Home renovation

The best home improvement show isn’t on HGTV, it’s on YouTube

Browse cable TV anytime and you’ll likely find a number of home improvement shows. With the seemingly endless supply of home improvement spinoffs and Upper fixator replays, it feels like there’s always a wall worth knocking down or a kitchen worth updating.

But the best home improvement show isn’t on HGTV, it’s on YouTube.

On a hill in a small town in Nova Scotia sits a modestly sized 3 bedroom farmhouse that was built over 100 years ago. There is an old red barn on the property and a large tree that stands beside the house. The whole scene seems to have been imagined by a millennial city dweller, longing for a simpler life after watching an episode of Renovation of the hunters’ house.

The front shot on the kitchen renovation.
Credit: Hannah Cook and Elliot Wajchendle

The after shot on the kitchen renovation.

The after shot on the kitchen renovation.
Credit: Hannah Cook and Elliot Wajchendler

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Over the past three years, Hannah Cook and Elliot Wajchendler have removed horsehair plaster from the walls and ripped out the ceilings to expose the home’s charming details, like an old brick fireplace and hand-hewn beams. Unlike the most popular shows on TV, there’s no script or fake home buying, no film crew or renovation crew working behind the animators who barely know how to hold a hammer. Just Hannah and Elliot figure things out as they go – with occasional appearances from their dog, Wally, and three cats Boo Boo, Edgar and Phoebe.

For 3 years, the couple have been documenting their home makeover with aesthetic videos on the Wabi Sab – E YouTube channel to their modest audience of 153,000 subscribers. But Hannah, who works for the Canadian government, and Elliot, who works full-time on the house and turns that work into content, got into all of this by accident.

“It was a total surprise,” Elliot told me in a phone interview with Hannah. Late in the evening, the couple decided to see what was under the antiquated carpet in their living room, where they of course discovered the original wide-plank hardwood floors of the farmhouse.

“It was my first video, really. First time using a camera. First renovation,” Elliot explained. He later submitted the short $300 living room makeover video to Reddit’s r/videos, and the couple say they racked up over 800 subscribers overnight. Now with 19 home improvement episodes under their belt, they have a loyal following that can’t wait to feast on the next project.

And it’s not really surprising to hear if you’ve watched any of the clips on their channels. From eye-pleasing painting timelapses backed by exceptionally catchy musical mashups, to eerie close-up shots of sawn wood, videos on Wabi Sab – E are edited in a fluid yet still real — and they’re also incredibly entertaining to watch.

But at the end of the day, the couple doesn’t really know what they’re doing.

But at the end of the day, the couple doesn’t really know what they’re doing.

Most of the projects covered in the renovation were learned by watching countless YouTube videos, including videos on how to edit the videos. Although Elliot studied architecture, the knowledge needed to renovate the old farmhouse comes from the same community that consumes the videos they create, making it part of a home improvement ecosystem.

“I’ve always been practical and cunning. And I have an idea of ​​how things are put together, but thanks to the renovation, that was all learned through trial and error and off of YouTube,” Elliot said.

“YouTube is your best friend. Any path is not too difficult. You just need to find the right person to teach you, who is often on YouTube,” he added.

After getting a $3,000 quote to install toilet plumbing in their laundry room, Elliot taught himself. “I learned electricity for cooking, how much more difficult could plumbing be?” says Elliot in episode 17 of the series. “At worst, if I break down in the plumbing, we have a bit of poo. At worst, if I run out of electricity, I burn the house down and everything was fine.

A before/after photo of the laundry room.

A before/after photo of the laundry room.
Credit: HANNAH COOK AND ELLIOT WAJCHENDLER

But the beauty of the imperfections – the old, abused and exposed wooden beams on the kitchen ceiling, a piece of rotting floor filled with scrap wood found on the property – is where the chain’s name “Wabi Sab” comes from. – E”, a play on the ancient Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi.

“Wabi-sabi almost like… that imperfection is beautiful. This chip from this corner is unique. [There’s] there’s nothing like it in the world, and that makes it even more interesting,” Elliot said.

Like most home improvement shows involving couples, watching the two of them is extremely endearing. Videos often contain real-world frustrations. In Episode 4, Hannah gets mad at Elliot because there’s no door in the only bathroom in their house. “Stop laughing, if you want help with the rest,” Hannah jokes in another episode as she attempts to screw a strange piece of drywall into a wall. Elliot is behind the camera and you can see she is visibly mad at him.

Then there are pajamas.

Hannah and Elliot and in their signature pajamas.

Hannah and Elliot and in their signature pajamas.
Credit: HANNAH COOK AND ELLIOT WAJCHENDLER

While most renovation shows probably have at least some hair and makeup prep, Hannah and Elliot appear on their channel mostly in their pajamas, which has become somewhat popular with fans of the show. It’s also probably a fairly accurate outfit for a couple who are renovating the house they currently live in.

During our phone call, Elliot pointed out that even in the first video they filmed — because it was done in the middle of the night — they were wearing their pajamas. Now it’s kind of become a thing.

When asked if Hannah and Elliot considered themselves influencers, I was surprised at their response.

“Oh, yeah, 100%. Elliot said.

“People keep telling us that they’ve been looking and buying their own farmhouse to renovate,” Hannah added. “People contact us and say we give them the motivation to continue with their own renovations.”

A photo of a room before it was renovated.

A photo of a room before it was renovated.
Credit: Hannah Cook and Elliot Wajchendler

An afterthought, with original wide-plank hardwood floors.

An afterthought, with original wide-plank hardwood floors.
Credit: Hannah Cook and Elliot Wajchendler

“I also hear a lot that we are showing people that there is potential in a lot of reclaimed materials – with the beauty and character that lies beneath all that grime and dirt is absolutely priceless. And everything has a story. which makes it so much more meaningful and interesting,” Elliot said.

When you think of an influencer, most people will probably think of someone pushing shakes or CBD on Instagram. But inspiring someone to make a life-changing purchase – like buying an old demolished farmhouse to restore – is an influence that will have a lasting effect for generations to come.

Even though the dream of owning a house seems like an impossible achievement, watching Hannah and Elliot create something new for themselves out of something old is a heartwarming and entertaining watch.

You can follow their progress on YouTube and Instagram.