The untold truth of HGTV's Renovation Island

Debuting in June 2020, HGTV's Renovation Island follows the real-life adventures of contractor Bryan Baeumler and his wife, designer Sarah Baeumler, as they and their four children move to the Bahamas to undertake an ambitious renovation project — not of a home, but an entire vacation resort. It's no secret that viewers enjoy watching HGTV shows, like Masters of Flip or Fixer Upper, that transform dilapidated dumps into divine dream homes, but Renovation Island ups the ante by shifting the action to a tropical paradise.

The show follows the partners as they reimagine a long-abandoned hotel into what HGTV's announcement described as "a world-class island oasis complete with 18 luxurious hotel rooms, 22 oceanfront villas and a host of breezy resort amenities." With a tight timeline and a huge list of construction goals, the Baeumlers race against the clock to ready their new boutique hotel in time for tourist season. "This is the biggest change our family has faced and the largest project we've ever taken on," said Bryan. "What are we risking? Absolutely everything."

There's a lot viewers don't know about this show and the powerhouse husband-and-wife duo at the center of it. Read on to discover the untold truth of HGTV's Renovation Island.

HGTV's Renovation Island was already a hit in Canada

While Sarah and Bryan Baeumler may be unfamiliar to American HGTV viewers, their series Renovation Island had previously enjoyed a successful run on HGTV Canada, where it was titled Island of Bryan. The show proved to be a massive hit for the Canadian iteration of HGTV. According to an HGTV Canada press release, the series' first four installments were "the most-watched individual episodes of any program on the network in over 10 years."

In those debut episodes, the Baeumlers say goodbye to their home in Canada and start their new life in the Bahamas' South Andros Island, which is home to just about 2,000 people. In addition to stunning natural beauty, tropical sunshine, and white-sand beaches, the family also experiences the unforeseen challenges of undertaking such an ambitious reno in a remote location, forced to overcome the type of obstacles they'd never encountered in their native Canada. "Everyone said we were crazy," said Sarah in HGTV's announcement. "But our hearts said 'yes' — this is the right thing to do."

Viewers can actually stay at the resort featured in HGTV's Renovation Island

Because HGTV's Renovation Island is a repurposed and retitled show that's already aired in Canada, the renovations undertaken in the series' first season have long since been completed. In fact, the resulting resort, the Caerula Mar Club, opened for business — eventually — in early 2020. 

"It's the first project on HGTV where viewers will actually be able to come down and see the final result, and hang out with us and the entire family," Bryan Baeumler told the Edmonton Journal of the revitalized boutique resort, which had been shut down since 2011 before the couple decided to mount a renovation resurrection and bring it back to life.

In terms of available accommodations, guests have the option of a 300-square-foot clubhouse suite or one of the larger private villas, which are available in one- or two-bedroom options. "The great thing is, viewers can come down and sit around the pool and walk the beach and spend some time somewhere they've watched put together," Baeumler told the Toronto Sun.

Renovation Island isn't Bryan and Sarah Baeumler's first HGTV series

While Sarah and Bryan Baeumler may be new arrivals to HGTV in America, they're familiar favorites in their home and native land. In fact, the Canadian couple didn't just star in the alternately titled series Island of Bryan. No, the couple has actually been featured on numerous HGTV shows in Canada over the years before embarking on their Caribbean adventure in Renovation Island.

Bryan Baeumler was first seen, solo, in Leave It to Bryan, in which couples pitch the licensed contractor three possibilities for a dream reno, with Baeumler maintaining the final say over which renovation he'll move forward on. He also headlined House of Bryan, featuring him and his wife building their "forever home" in the countryside — a televised building project that ultimately took more than one season.

The couple also starred together in Bryan Inc., which found him hiring his wife as project manager as the two purchased run-down homes they could transform into spectacular abodes to sell at a profit. "If you'd asked me 15 years ago where I'd be today, I'm not sure I'd have guessed it," contractor-turned-celebrity Bryan Baeumler marveled to the Edmonton Journal. "I've always been entrepreneurial, but between the construction company and the shows it's certainly taken us in an unexpected direction."

How a family vacation led to HGTV's Renovation Island

Buying a rundown hotel on a tiny Caribbean island certainly wasn't the game plan when Bryan and Sarah Baeumler took their children on a family vacation to the Bahamas in 2017. While visiting South Andros Island, they came upon a badly neglected hotel that hadn't been in operation for years. While most people would see a decaying dump, Bryan saw a life-altering opportunity. "We were there for about 10 minutes and Bryan looked at me and I could tell by the look in his eyes that this was something he wanted to do," Sarah told the Toronto Sun. "He looked at me and said: 'I think we're going to buy this hotel.'"

