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Inside the House of Bryan

HOSS drops in on the Baeumler family to talk about home reno, country life and giving back to the community

What do you do when you’ve finished building your house in the city and your cottage retreat? Well, if you’re celebrity contractor Bryan Baeumler, you move your family to the heart of the countryside to do it all over again.

Apart from running his own firm, Baeumler Quality Construction, “B Baeum” is well known in living rooms across North America from his roster of HGTV shows like Disaster DIY, Leave It to Bryan and the enormously popular House of Bryan. Season 1 saw him turn a modest bungalow into a dream home; in Season 2 (On the Rocks), he built a sensational Georgian Bay retreat from the foundation up.

In his newest series, House of Bryan: In the Sticks, Baeumler and his wife, Sarah, along with their four children Quintyn (10), Charlotte (7), Lincoln (4) and Josephine (2), apply everything they’ve learned in their previous projects to creating the ultimate family home in the country.

What’s his most important lesson he’s learned along the way? “I think, honestly, everybody in the construction industry and trades is striving for perfection, and every shipment to come in on time, and every job to be completed ahead of schedule,” Baeumler says. “One thing I’ve learned—apart from the hands-on skill—is that’s just not possible. The most important thing is not to sweat the small stuff.”

Country living

Building on a relatively remote site has come with its own challenges and learning curve, says Baeumler. “We did this up in the middle of nowhere,” he says. So, “if you’ve got 500 feet of power line, and the whole forest is lying on top of it”, or the septic system fails, you can’t get the same kind of quick repair that you’d expect in the city.

On the plus side, “it’s been a change of lifestyle for us,” says Baeumler. “We can actually spend some time with the kids: wander out and have a campfire. There’s more to offer here. We had a 75’ x 45’ backyard; now I have a barn that’s bigger than my property in Oakville, for half the price.”

Country living isn’t new for Baeumler. “I grew up outside the city and I had thousands of acres of farm fields around my home,” he says. His childhood included lots of time at the cottage and campfires in the backyard. Still, he says, he was pleased with how seamlessly his family adapted to rural life. “The transition was a lot smoother than we expected; we just fit into it so nicely!”

True success

Despite the pleasures of celebrity status, which he describes as “kind of odd,” Baeumler says his construction firm and his charitable family foundation provide his true anchors. “We have close to 50 employees working out of Burlington [Ontario]. But I think the most important part, or the part about my career that makes me the happiest—apart from being blessed with a great wife and four happy, healthy kids—Is to be able to do more and give back to the community.”

This is the motivation behind the Baeumler Family Foundation, a charitable organization that offers renovations for children and families in need of accessibility, safety and security. The foundation also supports other organizations that assist children.

“Being on television, we had the opportunity to do a few shows with families that needed help,” Baeumler says. When he got a call from a hospital seeking help for a young girl with accessibility challenges, “Sarah and I looked at it and said ‘we’ve got the manpower and the time and some extra materials: we’ve literally got the tools to be able to help.”

He and Sarah are currently excited about the May 21 celebrity karaoke gala for the foundation at Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. “Our view is: if we don’t take care of our kids—all of our kids—now, who’s going to take care of them later?”

Next up

For someone who’s already achieved such success, Baeumler’s plans for the immediate future are relatively low key. He’s still shooting House of Bryan, and of course, “we’re always trying to come up with interesting ideas for new shows. Sarah keeps bugging me for chickens, our construction company continues to grow, and we’re developing some new communities.”

He’s also working on a kids’ construction board game, and launching his new book, Measure Twice: Tips and tricks from the pros to help you avoid the most common DIY disasters (Collins). “It’s 191 mistakes I’ve made,” says Baeumler, “and followup on how to avoid them.”

As for the longer term? Baeumler has a to-do list, of course, but says his desire to make the most of every moment provides his internal compass.

“If there’s something Sarah and I want to do or someplace we want to go, if we talk about it on Friday, chances are we’re doing it on Monday,” says Baeumler. “My epitaph should read simply ‘He worked hard and he played harder.’ That pretty much sums me up.”

Photo Credit: Richard Sibbald,  http://richardsibbald.com/