The Garden Issue Featuring Dave and Jenny Marrs
Jenny and Dave Marrs, stars of HGTV’s Fixer to Fabulous, have mastered an impressive work-life balance. Watch a couple episodes of Dave and Jenny’s show, and you may lose track of the number of times you ask the television, “How did they do that?”
The married remodeling duo has been dismantling underloved houses in Bentonville, AR, and putting them back together since 2004. Dave, along with his small construction team, tears off old siding to reveal 100-year-old cedar shingles, rips out sad carpet, and knocks through walls—all with a genuine smile. Jenny recasts dark, cramped rooms with a calm confidence, adding blond wood floors covered with vintage Turkish rugs, soothing neutral textiles, and open kitchen shelves stacked with hand-thrown ceramics. They love their work and each other. And when the footage is edited together just-so, it feels a little like magic.
When HGTV first approached, it took some convincing for the couple to open their family life to a film crew. Ultimately, it was the opportunity to highlight their town, the charities they love, and the people they work with that tipped the scales.
Growing the Marrs Brand
“Our producer said to us, ‘If you just have this one chance to shine a national spotlight on your nonprofit work, it’s worth it,’” Dave says via video from the farm he and Jenny share with their five kids, multiple dogs, numerous bunnies, sheep, cows, and chickens, plus a donkey and an alpaca. “In 2018, we started with eight remodels. The network liked what they saw and asked for two more. Now we’re up to 16 homes a season,” Dave says.
Turns out, a successful TV show is just the beginning for these creative partners. They also opened an Airbnb (The Welcome Inn) and are launching a mercantile in the 1905 bank building that serves as their headquarters.
Decorate Like Dave & Jenny
Bring the Marrses signature look to your space with the Better Homes and Gardens Collection at Walmart.
A year ago, Dave and Jenny partnered with Better Homes & Gardens to translate their elegant modern farmhouse aesthetic into a collection of outdoor furniture and housewares sold at Walmart. The pieces, like a solid teak daybed swing, are often based on prototypes Dave makes in his workshop on the farm, and the planters and stoneware are inspired by the one-of-a-kind pottery Jenny loves. “If something is going to have our name on it, we want it to meet our standards but also feel achievable. That was important to us,” Dave says.
The couple are also committed to giving back, working to improve the lives of children in orphanages in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where their adopted daughter, Sylvie, was born. They also support a farming program in Zimbabwe with the proceeds from their you-pick blueberry farm.
Life in the Marrs Family
Did we mention all of this is on top of parenting five children? Twins Ben and Nate are 12, Sylvie is 11, Charlotte is 8, and the youngest, Luke, is 3. Jenny started sharing stories of their uniquely creative family on her blog, Blessings & Raindrops, in 2012, years before HGTV stumbled into their telegenic world.
The logistics of this inventive but occasionally crazy life could make the best multitasker’s head spin. How do they manage a frenzied schedule and still show up for baseball games? How do they maintain those authentic, camera-ready smiles through it all?
“It’s insane,” says Jenny, laughing. “And there’s a lot of editing involved. But it’s our normal. It’s our job.”
A typical day starts before sunrise. “I’m an eyes-open-at-4-a.m. kind of person,” Dave says, “and Jenny’s still up at 10 p.m. with her mental wheels turning.” By 6:30 or 7 a.m. the whole family is awake, preparing for the day with their first chore: feeding the animals. “We have a farmhand who helps us with the larger animals, but the kids feed the smaller ones like the dogs and the bunnies every morning,” says Jenny, who grew up in Florida and dreamed of living in New York City. She’s more surprised than anyone that she wakes up on a farm in Arkansas every day.
“Right now, we’re on baby watch for two mama sheep to give birth, and Jenny is like a sheep midwife,” Dave says with a mix of admiration and bewilderment. “This is a girl who grew up in downtown Orlando.”
The couple met in their 20s while working at corporate sales jobs. Dave, who grew up helping his dad build homes in Colorado, suggested they move to Bentonville and start a construction business. That was their first leap of faith. Beginning an adoption journey in Africa was the next. Relocating a vintage house from the center of town to a plot of land with plenty of room to spread out was another. At first, it was a shock to be surrounded by all the quiet with a houseful of kids. Now, the peace of the farm is a welcome respite.
After the animals eat, it’s breakfast time for everyone else. “All of the kids, except for Luke, make their own breakfast and pack their lunch in the morning,” Jenny says. “We supervise and help, of course, but they are so self-sufficient.” Then Dave loads the older four in the car for the school run, and the nanny comes to help with Luke while Jenny gets camera-ready.
All morning, the film crew follows the couple’s progress from site to site (they sometimes have four going simultaneously), capturing their work from demolition to finishing touches and all of the funny, joyful, and often heartwarming moments in between. Lunchtime is devoted to phone calls and quick meetings.
