If you follow Joanna Gaines on Instagram, it feels like she's been using the hashtag "season5iscoming" on social media forever. Well, the wait is finally over, and Fixer Upper's fifth and final season begins airing tonight. But I'm kinda already on to the next one. Chip and Jo are moving on, and we should, too. And what—or who—is going to fill the void, you ask? I'd like to officially nominate designer Lauren Liess and her business partner husband David Liess. The northern Virginia-based duo is currently casting homeowners for the recently greenlit HGTV show, Best House on the Block, which should go into production spring of next year.
Yes, the Liess family is big (Lauren just gave birth to their fifth child!) and yes, they're (kind of but not really) from the south. And yes, she has a blog. But that's where the similarities between Liess & Co. and the Fixer Uppers end. But just who is this couple and how did they get here?
Well, about a year and a half ago, a production company contacted Lauren and David about doing a show, as many production companies have over the years. As always, they were pretty skeptical but this felt different—in part because it had been somewhat orchestrated by Lauren's book agent (Liess' first book, Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating, came out in fall of 2015) that had just moved to Los Angeles. "There was trust there, so we thought 'Why not'?" says Lauren. Additionally, the company wasn't looking for people to fit into a show—they wanted people to make a show about. "We've got a family and are deep into our business, so we didn't want to pretend for the cameras," says Lauren. Fun fact: This production company also produced Dance Moms, and this is their first foray into the world of home television.
Full disclosure: I've worked with Lauren before, and she's the real deal when it comes to design. She's not a real estate mogul or a contractor—her focus is on interiors. So after watching the pilot, I appreciate that the show's format doesn't include a (mostly bogus) house hunt. Design is what the Liesses do best, and that's what the show is about. Sure, there'll be some sledgehammer swinging and a DIY or two. But this is a nice departure from making us watch tons of demo time-lapse footage and seeing all the houses that weren't "the one."
The premise of the show (and pilot that aired earlier this summer), says Lauren, is taking generic, blah houses and making them special. This is another point of distinction that the show has. So many of the other reno/real estate shows push old houses on buyers, and frankly, while older houses are great, they can turn into serious money pits. And in some areas, newer tract homes make up a good chunk of the housing stock and require far fewer upgrades for livability. So what you see on Best House on the Block maybe closer to what you're actually working with, and builder-grade '90s and early 2000s homes deserve some love, too.
And if you can't possibly look at one more shiplap wall, Lauren's style may be a breath of fresh air. Though (like Jo) she's big on blacks, whites and other neutrals, her style skews more classic with a modern twist and nature-inspired than farmhouse chic. Expect plenty of plants, pretty wood tones, gorgeous stone, lots of warmth and maybe a silly old man portrait or two (Lauren has a collection).
I'm glad HGTV is swinging the pendulum back a bit toward shows focused on decorating because yes, it's fun to see people knocking down walls and whatnot, but it's also nice to have some quicker hits for those of us who rent or can't do structural work for whatever reason. "My mind is on takeaways for viewers," says Lauren. "Everyone can't afford to renovate—maybe you can't splurge on new countertops, but you can paint your window trim black and do those kinds of things. So we will definitely have some budget-friendly ideas and weekend DIY projects."
Well, I'm stoked. There are no dates set, but the show is casting now, and Liess & Co. should begin design work in the near future if all goes according to plan. My guess is HGTV will want to get to stepping, because these two are ready for prime time.