Thousands Follow Alums on TikTok, Instagram
By Annie Krakower
Photo by John T. Consoli
If his wardrobe of University of Maryland tees is any indication, Alex D’Alessio ’18, M.S. ’19 is a proud grad. But the Terp often quips that he’s also a University of DIY YouTube alum.
His experiences at both alma maters contributed to “Real Life Renovation,” a social media video series documenting his home improvement adventures with wife Kylie D’Alessio ’18 around their Baltimore rowhouse. They’ve amassed 370,000 followers on TikTok and 145,000 on Instagram.
People posting plumbing, drywall and painting tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere online “never talked about mistakes, so I just assumed that they were perfect,” Alex says. “It was honestly disheartening watching all this perfection, so I wanted to do ‘Real-Life Renovation’ and show all the real-life parts of it.”
He studied civil and environmental engineering before earning his master’s in project management, then landed a job at Clark Construction, which sparked his fascination with building and renovation. In August 2020, Alex and Kylie moved into their 120-year-old house and soon revamped their laundry room, recording the process for family and friends who “didn’t really believe we were pouring cement,” he says.
The couple moved on to their circa 1980s half-bathroom with dingy wood floors. He posted a video of the project—“talking like how I talk,” he says, with a stray curse word or two—and went to work one day with virtually no TikTok followers. He came home to 10,000, plus 300,000 views.
The fast-paced posts garnered enough social media interest for brands like Wagner and the Home Depot to approach Alex about advertising, leading him to take “Real Life Renovation” full time—at their own home and beyond. The transition has been another learning process, Kylie says, but the couple has settled into a routine a la HGTV’s “Flip or Flop” or “Fixer Upper,” with Alex leading the construction and Kylie spearheading the design.
The Terps have incorporated a few UMD-themed ideas, like creating a dry bar featuring a Maryland bottle opener. More Terp touches could be in store as he and Kylie enjoy the renovation ride.
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