This is it, folks! Could Be Better is winding to a close after three years. In this bonus episode, Rob and J. say farewell, reminisce about some favorite moments, and share their final advice on home decor. Who will deride all-white interiors and Magnolia now? Who knows but we are sure someone will. Thanks to the thousands who have tuned in over the years, special thanks to the designers and magazine editors who supported us, and to hands-on help from Tim, Michael and Bob. Theme music was by Bensound.com. May your home and your garden be a little bit better than your neighbors’ and your best friend’s!
Yes, this is a long read, and yes it’s about the You-Know-Who’s. But it says (verifies?) everything we instinctively don’t like about the Fixer Upper effect. The #shiplap hashtags, the national obsession, the gentrification, the whitewashing (literal and figurative), the rumblings of anti-LGBTQ religious stances, the bougie-ness, the very Instagrammable-ness of it all.
And while it’s all about Waco, Texas, it’s also about our towns. (Well, Beacon, cohost J’s town, at least. How about Milton/Marlboro, Rob?) Many towns. Many downtowns in any American city. How do we improve and build even better communities for everyone who lives there? How can we all come along for the ride? Can we do that while having some personal fun and individuality in design???
BTW, we’ll get over the Gaines eventually. It’s just that they, like this article, seem to sum up a lot of the conversational threads of the middle class home/garden/shelter/real estate sphere. We’ll be back to ogling hot gardeners or obsessing over wallpaper in a hot minute.
Photo by Ilana Panich-Linsman for BuzzFeed News
Cohost J. here: indoor swings. I’m not a fan.
A good porch swing, I’m down with that. Maybe a funky hanging chair in the corner.
That’s OK by me, because no one will actually curl up in it except toddlers and pets for more than five minutes.
As for indoor hammocks: you’d better have one of those retractable walls and beachfront property, because other than that, it looks wrong. Do you really need to feel air flow beneath you that badly? Or is it the gentle swaying motion you seek? (AKA, flipping over on your ass whenever you try to get in or out of said hammock.)
But alas, indoor swings, hammocks and hanging chairs are trending right now, and it feels like a case of too much. As a novelty, they’re cool. But now they’ll be a ubiquitous waste of money. So, #trendoids, invest in seating for no one (except toddlers and pets) and let us know how you feel about it in two years.
And speaking of things that are super-popular but make us say “Ughk, why? Why are so many people into this? Who’s the crazy one in this relationship?”
This week, news broke that THOSE PEOPLE are taking over the DIY TV network. It’s officially a media empire. I guess it’s the same situation as when Martha Stewart created her own channel and people scoffed. “How can you fill hours of airtime with that one brand?” they said, and they were right. Martha went from over-exposed to joining the cast of Orange Is The New Black (not really, she just looked the part) to Apprentice co-conspirator, and then settled back into her groove. Now she’s doing collabs with Snoop Dog and starring in hilarious promos for Transformer movies and it’s all “a very good thing.” Will the Gaineses have to go to jail for some white collar crime (it HAS to be white, and preferably with shiplap) for us to appreciate them? Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m afraid the Magnolia channel’s slogan will be “do it yourself, but we’ll do the thinking for you.”
This is the last and final time we’ll tag Chip and Joanna Gaines’ design aesthetic for hate. It’s not that we hate the Magnolia Home aesthetic completely (though it is a bit white on white on white.) To their credit, they have perfected the intersection of farmhouse chic and industrial modern. It’s a look that works in many home and commercial settings. The problem: it’s the ONLY look they offer and its EVERYWHERE.
There’s no doubt about it, “Fixer Upper” was a monstrous hit for HGTV. For many of us, the show had a fresh appeal at its start. By the end of the season one, it was abundantly clear that the Gaines’ would be serving up the same exact look episode after episode. Can you say “shiplap?” The show went on for 4 more seasons! The monotony of Magnolia Home design and décor was mind-numbing. Moreover, “Fixer Upper” came to epitomize the monotonous offerings on home improvement television networks.
Anyone saddened by the end of “Fixer Upper” doesn’t have to go far to get their fix of Magnolia Home. Product lines can be found at Pier 1, Target, and Home Depot just to name a few retailers. (There’s also their higher-end licensing deals (like Loloi carpets). We don’t begrudge them their success (well, maybe a tiny bit.) It is the ubiquitous nature of their design line that’s ripe for hate. Magnolia Home muted off-white tones, galvanized containers, and “salvaged” accents are seemingly everywhere. (And they themselves are everywhere: even the check-out aisles via People and other celebrity news magazines.)
It begs the question: Does a pervasive design aesthetic stifle creativity and individual expression in our personal design choices?
Not too long ago, folks would say “Your living room looks right out of a catalog.” Now, they can say “Your living room looks right out of Magnolia Home.” We don’t think either is a compliment.