For their first date, Chip Gaines arrived 90 minutes late to pick up his future wife, Joanna, and didn’t have a plan. “He said, ‘So, Joanna, where do you want to go eat?’ He didn’t apologize for being late, either,” she recalls. They ended up munching on fried chicken at a restaurant inside a historic mansion. As confident Chip talked animatedly, shy Joanna felt herself being charmed.
Later this month, the couple, who became TV stars on HGTV’s Fixer Upper and created the soon-to-be-launched Magnolia Network, will mark 17 years of marriage. “One pretty amazing thing we learned early on was that the more time we spent together, the better our relationship was,” says Joanna, 42, who has five children with Chip, 45. “We function better together than we do apart.”
The Waco, Texas-based pair will likely celebrate their anniversary family-style with their kids, Drake, 15, Ella, 13, Duke, 11, Emmie, 10, and Crew, 22 months. “This anniversary is about sticking together,” explains a family friend. “Joanna doesn’t want to be pampered. She wants a family celebration that everyone can participate in. They all have a lot to be grateful for.”
It’s true that when Chip and Joanna filmed their first episode of Fixer Upper in 2013, they never expected it to change their lives so drastically. “I remember when we first got married, the only money we had was in Chip’s pocket!” says Joanna, who studied broadcast journalism but was working the front desk of her father’s auto shop when she met Chip in 2001. “I always dreamed of the idea of television but never thought it would have to do with design or renovations,” she confides.
Chip, meanwhile, was a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” who had been using his construction know-how to flip houses. “People might think Chip is just this goofy guy — and he is a goofy guy,” Joanna says. “But he’s also the bravest person I know.”
Chip and Joanna have often said that they are a match of opposites. “If you give Chip a boundary, he’s going to break that boundary,” says Joanna, who admits she is much more of a rule follower and isn’t comfortable taking risks. “I like knowing what’s coming,” she says.
Yet somewhere between his dating and her need for structure, they find perfect balance. “We’re this odd yin and yang, this whole opposites attract,” Joanna says. “I would argue that at the end of the day, we learned early that we’re a lot stronger and powerful when we’re pulling together.”
Nowhere is that more evident than at the renovated 1895 farmhouse they call home. “They have money now, but they make an effort to keep their lives as simple as possible,” explains the friend. “Their main objective is to raise kids with hardworking values.”
That’s why the couple often includes their children in their work. “I love watching my kids grow up,” gushes Chip, who has made no secret of his desire for a sixth child. He insists that the credit for their beautiful family life belongs wholly to Joanna. “To be married to her and raising kids together has been the honor of my life.”
Louise A. Barile, with reporting by Rick Egusquiza
For more on Chip and Joanna, pick up the latest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now.