera in your face and said, 'Hey, say something funny.' Or if I put a camera in your face and said, 'Hey, be smart.' I just struggled with that environment. Especially at the end of it."
And when they dropped the bombshell that their beloved show was ending, Joanna didn't have much to say at all.
"When you put yourself out in the public light like this," Chip told E! News a few weeks later, "people are going to speculate like this and we have had our fair share of that, but Jo and I are just as happy as we have ever been."
And not only did they thrive in the face of split rumors, they multiplied: Son Crew was born in June 2018, joining big siblings Drake, Ella, Duke and Emmie Kay.
So it's not as if they've had a whole bunch of time off between then and now, what with five kids to take care of, a network to program, and a hotel to restore and prepare for a grand opening, but the break to reshuffle their priorities has obviously did them good. Joanna, who said having Crew gave her a "second wind," even found the time to put together a new cookbook.
Magnolia Table, Volume 2 will be out in April, a little morsel to tide fans over as they wait for the launch of Magnolia.
"It's a lot of work," Joanna affirmed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last week when the late-night show visited the University of Texas in Austin (the audience booed heartily when Chip gifted Jimmy with a Baylor cap). "But we're knee-deep in it right now and I think what we love is just the idea of finding amazing stories, people who are passionate about what they do--whether it's cooking, design, business.
"So we're excited, this is a lot of fun, and a lot of work."
Fallon recommended that Joanna do a cooking show—and offered his services as a guest.
"I'm cool with it," Chip agreed. "You're talking to the executives of the Magnolia Network, and when Jimmy Fallon says Jo should do a cooking show, I vote that Jo does a cooking show," he declared, his signature self-deprecating expressions of authority fully intact since we last saw them on Fixer Upper.
But as it turns out, they are doing a cooking show, so that was a good guess on Jimmy's part.
There's also a reported $10.4 million expansion underway at their Magnolia Market at the Silos shopping center in Waco, which by the new year is set to include more stores, a Wiffle ball field, gardens and a historic 1894-era building that used to house the Second Presbyterian Church but sat empty and forgotten until the Gaineses bought it in 2017. The plan, according to the Waco Tribune, is to move the building to the Silos, where it will serve as a nice spot to sit (and potentially as a gathering or seminar location in the future).
Faith, of course, remains a cornerstone of Chip and Joanna's lives. Earlier this year they opened up the lawn on the premises free of charge to The Church Under the Bridge, a weekly come-one-come-all congregation that used to literally meet under an overpass until planned road work threatened to displace them. Pastor Jimmy Dorrell told the Waco Tribune-Herald last year when the deal came together that the Gaineses, who he had known for a long time, had also donated $51,000 in proceeds from an auction to Mission Waco's nonprofit grocery store, Jubilee Market.
"I read about his plans for the grocery store, and wondered if we could parlay the auction into something that would benefit the cause," Chip explained. "Then about a month ago, I read about how the I-35 project would impact his church. I was sitting in my office one day, day-dreaming, thinking about making a commitment, and we reached out to Jimmy. He came over to the Silos, and we agreed it would make a great fit geographically. We said, 'Let's do it,' and shook hands on it."
Chip and Joanna surprised congregants by showing up for the first service at the Silos in March.
"It's both surprising and not surprising at the same time," Megan Henderson, executive director of City Center Waco, told the Tribune-Herald. "It may not be what anyone was anticipating, but it is consistent with the Gaineses' ethic of sincere hospitality
And speaking of hospitality (as well as buildings rescued by the Gaineses), there's that hotel in downtown Waco they're readying for a 2021 debut, which in addition to a grand restored ballroom may include...a destination spa?
Asked what was left to do on the list of business ideas she already had when she married Chip 16 years ago, Joanna revealed on KCEN's Channel 6 News this week, "There's one, that's funny—so it was a bakery, a shop, and a spa."
"So all we've got to do is figure out where we're going to put this spa one of these days," Chip chimed in. "I mean," Joanna added, "there will be some type of spa [in the hotel], I'm pushing for that. We'll see what happens, but I would love that to be a part of it for sure."
It never hurts to build in your own brand of relaxation to unwind after what is going to be an extremely busy year.