“Are you ready to see your fixing upper?” the enthusiastic tour guide asked, channeling Chip and Joanna Gaines and their famous “big reveal” line from TV Fixed upper. This time, it wasn’t homeowners who were waiting outside for a first look at their home renovation; it was a small group of tourists gathered under the portico, ready to enter the most ambitious renovation project ever carried out by the Gaines: a centuries-old castle in Waco.
For the first time ever, the King and Queen of Texas Renovation opened their doors and let the public enter one of their famous repairmen before it is featured on their Magnolia Network show.
Known as the historic Cottonland Castle, this 6,700-square-foot three-story mansion was begun in 1890 and finished in 1913. The Gaines purchased the dilapidated structure in 2019 and designed and executed a regal turnaround that will be showcased on an eight- special episode called Fixer Upper: Welcome Home – The castlestarting from October 14th.
They plan to sell it in the fall. But before the sale of a house comes an open house, and for only three months – until October 29 – the castle is open six days a week for guided tours.
One-hour castle expeditions take visitors through every room, nook and cranny, from the turret bath. Expert guides distribute the story, impart design information, and reveal behind-the-scenes stories of Chip and Jo who may or may not make it on TV.
For Fixed upper fans, Magnolia maniacs and gangs of Gaines, it’s worth getting on I-35 to Waco to experience the castle’s transformation into real life before it hits the small screen. A tour offers the Very rare chance to walk through the door (in this case, a solid oak door 10 feet high, 400 pounds) into the world of a Chip-and-Jo rhine.
Without giving too much away, here are seven fun surprises you’ll find behind the castle walls.
1. History meets home. A castle museum, this is not.
“Chip and Joanna’s vision was that they really wanted to honor it with historical pieces, but also make it more practical for the modern family who will live here in the future,” guide Megan Shuler said at the start of the tour.
Although many original features, including seven fireplaces, have been restored, the castle has been set as a home for the future, not a sanctuary of the past. Unique and collected antiques (such as the royal dining table from Round Top, Texas) merge with pieces from Gaineses’ Magnolia Home collection. A 17-page “Castle Sourcebook” lists design items and products and where to buy them. And with the ultimate modern twist – a link to the brand – the next “Colors of the Castle” color collection will be available through Magnolia this fall.
2. Gentle hints of the castle’s past. Posted on the wall in the atrium is a poem written by Alfred Abeel, the owner who completed the construction in 1913. There is talk of making the castle “‘home sweet home’ in all seasons of the year”.
In the center of the dining room mantel is the Abeel family crest, along with the phrase (in Latin), “God’s providence saves me.” Alongside it, the heights of children from the 1930s to early 2000s are recorded, the last time a family lived here.
3. A cozy corner in the turret. The original design was modeled on a small castle on the River Rhine in Germany, and there is a tower tower. A space historically used (in the “real” castles) for military defense has been transformed here into one of the most intimate corners of the house. Hidden in a corner next to the spiral staircase, two comfortable chairs sit under an antique Austrian lamp. It’s the perfect place to curl up with a book from the upstairs library.
4. Rooms with textures. “One of the challenges Chip and Joanna faced when they bought the castle was that there was no one, really, that they were designing it for,” Shuler explained. “Then they would create storylines for each room to help tell their story.”
Two of the four bedrooms, for example, are the “boy’s bedroom” and the “girl’s bedroom”. The plot is that the future homeowner’s son would return from college and stay in his childhood bedroom and that the future homeowner’s granddaughters would stay in the room while they spent time at their grandparents’ house.
The boy’s room contains more masculine furnishings and decorations, including a watercolor portrait of Roy Lane, the famous architect who helped complete the castle. The girl’s room is painted in “Rose Pink”, a color named after Joanna’s grandmother.
5. Full-bodied baths. There are three and a half “throne rooms” in the castle, and they are some of the most beautiful spaces, mixing metals, woods and tiles; even the original radiators look like works of art. One of the most spectacular rooms in the house, in fact, is a grand, gleaming bathroom, which (tease!) Will be fully revealed on the show.
6. Party in the basement. “Gathering spaces” are a hallmark of Chip and Jo’s homes, and in the castle they take place in the dungeon – er, in the basement. A “card room” for poker games or family game nights is located next to the family room, which houses the castle’s only TV. The guest bedroom is also located in the basement, along with a laundry room and a former cellar now left “empty” to be reinvented by the new owners.
7. Stories and curiosities behind the scenes. Fixed upper devotees will devour the fascinating and bizarre tidbits on the Gaines shared during the tour. There are some design elements and furnishings originally meant for their own home, including an item banished to the castle by their daughters. There’s a funny story about what Chip did when they found bones – yes, bones – in the basement. And, the favorite place for selfies Fixed upper fans is a large mirror that, tour guides say, Joanna used to touch up her makeup while filming the show.
Tickets for the castle tour, $ 50, are available through the website, with 20 percent of proceeds benefiting the non-profit organization The Cove. (Note that the house does not have an elevator and requires guests to be able to access three stairways.)
Tips for a Magnolia pilgrimage to Waco:
Shop: No castle trip would be complete without a stop at the Magnolia Silos complex. A new 8:15 am tour, offered Monday through Saturday, takes visitors behind the scenes and onto the roof before the crowds (and heat) arrive. Tip: August is a “slower” month in the Silos and Tuesday to Thursday are less crowded. Tour tickets cost $ 25 and come with a free coffee from Magnolia Press.
To eat: Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia Table cafe is busy all day, every day. If you don’t have time to wait for a table, visit the takeaway market next door. Grab takeaways like pimiento cheese and crackers, a butter fly, banana pudding, and chicken salad sandwiches and enjoy them on an outside table (if it’s not too hot).
To remain: Availability in Magnolia’s four vacation rentals can be hard to find, but watch the website for the nights that open. Make it a girls’ getaway with a stay in the grand Hillcrest Estate (which sleeps 12), or go alone and book the expensive Hillcrest Cottage, the newest and smallest lodging in the Gaines, which opened in Fall 2021. Magnolia boutique hotel, in the historic Grand Karem Sanctuary building in the center, is scheduled to open in 2024.
Photo courtesy of Magnolia
Hillcrest Cottage, on the Hillcrest Estate grounds, opened in Fall 2021 as a vacation home for one or two.