Toronto-based designer Debra Salmoni said Haliburton County has long been one of her favourite destinations while filming material for HGTV’s hit show Scott’s Vacation House Rules.

Season four premieres April 23, with the first two episodes featuring properties in Coboconk and Algonquin Highlands. While filming last year, Salmoni said her return to the Highlands was something of a homecoming.

“I have such an emotional connection to Haliburton – my mother’s side of the family had a cottage on Eagle Lake, so I’ve been heading up there ever since I was in utero,” she told The Highlander. “I spent a lot of time in the County while I was growing up… I remember trips we’d take down into Minden, we’d go out to the dump just to see all the bears. Some amazing memories, for sure.”

Salmoni has offered her expertise on the hour-long show since its debut in 2020. Hosted by contractor Scott McGillivray, it provides a road map to renovation and rental success for homeowners, she said. The episodes often see the team transform a rundown property into something more befitting its natural surroundings.

In a previous interview with the paper, McGillivray said he tries to strike a delicate balance with every one of his redesigns.

“We don’t go and do anything that’s going to destroy the environment. We’re not interested in helicopter pads,” he said.

“We’re not a show that goes in and says, ‘let’s tear this down and build something that’s a 100,000 sq. ft. mega mansion’. Our show is way more grassroots than that.

“We’re here to support the local community, be balanced with what we do, be respectful about it, and find affordable ways for people to have a slice of that dream too,” he added.

Episode one features a cliffside cabin in Coboconk, owned by a long-time friend of McGillivray’s.

“It was quite a long renovation, it ended up taking us closer to six months to complete. We were fighting some of the elements throughout that project, but that’s what I love about the show. We’re not putting this high gloss vision of perfection out there, it’s all real-life stuff,” Salmoni said. “Scott encounters some major challenges with his renovations, and we like to show how we deal with those head on.”

The second episode captures a waterfront property overlooking Halls Lake in Algonquin Highlands. The owners are cottagers from the city, who wanted to spruce up the place so they can rent it out and help cover some of the costs associated with running it.

“I think their situation is very relatable for a lot of millennials,” Salmoni said.

The bungalow has been transformed on the inside to incorporate more of a “techie” theme, with local contractors assisting with the rebuild. The episode will air April 30. A third episode featuring a Highlands property will be released in the fall.

Aside from the lakes and natural beauty, Salmoni said a key attraction to filming in the County is the people.

“We have never had a bad experience up there. When we pull up to a property, the neighbours are always so gracious. A lot of times we don’t have running water, or space for parking, so we’ve had neighbours let us use their washroom, park in their driveway, offer to feed us,” Salmoni said. “This is a very welcoming community.”

Scott’s Vacation House Rules premieres April 23 at 10 p.m. on HGTV Canada, and is available to stream on StackTV.