“We’ll sit in the car to take a call, stuff some food in our mouths, and get back to work,” Jenny says. “The cameras are on all day, and we don’t have time to stop. Mostly, I’m glued to my phone, checking on orders, reading texts. There’s never a relaxed timeline; it’s always a rush with no wiggle room. We always need everything tomorrow.”
Their Filming Routine
At the beginning of each season, Jenny and Dave and their design director pull together a book outlining plans for houses they’re working on. Everything from tile selection and paint colors to landscaping is mapped out before production begins. Jenny makes a point to incorporate elements of the homeowners’ personal stories into the reimagined spaces. Every home has a wow moment, like a hot pink range for a single mom who loves to dance in her kitchen or geometric handmade tile Jenny created with a local ceramicist for a couple enamored with eclectic global style.
While their remodels manage to incorporate country charm in small bites—the occasional vintage stained-glass window or a quilt made by a local artisan—their design ethos leans toward classic, with creamy marble countertops, paneling, and molding. Accent walls and millwork are often painted in Farrow & Ball pastels, and rooms are furnished in a warm but minimal way.
“That work usually happens around our kitchen table at night. Dave will make dinner, and we’ll talk everything through to come up with a plan and a story for each house,” Jenny says. “We stick to that blueprint as much as we can. There are always things that go wrong, orders that are cancelled or delayed. With construction, so much can go awry. Sometimes plan B turns out better than plan A. Other times, we live with it.”
By 5 p.m., they’re off the clock and headed to pick up kids at various practices. Back home, they turn on the radio, pour a glass of wine, and gather around the table for a family dinner. Afterward, the kids do the dishes. “They’re really good at it,” Jenny says. “It’s been a life-changer.” Then it’s homework, some downtime, and bed. Saturdays are spent on the sidelines and in the bleachers for the kids’ various games, and Sundays are for laundry and rest.
If they have one minor complaint, it’s that they never can fully log out at the end of the day. “The hard thing about working together is it’s always going,” Jenny says. “We’re sitting at dinner and Dave says, ‘Hey, did you get the light?’ And I say, ‘Oh, shoot. Let me check.’” During challenging times, they come back to their original purpose. “We just look at each other and say, ‘Remember your why,’” Dave says.
“The way God built our family is something we look back on and see the road we took has been hard but also wonderful,” says Jenny, who has given up on the idea that she can guess what’s coming next. “We never could have planned it this way. It can be crazy chaos, but we’re so grateful for how it worked out.”
Marrs-Approved Do’s and Don’ts for a Seamless Remodel
America’s favorite small town home renovators share their pro tips for getting a renovation right the first time.
DO hire an architect to draw up plans.
“If you want to make structural changes, hire an architect who can verify that they’re possible,” says Dave Marrs. “Do it before you take out any studs.” According to Marrs, many people begin a DIY project without plans and then have to work backwards to correct the damage they’ve done. “Get a set of plans and then take them to multiple contractors to compare bids.”
DON’T buy a house before you get an inspection.
“Jenny and I always hire an inspector, every time,” Dave says. “Even though I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I still want another set of eyes on a project.” For a few hundred dollars, inspectors will examine the thousands of components in a house and notice things that an excited new homeowner or busy contractor may not. “That’s all they do. They do it every day. Spending a little extra money on an inspector is absolutely worth it.”
DO invest in a couple of big ticket items, and design rooms around them.
“When you’re budgeting, choose your really important items wisely and invest in those,” says Jenny. “Think about that showstopper that’s going to make you happy. Get that beautiful range for the kitchen, or the light fixture you love. Find that thing you love and then build the room around it.”
DON’T be afraid of a little legwork.
“You can find lower prices, or lower-priced versions of things you love, if you dig a little,” says Jenny, who advises people to get more bang for their buck with some thoughtful planning and research, and regularly finds gorgeous tile and lighting at chain stores like Lowe’s and CB2. “I don’t want to call them knock-offs, but there are almost always more affordable versions of things that you can find with a little searching.”
DO find a style that you love, and ignore trends.
“Look around for inspiration and figure out what the common thread is,,” says Jenny. “You want your home to reflect what you love, not what other people are doing on Instagram.” Dave adds that the same individualism applies to both décor and function. “If you only use your dining room as an office, and have your meals around a kitchen island, then maybe that room should be an office. Do what works for you.”
DON’T obsess over resale value.
“People are so afraid to take risks in their home because they’re overly concerned about resale value,” says Jenny. “It’s OK to make your home yours. Go ahead and take a few design risks if they make you happy. Especially if it’s paint. You can always paint over it when you eventually sell the house, but enjoy it while you live there.”
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