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Inside The Magnolia Story

The Magnolia Story is the first book from HGTV's Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today. 


Then something happened. The very next morning, the houseboat arrived. With cameras rolling, Chip put a blindfold on me and drove me to an empty lot by the lake.

With all cameras on me, Chip released the blindfold and said, “Ta-da!”

I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. A shipwreck, maybe? On the back of a semi?

“What is that?” I said

“I got this for you, Jo!” Chip replied.

“That better not be for me,” I said. It was the ugliest, rundown-looking, two-story shack of a boat I’d ever seen. “What the heck are we going to do with a houseboat?”

“That’s our new home!” Chip said, beaming with pride at his purchase.

“What? You are crazy. We are not living on a houseboat.”

It quickly dawned on me that this wasn’t a joke and Chip wasn’t even close to kidding. I wasn’t mishearing him. He was dead serious about making that boat our home for the next six months.

I just about lost it. “How can we live on the water, Chip? Three of our kids don’t even know how to swim! Did you think this through?!”

Then he ‘fessed up and told me how much money he’d spent on it. As it all sank in, I realized I’d never been so mad at him, ever—and that’s saying something.

“Come on. At least come look at it. I know this can work,” he pleaded. As soon as we walked a little closer, we could see the holes. Holes. In the boat.

We pulled ourselves up onto the flatbed and went inside to find the interior covered in mold. Someone had taken the AC unit out on top and left a gaping hole in the roof, so for years it had rained straight into the boat. We tried turning the engine over, and of course it didn’t start. That’s when Chip got angry. “I think I got scammed,” he said.

“Chip, did you even look at this thing before you bought it?”

“Well, no,” he said. “It was a great deal, and there were all kinds of pictures. It looked like it was in great shape. Oh, wait a minute. I bet the guy just put up pictures of this thing from when he bought it, like in 1980 or something. That sorry sucker.”

“Sorry sucker? Chip . . .”

By this point I’m trying to decide if we could scrap it for parts. My husband had made plenty of impulsive purchases. That’s just what he does. He’d gone and purchased the house we were currently in without showing that to me, either. But at least it was a house, with a roof, on a foundation. I’d gone along with it, as I always do, and over time I’d come to love that quirky shoebox of a house.

We had worked hard to make it our home. In fact, that house is where I’d had my epiphany about truly owning the space you’re in (a moment I’ll share with you later in this book) and where I’d designed the kids’ rooms that landed on the blog and caused the producer to call. I was already pretty upset that we were going to have to leave that house behind in a few months. But to think that we might have to move into this . . . thing was just too much.

“You need to return it,” I said.

“It’s paid for,” Chip said. “It’s done. I bought it as is.”

“Excuse me, semi driver!” I yelled to the man in the front seat. “I need you to hook that thing back up and take it back where it came from!” Chip made it clear to me that once he made a deal—fair or not—that thing was ours now.

By that point the cameras had totally disappeared to both of us. We just completely forgot they were there. Chip’s arms were flailing around as he circled the boat, tallying up the problems he could find. My arms were flailing as I yelled at him for buying that dumb thing without talking to me first.

When I finally calmed down, I saw how disappointed he was and how bad he felt. I decided to take a deep breath and try to think this thing through.

“Maybe it’s not that bad,” I said. (I think I was trying to cheer myself up as much as I was trying to console Chip.) “If we fix up the interior and just get it to the point where we can get it onto the water, at least maybe then we can turn around, sell it, and get our money back.”

Over the course of the next hour or so, I really started to come around. I took another walk through the boat and started to picture how we could make it livable—maybe even kind of cool. After all, we’d conquered worse. We tore a few things apart right then and there, and I grabbed some paper and sketched out a new layout for the tiny kitchen. I talked to him about potentially finishing an accent wall with shiplap—a kind of rough-textured pine paneling that fans of our show now know all too well.

Shiplap?” Chip laughed. “That seems a little ironic to use on a ship, doesn’t it?”

“Ha-ha,” I replied. I was still not in the mood for his jokes, but this is how Chip backs me off the ledge—with his humor.

Then I asked him to help me lift something on the deck, and he said, “Aye, aye, matey!” in his best pirate voice, and slowly but surely I came around.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but by the end of that afternoon I was actually a little bit excited about taking on such a big challenge. Chip was still deflated that he’d allowed himself to get duped, but he put his arm around me as we started walking back to the truck. I put my head on his shoulder. And the cameras captured the whole thing—just an average, roller-coaster afternoon in the lives of Chip and Joanna Gaines.

The head cameraman came jogging over to us before we drove away. Chip rolled down his window and said sarcastically, “How’s that for reality TV?” We were both feeling embarrassed that this is how we had spent our last day of trying to get this stinkin’ television show.

“Well,” the guy said, breaking into a great big smile, “if I do my job, you two just landed yourself a reality TV show.”

Book Title: The Magnolia Story
Author(s): Chip and Joanna Gaines
ISBN: 9780718079185 | $26.99 HC | Thomas Nelson

Cover and excerpt of THE MAGNOLIA STORY by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Text copyright (c) 2016 by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Reprinted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.