Renovation Husbands: Melding Styles to Renovate a Historic Home

On this episode of The Better Buy, Renovation Husbands, David and Stephen St. Russell, share their tips for renovating a historic home and how they invented the Internet’s favorite greige paint.

Renovation Husbands for The Better Buy Podcast
Photo: Courtesy of Renovation Husbands

The Better Buy, a new podcast from Better Homes & Gardens, explores all things home—from decorating and DIY to renovating and budgeting. Each week, we'll talk with homeowners from around the country about the highs and lows of home ownership, and share stories, advice, and practical tips you can put to work in your own home. We're on a mission to inspire and empower you to create your dream home. New episodes every Wednesday!

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On This Episode

Host Mélanie Berliet talks with the Renovation Husbands (@renovationhusbands). The duo is renovating their 1893 New England Victorian, which is part of Boston's historic Streetcar suburbs, one Instagram post at a time. Their hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers get to go behind the scenes as they document their room-by-room DIY journey to modernize their home while keeping an eye towards preserving its history.

Meet the Renovation Husbands

David and Stephen St. Russell, are the husband-husband team behind the popular social media handle and blog, Renovation Husbands. They bought the gutted 1893 Victorian home 5 years ago and started documenting its room-by-room transformation. While Stephen is an architectural designer by trade, the duo were novices when it came to home improvement and design, so with each project, their followers are learning right along with them. Now they're the 2022 recipients of the Annual Preservation Achievement Award from the Boston Preservation Alliance.

Advice from the Episode

David and Stephen St. Russell share their advice for renovating a home, preserving character, and their favorite splurge vs. save tips.

"We put an Ikea kitchen in this house. It was this balancing act of, 'how do we do a modern Victorian?' We put this kitchen in, and we actually really liked it. Until we started doing the rest of the home. We do the parlor project. That was the one that had the biggest impact on our decision about the kitchen. It really changed the feel [of the house], and all of the sudden, that room was just completely out of place. And not to the quality that our skillset had become. We're [redoing] it now. I think if you have the opportunity to kind of master plan, do that. Ours was such a rush in the beginning, and we knew we needed those spaces you need to use every day. It was a lesson learned. We love the kitchen standalone, but not with the rest of the house."
Stephen St. Russell

Biggest Mistake They've Made When Renovating

"Sometimes when you're on a platform like Instagram, it's really easy to go through a lot of ideas. You're like, 'Oh, I love the look of this,' and 'I like the look of this.' Then you just have 30 Pinterest boards, and you have nothing cohesive. But if you just look in your own backyard, there [are] really beautiful things that make more sense, probably, to your home that you can draw inspiration from."
David St. Russell

Where Do They Find Renovation Inspiration

  • Instagram and Pinterest are great resources but it's important to look for ideas locally as well.

"We always encourage everybody to check out their local lumberyard. Find out where it is, go. People have a [misconception] that it's expensive and a little bit scary, but really, in our experience, everyone's been very nice to non-commercial residential buyers. The quality is much better, and it's usually less expensive. So, we always encourage people to go that route. Get some trim profiles. They'll have lots of samples. And just, make a day trip out—make it a date."
David St. Russell

Money Saving Tips for DIYers

  • Use your local lumberyard rather than big-box stores.
  • Get lots of samples so you know exactly what you want.

"The Barbra has become, like, a thing on Instagram. And, we love it! The evolution of Barbra: We had been looking for a beige, greige, gray for our cabinets for a very long time. We wanted to get it right because it also had to continue onto our trim work and through our hallways. We initially decided and landed on Accessible Beige by Sherman Williams. The cabinet company then had to recreate that. They sent us a sample and it didn't match perfectly, which they let us know might happen, but we love the color even more. We found after painting Accessible Beige on some trim work that it had a little bit of pink in it. The sample door didn't have pink in it. So, we got that matched at Sherman Williams and [that] became Barbra. We got the code for it and shared the code. Now, people are redoing, like, full kitchens in Barbra."
Stephen St. Russell

How They Created the Perfect Beige, Greige, Gray Paint

  • Painters can often match colors but with a little variance.

Links and Resources

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