Given the hosts/stars of HGTV's Renovation Island already had extensive experience with home renovations, they weren't disillusioned about the scope of what they were about to embark upon. As Sarah explained in an interview with Caribbean Journal, they both knew they were in for "a massive undertaking" but also saw the potential to create "a place where travelers could get back to the basics, reconnect with nature, and savor the simplicity and beauty of this incredible paradise."

The stars of HGTV's Renovation Island launched a Hurricane Dorian relief effort

When Hurricane Dorian barreled through the Caribbean in 2019, the Bahamas was hit particularly hard. HGTV's Renovation Island stars Bryan and Sarah Baeumler's hotel was not damaged, but the couple launched a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $10,000 to aid local recovery efforts in their community on South Andros Island. Their fundraising effort, reported Global News, far exceeded their initial goal when they wound up raising in excess of $180,000. 

"I didn't think we would raise that much because there's a lot going on in the world," Bryan said, adding that "a lot of our staff and their families were directly affected" by the devastating hurricane. As Sarah pointed out, though, raising the money is only the first step in the recovery process. "It's not as simple as taking all of the money raised and just dumping it right now," she explained, noting that the goal is to look ahead to determine what stage recovery efforts will be at in the future. "It's more like, what does it look like six months from now? What does the island look like a year from now?" she added.  

Bryan and Sarah Baeumler of HGTV's Renovation Island learned a lot about living in the Caribbean

Undertaking an extensive renovation project on a remote Caribbean island with a population of just about 2,000 people presents its own set of unique challenges, which taught HGTV's Renovation Island stars Bryan and Sarah Baeumler to some serious life lessons. Key among them was ensuring the renovation has enough flexibility to handle whatever's thrown at them. "There are only two ships a week to bring materials, and even though we can set up a charter, it's expensive," Bryan Baeumler told the Vancouver Sun. "If something doesn't arrive on schedule or if it got left out of the order, we adjust. We'll work on something else, or we can go fishing and work the next day instead."

That philosophy is something that the entire Baeumler family has had to adopt in their everyday lives, not just when it came to the resort renovation. "You can't sweat the small stuff," he told Global News. "If there's no milk on the island, you're not getting milk until the boat comes in so you better be willing to just have something else. Here in Andros, you get what you get and you don't get upset."

Why the Baeumlers decided to upend their life for HGTV's Renovation Island

Pulling up their roots in Canada and moving to a small island in the middle of the Caribbean required a paradigm shift for Sarah and Bryan Baeumler as they embarked on the adventure documented in HGTV's Renovation Island. After living in the spacious "forever home" the couple built for their family (chronicled in their HGTV Canada series House of Bryan), the couple and their four children had to adjust to their new living situation as the family of six crammed into a 550-square-foot villa during the reno.

As Bryan Baeumler admitted in an interview with Kari Skelton, their new lifestyle is "a little different than being home and everyone having their own space." A typical day, he explained, began with the family having breakfast with the camera crew and the construction workers. Then the kids will focus on schoolwork while the Baeumlers and their team tackle the ongoing renovation, all while the cameras roll. "Our days are filled with filming, building, tracking down material shipments... and of course we sneak away for a swim or island adventure whenever we get the chance!" he admitted.

The Baeumlers' renovation style changed while filming HGTV's Renovation Island

As a contractor in Canada, Bryan Baeumler had been all about efficiency, with a goal of ensuring projects were completed on time and on budget, to exacting specifications. While working on Caerula Mar Club during the filming of HGTV's Renovation Island, however, he realized he had to be more fluid with schedules. Although supplies were supposed arrive via boat on a weekly basis, he explained, some weeks the boat didn't arrive at all. "So you miss one deadline and it doesn't just delay you a day, it can delay you a few weeks," Bryan told the Toronto Sun.

"On the island, when the material you ordered doesn't show up or something is broken, you have no choice but to accept it, change your plan and move on," he elaborated in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.

However, this aspect of island living also gave the Baeumlers a fresh perspective. "Things that will get you ramped up here in Canada — waiting five minutes for a coffee or waiting for someone to finish pumping gas — those aren't concerns at the forefront of people who live on a tiny island," he told the Toronto Sun. "Their biggest concern in the morning is what are we going to eat today?"

The resort featured in HGTV's Renovation Island received high marks from travel magazines

The renovation of the new Caerula Mar Club resort wasn't without issues. In fact, as HGTV's Renovation Island documents, a variety of factors pushed back the planned opening. After original plans to open in May 2019 were quashed, that date was then pushed to November 2019, then to February 2020 when the resort finally opened.

The new resort did not go unnoticed by travel magazines like Condé Nast Traveler, which trumpeted Caerula Mar Club as the first new hotel on Anrdos Island in almost two decades. Pointing to such features as "10 acres of oceanfront" and "cream-colored suites," the magazine reported that "Andros may be the spot to watch for in 2020." Meanwhile, a piece in the Robb Report listed Caerula Mar Club as one of its "12 best hotels for a Caribbean escape," noting that a visit to the resort "is a lesson in relaxation, with outdoor living spaces, meditation paths and hammocks aplenty."

