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Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent‘s new show may not have “extreme” in the title, but its an apt description of the homeowners’ circumstances in the very first episode, airing April 8.

“They had started a renovation that was supposed to take four months,” Berkus, 45, tells PEOPLE. “A year later they were living out of their garage with two boys under 10, cooking on a hotplate that was sitting on top of their washer and dryer.” The desperate clients featured on the premiere of the decorating couple’s new show Nate & Jeremiah By Design, more than fit the series’ modus operandi: saving homeowners who are in way over their heads with a stalled and costly renovation.

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“The show was loosely based on the movie The Money Pit,” Berkus explains. The clients, Brenda and Scott, “had found themselves in a situation where, honestly unless we stepped in to help them finish what they started, there was really no light at the end of the tunnel for them.”

WATCH THIS: Nate Berkus Talks Decorating Secrets, Fatherhood and Family

The episode follows Berkus and Brent as they turn the disastrous kitchen area into a welcoming family space, introducing a sophisticated Belgian country-inspired design that includes a spacious island and a custom stove surround that makes it look like the modern appliance was retrofitted into an old fireplace. “We really wanted to create a space that was a bigger dream for this family than they could dream for themselves,” Berkus says.

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Credit: TLC
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Credit: TLC

Brent, 32, is the show’s emotional center. “I just cry on command,” he admits. He also takes the series’ great makeover metaphor a step further: “I’m insanely emotionally connected to this process because we both believe in the power of design. This entire show, albeit a renovation show, is about humanity and connecting with people and dealing with different circumstances in their life. That, I think everybody can connect to.”

Nate and Jeremiah By Design premieres Saturday, April 8 at 9/8c on TLC.