When you’re in the home-renovation business, you know you’re onto something good when HGTV calls.
Holly Baker got the call nearly two years ago. Over the last few months, the pilot for her proposed TV series Big Easy Reno – which was filmed in New Orleans last summer – has aired on the channel three times to millions of viewers. As she sits in her light and airy home in west Edmonton, she also awaits the green light from HGTV’s executive producers to turn the pilot into a full series.
But that is secondary to her successful home renovation business, Aerie Developments. In the last three-and-a-half years, she has gutted and renewed eight Edmonton properties, including a Hollywood Hills-style bungalow with a pool in Quesnell Heights and a charming, ultra-stylish 600-square-foot development in Westmount.
Her own home, a fun and modern 2,100-square-foot property in Willowby, is a renovation project seven years in the making. When she and her husband, Sean, moved in, textured wallpaper covered most of the walls, including the light switches. Oak finishings and brass fixtures from the 1980s dominated both floors, and the kitchen was suffocated by bulky cabinetry. “It felt closed off,” she says. Despite it all, the moment she walked into the foyer, she knew this house was “the one.”
“Every house tells me how it wants to feel,” says Holly. “It sounds really hokey and spiritual or something, but when I walked into the houses I’ve done, I could picture every last detail within moments.”
Today, her foyer opens to an impressive dark wood staircase with white trim and banisters, which Holly and Sean are still finishing by hand. To the right, a high angled ceiling, tall windows and revamped vintage furnishings peppered with pastels highlight the living room. Lining an expansive wall are three long, silver-hued pieces of driftwood salvaged from her family cabin in Sylvan Lake. “It’s the one thing that people have consistently commented on over the years,” she says. “I still love it, even though we did it six or seven years ago.”
In the dining room, an oversized mirror is the backdrop to a table she snagged at Find, Homeward Trust Edmonton’s furniture thrift store. The DIY light fixture is made of eight bulbs that hang from long white wires and wrap around a strip of metal piping. The cost? All told, Baker estimates it at around $70 to $80.
From the lofty, pricey and at times challenging renovations to the easy, inexpensive details, Holly’s DIY mentality is what brought her here. Before Big Easy Reno and Aerie Developments, she had WhiteBerry Reinvented, a refurbishing business she launched when she was on maternity leave so she could care for her daughter, Wren, in 2009. After her first garage sale, she was hooked: “I found a set of vintage chairs that I thought were the greatest things ever, and an old dresser, and I brought them home and I painted them, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I suddenly have dining room chairs!'”
She continued to hunt throughout Edmonton for unique pieces in need of attention – from antique shops like Chickies in Highlands to Ward’s Auctions and Craigslist. Once complete and shabby chic, she would post them on Kijiji and have multiple inquiries within hours.
She’d also work on her blog, In the Fun Lane, where she has built a vast audience; on Instagram alone, she has more than 20,000 followers. Here, she shares in-progress renovation photos and the tasteful stylings of her home, be it strategically placed cowhide rugs and the soft, grey paisley wallpaper in her bedroom, or the fresh flowers on her kitchen’s marble countertop and the smiling paper bags she ordered from Denmark for Wren’s room.
“I always wanted to be an architect,” she says. “I have drawings from when I was eight, nine, 10 years old, and I would make floor plans. That was so fun for me. But I also noticed, looking back, that I would always have a floor plan including the furniture layout: The couch is here, the chair is here, the bed goes here. So, obviously I had more than just an interest in the framing of a house.”
If HGTV decides to move forward with Big Easy Reno, Holly is likely in for long stretches of filming in New Orleans. “I would be sad to leave [our Edmonton] house, but I know I can make any house my house,” she says.