‘Renovation Husbands’ recall how once upon a time they had to lie and talk about what they are up to now

It’s been a big year for Dorchester’s own David and Stephen St. Russell – known as the “Renovation Husbands – whose triumphant star turn on HGTV’s “Battle on the Mountain” put them in the national spotlight. Photos courtesy Renovation Husbands

Last year Dorchester’s own David and Stephen St. Russell – known as the “Renovation Husbands – starred on HGTV’s show “Battle on the Mountain,” but it wasn’t until the end of February that they could finally share their success. 

“Finding out at the moment was incredible. It was the most exciting feeling,” Stephen said. “I’m so glad there were cameras there to capture our genuine reaction, jumping up and down. It was euphoric.” 

When the couple returned home, they had to conceal their accomplishment from everybody. “We knew we won the show,” said David. “We literally lied to everyone we knew, and we lived the lie. We wanted everyone to experience it on their own, so we didn’t tell anybody.” Instead, the St. Russells told their family and friends that HGTV had all three of the teams filmed as though they had won and would not reveal the real winning team until the series finale. 

When the last episode, “Champions on the Mountain,” finally aired on Feb. 26, David and Stephen watched with close family and friends at Yellow Door Taqueria on Dot Ave. 

“Taping the show was just a wild experience; it was such hard work,” said the 33-year-old Stephen. “And then it didn’t come out for a few months, so to relive it then again with all our family and friends was very cool.” 

While watching with loved ones was fun, it was also a bit scary, said David, 35. “It was nerve-wracking because you don’t know until you see it how they are going to portray you on TV or how it’s going to read. We had no insight into that before it went live.”

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The husbands take a break from a painting project. Photos courtesy Renovation Husbands

Since the airing of the show, life has changed quite a bit for the two men. Not only have they received messages online and been recognized throughout the neighborhood, but they also had fans approach them in Louisville while they were attending the Kentucky Derby. 

Their favorite recognitions, however, are the ones that talk about home. “I think the best comments we see are people being proud of us for being from Boston and Dorchester,” said Stephen. “That’s been really nice, those are the comments that hit home.”

So, what comes after winning the show and the $50,000 grand prize? The St. Russells aren’t entirely sure themselves. 

“Every time we think about what we want to do, something happens,” David said. “If you told us a year ago, we’d be filming and then winning an HGTV show, we would be like, that’s wild. In six months, who knows where we’ll be or what we’ll be doing. We’re just kind of going with the flow. We’ve always done that.” 

He added, “You can always be chasing something. So, kind of just being excited about where you’re at is what we practice. Almost two years ago now, we decided to leave our jobs and that was not something we ever thought was possible. To do that and then be able to do these projects and to not have to go back to a corporate kind of job has been the wildest thing we’ve ever gone through.” 

The pair admit that they have discussed having a show of their own but for now, they want to stay connected with the social media community they have built. “We are really passionate about owning our own content and creating our own content so we’re really putting a lot of our energy into potentially a YouTube series or something like that,” Stephen said.

Having a TV series of their own would take the pair away from the people and neighborhood they love most,” they say. There would be fewer trips to home.stead bakery and cafe for “surf” and “turf” bagel sandwiches and less time spent at the Bowery. More to the point, they wouldn’t be allowed to freely share their renovation projects online as they are currently doing with their 1892 Victorian home in Dorchester.

The husband-husband team has dedicated almost seven years to this project. When they began renovations in 2017, they had full-time jobs, so home improvements were done on weekends. “We were doing work just Saturday, Sunday. If we had a three-day weekend, that was the best gift ever,” joked David. 

They are now renovating a cabin they own in midcoast Maine, creating a 70s vibe space with a green staircase, striped walls, checkered rugs, and pops of orange. Unlike their Dorchester home, this renovation project is being completed with short-term renters in mind. 

“We’ve always kind of talked about what is the end goal with Renovation Husbands or what is the brand. We don’t take on guest projects necessarily. We don’t do interior design for other people. But we would love to renovate our own properties and then have them open to the public to rent,” Stephen said. “We would get to showcase the renovation of that project on our social channels and then people from our social channels can go stay there.” 

David and Stephen spoke at a Dorchester Historical Society last Sunday at Boston Collegiate Charter School. They shared that they are not into renovation and historical pursuits but rather they are attempting to achieve character and historical relevance while keeping a sense of modern living. This is exactly what they are doing in Dorchester and Maine, they said. 

They aren’t starting any other projects in the neighborhood. “That could be a future thing,” said David. “Right now, we’re really just trying to wrap Boston up and spend more time in Maine this summer.” Added Stephen: “Successes come from being happy and excited to pivot and taking new opportunities.”

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