The Fixer Upper carpenter and his family transform a hot-mess home into a DIY-filled rental with plenty of stunning woodwork.

By Kathryn O'Shea-Evans and Lauren Ramirez
March 17, 2021
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Sometimes it takes a visionary to find value in refuse, especially when the rubbish in question is a tumbledown house so hair-raising that rats and squirrels have taken up residence in the walls.

Consider this Waco, Texas, abode, purchased for just $10,000 by Clint and Kelly Harp, who moved to town in 2011. Clint spotted it across the street from a wood shop he'd been renting from Habitat for Humanity, where he was volunteering while Kelly was in grad school. "It looked like it was going to fall down," he says.

family posing on front porch steps gray home exterior
Clint and Kelly Harp and their kids Holland, Camille, and Hudson on the porch of the home they lived in for two years and now run as an Airbnb rental.
| Credit: Nathan Schroder

With Kelly in school and Clint not finding much work as a carpenter, the couple was almost broke. They'd decided to fill up their gas tank one last time when a minor miracle occurred: Chip Gaines pulled up alongside them in his truck, long before HGTV was a glimmer in his eye. What a difference that tank of gas made. Clint began making furniture for the couple who would go on to host Fixer Upper. (Clint became a feature on the show, and he and Kelly hosted their own show Wood Work for the DIY Network. Clint will soon be hosting his own show on the upcoming Magnolia Network, Restoration Road.)

When they decided to buy the eyesore and do a gut remodel, they discovered teamwork really does make the dream work: Chip and Joanna chose the house for an episode of their then brand-new show. "It was so infested with rats and junk we had to tear it all out," Clint says, who remembers filling three or four roll-off dumpsters with trash they pulled out of the home. Still, within weeks, the couples reworked it into the showpiece it is today (the Harp family lived there for over two years, and now rent it as an Airbnb property). "It's very scary to buy a property where everything has to be redone, but on the other hand, it's kind of better—you don't have as many surprises," Kelly says. The biggest bombshell? Just how beautifully it turned out.

living room refinished hardwood floor gray walls
Credit: Nathan Schroder

"We kept the floors anywhere they weren't rotted or destroyed by animals, and those were few and far between," Clint says. He patched, sanded, and stained them to reach their original beauty.

kitchen with marble island top and subway tiling
Credit: Nathan Schroder

"We were on a major budget, and a great option is to get unfinished wooden cabinets and paint them," Kelly says of the kitchen cabinetry. "We went to a warehouse surplus store for our cabinets." Simple white subway tile makes a timeless backdrop for the wood accents. Clint built the island from reclaimed pine and topped it with hard-wearing marble. "A piece of marble fits in both a Texas farmhouse or New York loft because it elevates the style," Clint says.

"We love to do a big island without anything in it—no sink, no stove top," Kelly says. It is cheaper to build, plus it becomes an ideal surface for rolling out Christmas cookies or staging the buffet while entertaining.

kitchen island open shelving dishware storage
Credit: Nathan Schroder

When building an island, Clint and Kelly recommend leaving one side open to avoid the hassle of building drawers and doors. Bonus: easy access to tableware.

distressed black metal glass rack tall cabinetry
Credit: Nathan Schroder

Joanna Gaines gifted this distressed black metal glass rack, available on Magnolia's website.

tall row of 12-inch-deep kitchen cabinetry
Credit: Nathan Schroder

The couple installed a tall row of 12-inch-deep cabinetry along one kitchen wall to serve as pantry and china cabinet.

diy dining room repurposed table white chandelier
Credit: Nathan Schroder

"I know a lot of people look at my stuff and think, 'Oh, I can't make that, it's so complicated,' and I get it," Clint says. "The bigger point with DIY stuff is just to try it." He recommends dipping a toe in DIY water by buying a cheap coffee table and making a new wood top for it. This dining table can be found at Clint and Kelly's company, Harp Design Co.

entryway black staircase diy wood bench
Credit: Nathan Schroder

Clint built a bench for the entryway using wood left over from another project—he simply sanded it, oiled it, and screwed on hairpin legs. "It's so welcoming right when you walk in—I want to sit next to those pillows and take my shoes off!" he says. The clock—and many of the pieces throughout the house—is from Harp Design Co.

master bedroom white gray with warm accents small table next to window
Credit: Nathan Schroder

The home's formerly railroaded upper level practically demanded that the couple split it into three rooms and one large master suite. "Having a sitting area in your master is so great, and for Airbnb provides another living space," Kelly says.

living space gray white color and orange chairs
Credit: Nathan Schroder

The couple selected one paint color—a soft gray—to use throughout the property. "Every wall was one color—no way could we think of a different one!" Kelly says. The pecan wood coffee table with a live edge was made in the Harp Design Co. shop.

gray white bathroom with claw-foot tub green foliage decor
Credit: Nathan Schroder

"When we moved into that house, having a claw-foot tub was the most luxurious thing I could think of," says Kelly, who calls it sculpture for the bathroom. "I was very committed to it being real cast iron and not acrylic." She searched and searched to find one within budget and found the freestanding versus built-in tub option to be the most budget-conscious after all. "It was a whole package, including plumbing, and ended up being cost-effective when you consider all the plumbing pieces and tile that you're not needing to pay someone for," she says. (Just be sure your floors can handle the weight of a cast-iron tub.) Framing verdant foliage—either a print or dried specimen—gives a feeling of freshness that will never fade in a utilitarian space.

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