Posted On May 5, 2016
Story by Elizabeth Starr; Photos by Alyson Perkins
A time-honored symbol of community and fellowship, the dining table is often the centerpiece of the family home. Stories, laughter and meals are shared here, where families gather at the end of a day spent apart. At the table, dreams can be shared and passions pursued.
Clint and Kelly Harp’s dream of owning a home goods shop grew into something more than just a fun way to make and sell nice furniture. They believe in the ability of a well-made table to bring people together.
“We’re inspired first and always by family and togetherness,” Kelly says. “The table is a place where humans gather.”
Clint and Kelly are the owners of Harp Design Co., a furniture and home goods shop in the heart of Waco. Though the shop was made famous by the HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” the Harps’ path to shop ownership was completely unscripted.
“You have to be crazy enough to try something like this,” Clint says, shaking his head. “At first, it didn’t feel like the furniture thing was going to work out.”
Clint and Kelly were college sweethearts who got married shortly after graduation from Baylor University. While they were newlyweds, Kelly taught elementary school and Clint worked several different jobs. It was in the early days of their marriage that Clint’s passion for carpentry began to grow.
“I’d always wanted to make furniture, and I would make stuff for Kelly using the tools I had bought to remodel our house in Dallas,” Clint says.
The Harps traveled to Europe to be missionaries for a year after living in St. Petersburg, Fla., briefly and then in Dallas. During their time abroad, the couple’s fascination with home improvement didn’t end.
“While we were in Paris, we had the opportunity to paint and fix up the little apartment we were renting,” Clint laughs. “I remember hauling these huge buckets of paint down into the metro – it was a lot of fun.”
When the Harps moved back to Texas, Clint pursued several more career opportunities until he and Kelly were about to become parents for the first time. Clint took a “real” job in Houston selling medical equipment and was making a steady income, but he soon realized that his heart wasn’t in his work.
“When we moved to Houston, I put my tools in the garage and just tried to start earning the most money that I could,” Clint explains. “I was making plenty of money and had a great schedule, but realized that this just wasn’t it.”
After much deliberation, Clint quit his sales job and decided to dust off his furniture-building tools. The Harps merged Kelly’s clothing company, which she’d started shortly after the family moved to Houston, with Clint’s budding furniture business to form Harp Design Co.
It was right about then that Kelly decided she wanted to return to graduate school. The couple had no way of knowing at the time that Kelly’s choice to return to Baylor to work on her master’s degree would eventually set the plans for Harp Design Co. into forward motion.
“I knew if she wanted to do this, she’d have to get a full ride because we had no money,” Clint says and smiles. “But she got a full ride to start Baylor’s American studies program, because she’s incredibly smart.”
The Harps moved their young children to Waco, and Clint began volunteering with Habitat For Humanity. Because of his connections within the nonprofit, he found a shop to rent, and it seemed as if Harp Design Co. was back on track. Then, through a mutual friend, the Harps met Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of “Fixer Upper” and owners of Waco’s Magnolia Market.
“At the time, Joanna was doing home shows and was interested in building some furniture,” Kelly says.
“No one knew this, but when we were filming the pilot for the show, Kelly was in school and I was applying for jobs,” Clint adds.
Soon, Joanna caught on to Clint’s talent for furniture building and began commissioning him to build pieces she designed for her business. When the show began filming, Clint and his pieces were featured, promoting his business. When filming for “Fixer Upper” began, Harp Design Co. was still mostly in the idea phase. Now it’s a successful shop dedicated to selling home furnishings and goods built with thought and care.
“I want people to look at our tables and have a desire to sit down and eat,” Kelly says. “I want them to sit down and know that table was built with energy and love.”
Clint and Kelly’s design style reflects the positivity they hope to convey to their customers. Using reclaimed or recycled wood full of imperfections and flaws, Clint produces beautiful works of art in the form of dining tables perfect for any home.
“We work a lot with raw wood, but we like to push it more towards modern and clean lines,” Kelly says.
Though the use of raw, imperfect wood is employed in much of Clint’s work, products sold by Harp Design Co. aren’t all fashioned in a rustic style. Nor do the Harps tend to seek trendy or modern inspiration for their pieces. The shop’s aesthetic, a modern spin on traditional lines and textures, is truly the embodiment of Clint and Kelly’s unique style.
“I’m someone who goes hiking and doesn’t enjoy staying on the trail,” Clint says. “I don’t want to do something everyone else has already done. We tailor our pieces to our own personal design and they end up fitting in lots of different places.”
The couple finds great joy in carefully choosing items that they hope will inspire their customers. Clint’s furniture, as well as the shop products, are designed and chosen with a keen eye and artistic flair.
“I hope people bring something home from our shop that feels real, that feels like someone put a lot of thought into wanting it to be part of a home,” Kelly says.
Clint and Kelly Harp’s furniture and design shop was conceived from the desire to encourage others to live the lives they love. With creativity, vision and a bit of help from “Fixer Upper,” the couple has watched their business do just that.
“We hope we’re bringing people together,” Kelly says. “That’s huge for us.”