Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Call me stupid. We were in Austin doing an installation for The Vision Council at SXSW. The set up took us two days so to make our trip a little more Austin centric we tacked on another three days for spending some father/daughter time in southern Texas. It was my idea to do a day trip to Waco to visit Magnolia Market and Garden, the brainchild of Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper fame.
I must admit I had little understanding of their total popularity. I was moderately familiar with their TV show. I thought they had an above par design sense although I did wish they'd move a bit away from shiplap and try to show some different sides of their aesthetic instead of the predicable but beautiful formula they'd developed for their fixing up routine.
Still, I had no idea of the extent of their place in the design mileu and the magnitude of that sphere of idolization. I'd seen a couple of pictures of their space in Waco but what I had seen was a bit misleading. I was visually familiar with the grain silos, the country barn like look of it's collection of buildings, the wooden porches and the farmland machinery strewn out on the grounds.
I was also under the assumption that Waco was a fairly small Texas cattle town. This had led me to believe that their store was going to be a quaint little venture where you might even catch a glimpse of them wandering around back behind the counter giving a little wave to the dozen or so customers with the willingness to make the trek to their outpost in the heat of a ninety degree Texas Sunday afternoon. Really, I really thought this.
Boy, oh boy was I wrong.
Mapquest got us to Waco in a little under two hours. The first thing we discovered was that Waco is the home of Baylor University, a fact I should have known if I had done any real research at all. This upped the ante a bit pulling Waco out of the hayseed category and into the realm of a bit bigger town.
Then as we did our last zigs and zags past the University the tops of the Magnolia grain towers began to appear peeking out over the flat landscape of mid-Texas. Then the silos did that thing that happens as you get closer and closer to a tall object that has lost the perspective of distance. The foreground images began to get larger making the silos shrink from sight until they totally disappeared. Then just as we made our last left and then right the silos appeared from behind the tree lined foreground and hit us in full view.
But more amazing than the silos were the acres of parking lots filling football field after football field with a mass of sizzling cars with sunscreens shielding their front windows and reflecting a massive beam of light into space. We spent what seemed like hours roving the lanes of parked cars until we finally found some one pulling out so we could pull in.
Emmy had that "What have you pulled me into this time?" look on her face.  She managed to contain her disdain for what she foresaw as her immediate future to facial expressions over outright verbal anger.
I knew that she would have preferred a lounge chair by the pool rather than her unavoidable fate of squeezing her way through the throngs of amateur home decorators carting wall plaques with quaint Christian sayings and bunches of artificial flowers.
I'm being a little nasty here. The Gaines' are product and branding geniuses.
Joanna and Chip have created a megalopolis of home design. There are aisles and aisles, nooks and crannies, and homey vignettes filled with items ready to be carried away by the hordes.
There was even an opening unmasking the innards of the organization revealing miles and miles of  stocked product on hand ready to be restocked by the many minions of helping hands making sure that no display had an empty shelf.
They even had their own Fedex office for larger items or whatever you wanted shipped back to your home or didn't either want to carry or you found too massive to fit in your car.
Beyond the main shop there's a garden shed for all your plant needs.
A restaurant with a wait line not worth waiting for
and an AstroTurf picnic field ringed with food trucks dishing out southern cooking and pouring gallons of sweet tea.
We just weren't up for plopping down on fake grass and munching on a barbeque spare rib or a slice of Coca-Cola cake.
We hit all the highlights. I never did see either Joanna or Chip other than on the cover of one of their books.
We walked out without having purchased anything but we had to hand it to them, they had created a new form of Designer Disneyland and clearly surpassed Martha Stewart as the go-to source for the mass home design audience.
On the way back to Austin we made a stop at a roadside gas station convenience store combination and truck stop to pick up a Coke and a Moon Pie and apparently an M16 or an AK47 replica. Thank you Ted Cruz.

Lakeview Grill, 1969
George Tice, photographer
Represented by Susan Spiritus Gallery

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