Preserving & Repairing Historic Homes Takes Some Special People
There’s a lot to learn from historic homes and preservation.
One of those bits of wisdom comes from Brett Waterman, host of Magnolia Network’s hit series Restored (Tuesdays at 8pm ET), and that is “we never really own anything.”
“We’re just supposed to be good stewards while we’re here,” Brett tells. “We need to take care of it for future generations.”
And that’s exactly what Brett does in his weekly series Restored; helping others preserve their sometimes 100-plus-year-old homes — making the home functional for today’s needs without sacrificing the original structure and materials. Brett’s passion for restoration started at a young age.
His parents were big gardeners and do-it-yourselfers, so that naturally trickled down to him and his best friend/sister and their love to try and do everything. Growing up the siblings enjoyed leaving their Southern California ranch home in favor of frequent visits to their grandparents’ and cousins’ houses in Oklahoma, who were in the farming and ranching business.
“If you grew up in a farming, ranching or even just a general working-class family, you understand the value of saving things and how hard it is to buy a house, buy a bicycle, buy furniture and farming equipment,” Brett explains. “You don’t replace it, you repair it, and you take care of it because you understand the value. I often tell people, I think that was just instilled in my sister and I and most of my family at a very young age, and I think it’s resonated throughout my life and how I look at things.”
If you’ve seen his series Restored, you know how genuine Brett is — he’s the real deal when it comes to preserving, scouring salvage stores and enjoying every minute of this hobby-turned career.
“All I ever really wanted to do since I was a little kid was restore houses. I mean, that has been my fascination,” Brett admits. “My sister tells the story that I pulled apart every shared toy we had — stereo equipment, pieces of furniture — I always wanted to figure out how things worked and I’d put them back together. As you can imagine, in the early years, I wasn’t always successful at it, much to the distress of my sister. But over the years I got better and better.”
His path to his career, however, is an interesting one. Brett originally wanted to be an architect, but family and friends persuaded him otherwise. Well, it didn’t help that it was the late 1980s and the U.S. was in the middle of an enormous housing recession. That didn’t seem too opportunistic. Instead, he graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science and history.
His love for restoration got sidelined for a corporate career. Coming out of college he worked in the computer industry and then automotive industry.
“I was part of Lexus coming to the U.S., and then Mercedes-Benz on the factory side. And then I jumped into technology. But all of my corporate career was able to financially give me the ability to play with architecture. I’ve done a lot of consulting, I’ve done a lot of design and restoration work all over Southern California because of that. And that’s how it led into a full-time career, I just kept following my dream and made it work for me.”
It’s been 25 years that Brett has been preserving and restoring historic buildings around the United States. A trade he hopes doesn’t get lost with today’s tech-focused society.
“I worry sometimes that we’re losing the talents that our forefathers and mothers took all the time to create and teach us. And that’s probably one of the things I love about trying to help young people understand that there’s beauty about working with your hands and saving something for a future generation.”
His social channels through the show have brought interest from people all over the world and all ages, too. Brett says there’s no shortage of people with historic homes who have a puzzle that they can’t solve, who are looking for someone to help.
“It was funny, I will tell you almost without exception, every single episode of this last season were people that had reached out to me on social media and asked if I would come and look at their house. I get that so often. And I love hearing these stories, and honestly, I wish that I could see more houses. I mean, it’s probably one of the most enjoyable things is to go in and meet people, hear their story, discover the house with them. But it mostly happens through social media. The network does casting where they’ll put out postings in newspapers and social media and websites and ask. But golly, it’s gotten to the point where social media, we have so many people reaching out to us.
For now, Brett continues to help those he can and enjoy life’s blessings.
“I always tell people, ‘You can have a plan in life, but God has another plan for you and sometimes you just have to let it unfold.’ I think that’s been the greatest gift for me is I’ve had so many different careers over the years,” he concludes. “If you love what you do for work, you really never work a day of your life because it’s what you love.”