When Sabrina Smelko first came to Squamish on a mountain biking trip, she liked the community so much she and her partner found a place to live before their vacation was over.
“I immediately fell in love,” Smelko said. “We saw two houses and the second one we saw, we were like, 'Done. Let's just do it. What do we have to lose?'”
That was in August. By November, the couple and their dog, Piper, were pulling into town permanently. Since then, they’ve been out every weekend mountain biking or sledding.
Originally from Milton, the designer and HGTV co-host of Save My Reno spent most of her life in the sleepy community outside of Toronto. When she was in school for illustration, Smelko worked at the Jasper Park Lodge for a summer — which ended up being nearly 10 months long — and got her first taste of mountain life.
“There was something about the West Coast that has a vibe of a being little more relaxed,” she said. “The environment is boss here, and I like that. Whereas in Toronto and the surrounding areas, it's about doing more, getting more, building more, taking over. Here, you have to take a backseat to nature.”
Between filming for her show — the second season is airing now — Smelko has a six-month hiatus to focus on her other projects. She runs a blog where she shares recipes (she’s currently researching foraging in the area), lifestyle ideas, and does freelance illustrations and designs.
So how has living in Squamish influenced her design work?
“The view and nature dictate it more,” Smelko said. “You don't have to compensate like you do, I felt, in Milton. I would have pops of colour or things that were super interesting, but here I've pared all of that down. It's a lot more neutral and about the outdoors. Our patio has become way more of a priority.”
She's also pared down her wardrobe, and added more gear and technical wear.
“You just realize how important the elements are, and they influence everything,” she added.
While they’re currently renting, Smelko and her partner are looking to buy a home in Squamish. Their goal is to find a place they can preserve with the help of local talent. It’s a reno HGTV may be interested in as well.