On the Caerula Mar Club website, the Baeumlers describe the philosophy underlying the resort. "Combining simplicity with splendour," they wrote, "our hideaway personifies the spirit of barefoot luxury."

Everything is "opposite" when it comes to construction on HGTV's Renovation Island

When Bryan and Sarah Baeumler embarked on the massive renovation project chronicled in HGTV's Renovation Island, they quickly came to realize that the approach they took to renos in Canada wasn't going to work in their new locale. As a result, they had to become comfortable with doing things differently. As Bryan pointed out in an interview with Global News"everything here is opposite of Canada."

As he explained, he'd been used to constructing a structure that would retain heat in order to keep occupants warm in the winters; in the Caribbean, however, "we have to build thinking inside out." Another big challenge, he explained was that they were working to restore "a 50-year-old hotel that is built the way it's built. There's a finite budget, there's a finite amount of time."

Sometimes tough calls had to be made when an aspect of the project began exceeding its budget; Baeumler explained they had to consider "how far do we go here until it doesn't make any sense financially anymore." The project at the core of Renovation Island, he admitted, has "been a learning curve."

What the family learned from their experience on HGTV's Renovation Island

The experience of renovating a Caribbean hotel led HGTV's Renovation Island star Bryan Baeumler and his family to some epiphanies about what is really important in life. "I think we learned a lot about ourselves," he told Global News. As he explained, there's a tendency in modern society to "focus on small things that really aren't that important in the grand scheme of things."

He also said that he fully understood how making such a drastic decision — moving to a tiny island with a goal to ultimately run a tourist resort, something with which he and wife Sarah had no prior experience — may seem "kind of crazy" to most people. However, he's also a firm believer in pursuing one's dreams, no matter how outlandish they may seem to those looking from the outside in. He ultimately came to realize that "it's all finite." He told the publication, "At the end of the day, I think my perspective would be that you have a limited time left to do whatever it is you want to do."

This is what HGTV's Renovation Island taught the stars about sustainability

When living on a small Caribbean island, sustainability isn't just an environmentally-friendly choice, it's actually necessary for survival. While filming HGTV's Renovation Island, Bryan Baeumler told Global News, one thing that really hit home was just how much people in North America take garbage for granted, "where the stuff just disappears and we don't know what happens to it."

This was the polar opposite of the family's experience on South Andros Island, where anything that can be reused or repurposed will receive a second life. "We're looking at recycling programs for plastic waste and we'll recycle that into pellets and packages that we can then resell to pay for the cost of the equipment to companies that will reuse that as a secondary source," he explained. 

In fact, Bryan added, during the demolition phase of the old hotel, everything from furniture to building material was donated to locals. "We've literally seen houses finished with the material and furniture that came from the hotel, which is incredible," Bryan said. "The people here are very resourceful at limiting the amount of garbage because they'll reuse it."

The Baeumlers admitted they had no idea what they were getting into with HGTV's Renovation Island

Sarah and Bryan Baeumler jumped right in to restore the 50-year-old hotel that would become their Caerula Mar Club resort. However, the stars of HGTV's Renovation Island admitted they weren't entirely prepared for everything they encountered during the process. 

"I think we had a very, very dark pair of rose-colored glasses on," Bryan Baeumler said in an interview with the Woodstock Sentinel-Review. In fact, his "romantic idea" of living in a tropical paradise came with some challenges the couple didn't really see coming. Admitting that "it's been a struggle," Baeumler explained that dealing with Bahamian bureaucracy and the "logistics" of running a Canadian business in the Caribbean presented a steep "learning curve." He continued, saying, "... The stresses that it brought upon us were monumental. We did not anticipate all of this."

And then there were the financial concerns, the constant fear of running out of money before the project had been completed. "And as a father and a provider, all these fears — are my kids going to be safe, are we making a massive mistake? There is all that," Bryan admitted.

How HGTV's Renovation Island brought the Baeumler family closer together

During the course of HGTV's Renovation Island, the Baeumlers and their four children all lived together in one of the hotel's villas, measuring just 550 square feet. While sharing such close quarters may not have offered a whole lot of personal privacy, it did bring the family closer together. 

While Bryan Baeumler told interviewer Kari Skelton that the whole project had been "much more of an adventure than we anticipated," he was adamant that any hardship experienced was more than offset by the new friends they had made and the amazing experiences that he and his family have enjoyed. As he said, "living so closely together with the kids and family has been amazing."

In addition, Bryan added, every member of the family has learned the difference between what they "want" and what they "need." Ultimately, "it really has surprised us how little you need to be happy and fulfilled," he said.