"Most people work 51 weeks a year so they can spend one week in paradise. We're here every day!" Sarah Baeumler tells PEOPLE

June 21, 2020 01:00 PM
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Bryan and Sarah Baeumler with family
HGTV

After spending $2 million on an abandoned resort on South Andros Island in the Bahamas, Bryan and Sarah Baeumler, a contractor and designer, respectively, packed up their four kids and their home in Canada moved there. Now they’re transforming the run-down property into a luxury eco-friendly hotel—and starring in their own HGTV series Renovation Island.

The couple reveals what’s it’s been like following their renovation island dreams.

HGTV

How did you find South Andros?

SARAH: We have a property in the Florida Keys where we keep our boat, and we have made quite a few trips over the Bahama. Every trip Bryan is always scouring the charts for new places to explore. Andros (known as the Sleeping Giant) always caught our attention because it’s by far the largest, yet least developed Island in the Bahamas. During our trip we were shown the old ‘Emerald Palms’ hotel. It abandoned and decrepit. I think it took about 5 minutes of touring the hotel until we all looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do this!’

How did people react when you bought the resort?

BRYAN: People told us it couldn’t be done, but this project checked all the boxes for us. The kids love to travel, and we’re always seeking adventure.

What challenges did you encounter? Tight deadline? Budget? 

SARAH: Logistics have probably been the most challenging part of the project. We have small airplanes coming into the island, and a few ships a month with materials and products from either Nassau or Miami, which means we need to plan weeks ahead for what items we need on-site. If we’re missing something, it’s either not coming for a few weeks, or we need to charter an airplane at a great expense to get it here.

What was the plan for the property?

BRYAN: A boutique resort where guests can retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.  It is a place to renew and restore. We really wanted to create a place where our family would want to spend time. Low density, surrounded by nature, crystal clear water, incredible reefs and ocean for fishing and diving, endless beaches with no footprints, ultimate privacy and serenity, all while enjoying the creature comforts of a small boutique hotel with incredible cuisine, spa, pool and a relaxed but refined environment. We are currently in the process of installing an ocean plastics recycling plant and developing plans to create a fully sustainable and environmentally responsible operation for the long term.

How has it been living and working on the island?

SARAH: It’s been an adjustment. Stores are small and don’t always carry the variety we’re used to back home, but you get used to it and adapt. Our perspectives have changed a lot as well. If we’re out of milk, we can’t always run to the store to get more, sometimes we need to wait a week until the next ship arrives, so we drink water or juice. It actually reduces stress because you start to realize that you don’t need everything instantly available at your fingertips to survive and be happy. While we’re at the resort, we all pack into a one-bedroom villa towards the back of the property. It’s cozy, but it works! Plus, we spend most of our time outside, and it’s made the Family very close which is nice... most of the time, ha!

Any regrets?

SARAH: When we started it looked like a Walking Dead set. It was originally built in the 1960s and had been sitting empty for a decade. The salt in the air had corroded everything land crabs were in the basement and kitchen, termites were everywhere in the hotel block and main building. It definitely had the beautiful location and lots of potential, but that’s about it. We definitely underestimated the challenges. But most people work 51 weeks a year so they can spend one week in paradise. We’re here every day!

Renovation Island premieres June 7 at 8 p.m. on HGTV.