This is one of those tours where the homeowner didn’t contact me; her super-talented photographer friend did, describing Joanna’s home in Waco, Texas as kid-friendly and fabulous even with four little ones running around it all day and all night! The black, white, and sandy shades are softly stunning together, aren’t they? And I love how she has incorporated lots of open, clutter-free spaces for chasing games, and more than enough soft corners upon which to land. That’s really all a kid needs to have fun, don’t you think? Well, that…and a few chalkboards! Please enjoy the Gaines’ home tour.

Q: Who’s lucky enough to live in this home?

A: Me, my husband Chip, and my four sweet children: Drake (6), Ella Rose (5), Duke (3), and Emmie Kay (2).

Q: You clearly have a talent for design and collecting distinctive pieces. Will you give us your back story?

A: Well, I used to own a shop called Magnolia. I started it when we first got married and kept it for a few years. To be honest, I missed out on a lot of my oldest son’s first year because of the shop. So when I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I decided to shut down shop and stay home with my kids. I still longed to do design because it serves as such an outlet for me. My husband and I have renovated homes together since we got married, so we decided to start Magnolia Homes. Chip manages the construction side, and I do all the design work. We love giving homes their stories back. Some of the homes we have done I could honestly say most people would have bulldozed! Our passion is to breathe new life into them.

One thing was still missing, though; I missed my customers from the shop. So I decided to have Magnolia Home shows in my home three times a year. I set up four rooms in my house with one-of-a-kind finds and unique inventory I’ve gathered over the past year. At every show there will always be old architecture, great greenery, and unique pieces. Every now and then I come across a piece that I know I won’t ever find again and I keep it for myself! My kids are unbelievably great at not even noticing that the house has been turned upside-down. They leave it all alone. I have the show in my home on a Thursday; we clear everything out in one day, and I get a chance to catch up with the ladies who inspire me to do what I do. I love my job because whether it is remodeling or the home shows, I can do it all from home!

Q: Tell us the history of your home.

A: We recently moved into this new home we bought to flip as an investment property. This house was a foreclosure that had sat vacant for three years. I was actually upset with my husband for buying it because it was ugly. We renovated the house in three months and put it back on the market. We had a buyer for our present home and we had to find a new home in less than a week. And yes, you guessed it, we moved into the flip house. It was the only option.

I love how sometimes a change must occur so that new perspective may come. I never realized until we moved that I had decorated my old house more like a museum full of “don’t touch” objects than a kid-friendly environment where my kids could be kids. As we were moving in the new home, I saw my kids running all around and it inspired me to make this their home. I love this home we are currently in. Not for the same reasons that typically draw my eye to a home, but because my kids love it. They thrive here, and honestly, that makes Mama happy! The house is so open, with so many spaces in which to run! It is one-story, so we are all on the same floor which makes the kids happy. One of my favorite parts of this home is the side yard that has our garden, the chicken coop, and an outdoor space for my children. It’s like a little surprise when you step outside.

Q: How would you describe your design and decorating aesthetic? Did this change when your kids entered the mix?

A: I love clean and simple. I love white. I like to use different textures and dimensional items to add interest. I believe that every house needs a good blend of old and new pieces. I typically don’t use expected things like draperies; I prefer to use outdoor awnings for my windows inside. I like to use architecture on walls. I love to inspire women to use common things in uncommon ways.

My dream house would be all-white furniture and painted white floors…but I have four kids! I have the white furniture but purchased the white IKEA sofas and chairs with slip-covers. The other day, my two-year old took a pen to one of my over-stuffed chairs, and marked all over it. I didn’t freak out because a new slipcover is $35.

Yes, my design style has changed; kids added color to my life and to my home! In my last home, my kids adapted to my style. In this home, I’ve adapted to theirs.

Q: Does your home always look the way it does in the photos? What would we see on an average afternoon after the kids get home from school?

A: I had to get over the idea of perfect, clean, and dust-free. I noticed myself picking up after my kids the entire day. I was constantly cleaning so my house would look perfect and in order. I finally realized I was missing out on so many moments with the kids because I was concerned with something as irrelevant as clean counter-tops! I now make it a rule for myself to not waste my day cleaning because we all know it will get messy again. I can start clean up at 7 pm. I do like to go to bed and wake up with a clean house!

Q: What’s your basic philosophy on living with kids? Is their mark apparent in every room, or are there some that are completely adult-oriented?

