Sabrina Smelko may be new to the HGTV Canada family, but she’s an old pro when it comes to decorating and DIY, and nobody trumps her eye for vintage finds! We sat down with the star of Save My Reno to learn more about her style, how she renovated her entire kitchen for $7000, and her sneaky tip for scoring the best vintage items online!
HGTV Canada: What’s your favourite DIY project in your home?
Sabrina Smelko: I like to think of DIY more as a lifestyle, like very holistically. It’s not just about a one-off project for me, it’s more of a mentality. I actually renovated my entire home from scratch, and I actually did my kitchen myself for $7000 which was amazing.
See Sabrina’s kitchen makeover.
HC: Do you have any tips for DIY beginners?
SS: Just do it – and fail. The first project you make, especially if you’re a beginner, it’s going to look like crap. It’s not going to be what you want and what you envisioned and the photos that you see online of it. But don’t let that discourage you. Every time you try something and you fail, you learn, and the insight you gain from that project will help the next one. You just have to keep going and trying. You don’t have to show people, you can always tuck it into your closet if it’s ugly, but don’t be afraid! Just dive right in and do it.
HC: Do you have an example of a big project that you failed on?
SS: Oh yes. I once wanted to make a bunch of assorted hot pot-holders. I ended up getting nylon rope without realizing that it melts the minute something hot is placed onto it. So I put one of my really good sauce pans on this holder that took me hours to knit, and it completely melted to the pot. But good news – I upcycled it into a dog toy!
HC: Where do you shop for your vintage pieces?
SS: Aberfoyle Antique Market! And then I think the further you can get from the city, [you should] visit those thrift shops. Not only do you find nicer things, but they tend to underprice them. Like in the city, people know that they can price a credenza for $1000 and someone in Toronto will buy it. I also really like a store called MoveLine in Oakville and they sell hotel furniture from places that just did a renovation, then they have all of these sofas, armchairs, lamps and artwork.
HC: Do you shop for vintage finds online or using apps?
SS: Yes! I find the trick to using those kinds of apps is setting alerts. So a lot of people don’t know that in kijiji and craigslist, you can make custom alerts that include a bunch of keywords. So the minute an ad is posted with your keywords, you’re the first one to know.
Tour Sabrina’s living room.
HC: What’s your favourite find in your own home?
SS: I actually just picked up a giant tin letter sign, its four-and-a-half feet high. It’s an ‘S’, it’s green, and it lights up. It’s like a marquee sign, and I found it for $50 online.
HC: In your new show, Save My Reno, you’re working closely with Sebastian Clovis. If Sebastian was an emoji, which one would he be?
SS: The big bicep!
HC: What emoji would you be?
SS: I would be the winky tongue out face!
(Yep, that sounds about right, Sabrina!)
HG: What was one of the most challenging renos from the show?
SS: In one episode, we did an entire basement, so we were fitting a laundry room, a dry-bar, a bathroom, and a living room in less than 800 square feet. They initially wanted to dig out the basement, but we couldn’t, so it was a big challenge because both of the homeowners are very tall. So we had to fit all of that function in the same ceiling height. We really had to rely on design, so we leaned heavily on bright airy pieces, lots of texture, and really, really good lighting. We added pot lights, key lights, and table lamps, just to make that atmosphere feel less cramped and basement-y.
HC: What’s one thing that everyone should splurge on for their house?
SS: Splurge on the kitchen. I think more than any other room in your home, everyone wants to see a nice kitchen. It’s the heart of your home, it’s where you end up living. And then further within the kitchen, you have to get really good chef’s knives. Just stuff to prepare your food – invest in that stuff!
Thanks so much, Sabrina! Visit Save My Reno to watch full episodes and see more of Sabrina and Sebastian’s incredible renovations.