A pandemic, a highway washout, fires, supply chain issues, bureaucratic red tape.
Those were just a few of the challenges designer and TV personality Sarah Richardson faced renovating a luxury home in Whistler, some of which will be featured on the upcoming HGTV show Sarah’s Mountain Escape.
“My takeaway? Before you buy the most expensive property you’ve ever bought, think about it a little bit,” she says. “We jumped in. We bought it on a whim and it took a lot out of us in terms of financially, stress levels, everything. It was a huge challenge.”
The daunting property featured is Haus Heidi, an eight-bedroom B&B located on Nesters Road, which according to local real estate websites sold for $3.7 million.
Richardson—a co-executive producer on the show who has had several renovation projects featured on HGTV over the years—her husband Alex Younger and their two ski-racer daughters visited Whistler back in December 2020 after their home hill was closed. Before they left, Alex told his wife he had reached out to a real estate agent, just to see if any properties might work for their next project.
“I said, ‘Why did you do that?’” she remembers. “He said, ‘I thought it would be fun for you to look at the local market.’”
After a 20-minute walkthrough, they made the leap.
Of course, one of the other major hurdles was the fact that they live in Ontario and their work was taking place in Whistler. To that end, they hired a group of locals as the team executing Richardson’s vision to create a luxury rental property, including Whistler-based CVC Custom Builders and born-and-raised Squamish designer Ashley de Boer as the design assistant.
“It’s a great opportunity we have doing what we do and being able to share ideas and resources,” Richardson says. “Each of our artisan features is really a focus and a showcase about them and their talents and passions and what they do. I find that really exciting because it’s a hugely important part of the fabric of what makes a soulful home.”
For her part, de Boer was fresh out of school from BCIT when her neighbour tagged her in Richardson’s social media callout looking for a design assistant in the Sea to Sky.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why would Sarah pick me? I just graduated, I’m so young, there’s going to be hundreds of other applicants that are more qualified for the position,’” de Boer says. “I didn’t think anything of it.”
About a week later, she told her mom and aunt about the position she didn’t apply for. “They’re like, ‘Oh my God. Are you crazy? Go do your hair, go do your makeup and record this [audition] video.’”
Hundreds of takes later, she sent a submission in and was shocked when she heard back.
“Ultimately it was the network that decided who was going to be the design assistant and then they selected me. I still can’t believe it,” she says.
Much of the work on the project was done behind the scenes, with the crew gathering onsite when Richardson and Younger were in town.
“Sarah’s design style is very bold and has a lot of layers and details, so every space in the house is really, truly unique … Every room is very unique. A lot of work went into the project picking different materials for each area and creating all the drawings. It was a really fun project. All the planning and detail that went into every space was one-of-a-kind, essentially,” de Boer says.
The continuous delays—from the municipal data breach halting work in June 2021 to various people recovering from COVID at different times (though not spread through the site)—also meant that de Boer had to push back work for her other clients when the project ran longer than expected.
“They understood,” she adds. “As the show progressed, I continued to work on my client projects. And now that the show is over, I continue to take on clients. I have my own business now.”
The first episode of the 10-part feature covers impressive ground in an hour. Viewers are introduced to the unique B&B, toured through its dated décor and watch as the bottom floor is completely transformed.
“The biggest surprise is it took longer and cost more than we ever anticipated,” Richardson says. “And we’re not novices at this. In terms of what you see, I’ve always said, ‘I don’t make reality TV; I share a realistic portrayal of the design process.’”
In keeping with the project’s theme, the premiere date for Sarah’s Mountain Escape has been delayed one week. Catch it on Oct. 19 at 9 p.m. on HGTV.