Cottages have come a long way since the days my family rented one in Sauble Beach, Ont. That one boasted mismatched wallpaper, a bedroom with a lamp so creepy we put it in a closet, and a dodgy septic system. Nowadays, if you’re planning to rent your cottage out, you need to really ramp it up.
Enter Scott McGillivray and Debra Salmoni.
Returning for Season 4 this Sunday on HGTV Canada, Scott’s Vacation House Rules finds the pair leading the charge to turn dodgy into drop-dead gorgeous. With his real estate and contracting skills and her 12 years of interior design expertise, everything they touch has a wow factor as well as bringing in the highest rental income possible.
It all begins Sunday when the pair help Scott’s best friend, Blake, renovate his run-down property.
We spoke to Debra Salmoni about her start on HGTV Canada, and her tips for those looking to design their own properties for maximum impact and income.
When I speak to somebody that’s part of the HGTV Canada family, I get their backstory. But I was doing some research into you and read the story that Seneca College did on you. HGTV Canada literally called you out of the blue because they saw you on Instagram. Is that true?
Debra Salmoni: Yes, yes, pretty much. My husband [Dave Salmoni] has been on television. He did a show in 2015, and his makeup artist is actually the one who put my name forward randomly to a casting director. The casting director was looking for a designer for Scott McGillivray’s new show. I guess they were on set together at another project, and all of a sudden this casting director messages me on Instagram and was just like, ‘I would love to talk to you about this opportunity.’ And I thought it was spam.
They followed up a few times. And then, finally, I replied ‘Is this serious?’ We had a conversation, and it went really, really well. I met with Scott on set to do a camera test, and see how we worked and our chemistry together. And then, like a week later, it was, ‘You got the part!’ [Laughs.] And then, two days after that it was, ‘We’re filming tomorrow.’ Within six weeks I was on TV filming with Scott. I’d never done television before. No desire to be on television. It’s really serendipitous
Cottages have come such a long way from when my family rented one when I was a kid. If you want any kind of income, you really need to update it and think of a cottage kind of as a second home.
DS: Domestic travel and cottages have come such a long way. Before, we used to get two weeks’ vacation, and you would go to the cottage by the lake and you would spend two weeks with your family, and that was it. You would shut it down and you would go back home. Our lifestyles have changed. We can work remotely, we get six weeks of vacation, it’s all different. These properties need insulation. They need running water. Getting the bones and the structure of these homes is very, very important.
And it’s a huge part of the show, and it’s the unsexy part of the renovation. It eats up a lot of the budget. So, to anyone who wants to renovate their cottage outside of a quick of some paint and accessories, you have to get the bones of your property right. Before you start investing in new kitchens and putting down new floors and buying new furniture, otherwise there’s going to be water damage, you’re gonna have foundation cracks, and you’re gonna have some of these serious issues because the cottages were not built for year-round use.
I want to talk about that intimate relationship between a homeowner or a cottage owner and an interior designer. Can you just talk about that relationship and how important it is?
DS: I own my own design studio as well. With homeowners on the show, I only get a little bit of time with them to go through their wishlists. They send me their wishlist, we talk, we meet, we go through all of those details, and then, basically, they step away and it’s in our hands. With my personal clients, some of them are like, ‘Deb, you do your thing. We’ve worked together for so many years, I trust you entirely.’ But other clients like to be very involved in the process, and I love when they’re involved because yes, you’re right, I have to dig deep into their lifestyle. So when we’re selecting a bathtub, it’s the size of the bathtub. Are the kids gonna be bathing in here? Is it just for you? Are you even a bath person or do you prefer a shower? Do you wanna have a bench in there? For vanities, do you like to have one big vanity? Do you want to have separate vanities? You really dig deep into the lifestyle of your clients so you can completely customize the house to their needs. And that’s when they walk in and they’re like, ‘Wow, Deb nailed it.’
Going back to Blake’s cottage in the Sunday debut. I really loved the multipurpose, red-checked stool. I feel like, if you’re renting out your property, everything has to be really solid.
DS: The minute a client tells us we’re planning on renting there is function, durability, wear and tear to consider. When it’s just your own property, you’re going up there maybe a week, and then it stays dormant for a month, and then you go up for another week. There’s not much wear and tear. But when you’re renting out these properties, the hope is that its back-to-back renters. You have two days of cleaning everything, getting it set up in another two weeks. Everything gets hardcore wear and tear. You want to make sure that you’re picking materials that are durable.
Scott’s Vacation House Rules airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada.
Images courtesy of Corus.