A: My philosophy is to embrace where you are and the season you are in. If you have children, create child-proof, inspiring spaces where they will thrive. It took this recent move to help me realize that I have to be intentional with whatever space I am given. Creating an environment of fun, creativity, and order does not just come naturally. I had to work at it and become a student of my children. I had to get into their minds and figure out what they loved and what inspired them. I had to make a choice to let go of some of the things I love as well as my expectations of what a pretty home should be.

I have a small living and dining area that are adult-oriented, and then my bedroom. We do use the space in my room for wrestling matches, though! My kitchen is my room, and serves as my main workplace. It’s my favorite part of the house, but I still have baskets in the island full of toys so they can hang out with me when I cook.

Q: You love chalkboards! What is it about them that make them such a fun design element?

A: I have a mini obsession with chalkboards. I think chalkboards are great for children. We use our big chalkboard for homework time and for fun time as well, although Pictionary with a three-year old is an eternal guessing game!  I encourage clients to paint a section on their wall with chalkboard paint and trim it out if they have the extra space. Kids love coloring on the walls, so why not let them? Chalkboards are also a great tool for personalizing your space; for instance, if there is a family verse or mission statement, a chalkboard is a great tool for this.

You can almost always bet that fun junk stores and unique shops will have chalkboards.

Q: Your kids’ rooms are delightful! A windmill, a swing hanging from the ceiling holding a birdcage, decorative mantles…love it all! What are their favorite elements in their rooms?

A: My girls are little princesses. I would say the $25 Home Depot chandelier is their favorite. My boys love hunting, so their favorite is their trophy wall of animals, and also the squirrel mounted to their wall. I never thought I would have a rodent in my house. Times have changed…

Q: How much influence do the kids and your husband have on the decor of the house?

A: My husband is very creative, so he is part of the design process a lot of the time. He also is very helpful at hanging things that aren’t typical objects to hang, like a heavy iron gate and branches on our walls. My kids influence me to keep things simple, practical, and fun.

Q: What if one of your kids came to you and requested a hot pink room with — gasp! — Littlest Pet Shop appliques on the wall?

A: I always joke that for some reason, purple is my least favorite color, and I swear my girls are going to ask for a bright purple room one day! This one is hard for me because I really want my children to express who they are, but I also think they need direction since their likes and dislikes change so often as kids. I like for the design of our home to flow, so for the most part I design their room and then allow them the freedom to add to it.  So far it has worked and my kids like what I come up with. Now, when they are teenagers and have an opinion, I am sure all this will change!

As far as the appliques, I would have to say save them for the closet or behind the door, or limit it to a decorative board they can personalize that you can hang on their wall. Let them have what they like, but don’t let it be the entire theme of their room because we all know it will change in a month. I remember I loved kittens and cats one day, and the next week I was into sailboats.

Q: What is your best advice for people building a house and decorating it within budget?

A: Be creative and enjoy the hunt. Use antique light fixtures you can get for $30 at a junk store. Also, so many major stores like Lowes have great products at very affordable pricing. There are also a lot of sources on the internet that copy certain styles from big names but at discounted pricing. One thing I always like to keep in mind is adding character to your home, even in the building process. Old architecture, corbels, and old doors are always fun to incorporate in a new home. Just remember to use quality where it counts like kitchens and bathrooms, or you will pay later!

Q: When does your home work best?

A: This home is great for entertaining because of its open space, but also great for lots of kids because of the large bedrooms and play rooms. There isn’t any wasted space, and this house is very functional and practical for our needs. It is a great house for living, and I really love our home most for this reason. In this season of our life with four fun kiddos, it fits us perfectly!

One more thing! I like to encourage women to always remember that their home is a reflection of their hearts and of their families, not a magazine or like someone else’s lifestyle. Keep it true to who you are. It’s important you love your home and that your children are inspired by it. I learned in our recent move that it’s not about the curb appeal or amenities…it’s about the spaces you create and who you create them for.  Have fun with it, and go draw on the walls with your kids!


I can honestly say that I’ve never seen a windmill used inside as decor, but it makes me happy to know that some lucky kids are waking up to one every morning! Thank you, Joanna – and Molly! – for sharing your style with us. And Friends, if you’d like to see one of the sweetest fairy parties ever, take a peek at the one Joanna threw for Ella Rose!

P.S. — If you’d like to share your home with us in my Living With Kids series, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you!