WEEK 4: TWO AND A HALF BASEMENTS

Written by Steph Sandhoff



Welcome back! This week it’s all about dat base(ments) with a salty side of drama. Now this is a design blog, not a social commentary, so I won’t say much about the ‘schedule scandal’ except this… There are two couples this season who claim to be fans of the show, but who don’t know the rules; and I mean any of the rules, even the ‘tradies can’t paint’ one. I mean seriously, people who don’t even watch The Block know that one. They also claim not to have watched Ronnie and Georgia’s or Mitch and Mark’s seasons. What kind of fans are these? Personally, I’ve been watching since they were renovating in Sydney at night and working their normal jobs during the day.


I know it’s just a TV show, but The Block is also a multi million dollar institution that gives people the chance to win a life changing amount of money, change career paths, and launch businesses. Two of the couples this year are making a mockery of the show; the opportunities and privilege. How these couples have then managed to turn themselves into victims I don’t understand. They are sorry they got caught, not sorry they did it and don’t seem to understand the gravity of their actions. At this point, I don’t even think anyone cares what they did, rather the way they’ve handled it coming to light – like it’s no big deal. I know it’s not life or death but we’re talking prize money of potentially close to a million dollars per couple here.


Personally, I’d like to see the two couples replaced with other potential contestants that got knocked out during earlier audition rounds (for shits and gigs obviously) but also we might have a chance at seeing some good design without the side of ego and cringe exclamations of being better than people who have renovated upwards of 20 houses. Yeah, yeah, I said I wouldn’t say much but I obviously can’t help myself. I’ll stop now though, back to the basements we go.



HOUSE ONE // Ronnie and Georgia



This week, like most of the other teams, Ronnie and Georgia are turning half their basement into a… wait sorry, not a home cinema but a “cinematic experience”. If someone knows the difference, please let me know. My read? Georgia is trying to differentiate her room from the other (potentially shitty) versions of it. Fair call. I’d distance myself from some of this year’s couples too.



Image Attribution: Nine



These guys were robbed. That’s all there is to it. Ronnie and Georgia had the best version of a home cinema this week. It was a modern and residential take on the commercial idea of ‘going to the movies’. Reminiscent of Kimmy K’s (that’s Kim Kardashian for those of you who don’t give complete strangers nicknames) own media room in Calabasas but better (go have a look)… and if you can manage to produce a better room than Ye and KKW for $23,410 then you deserve the win, full stop. All jokes aside, Darren Palmer got it right when he said we have never seen anything quite like this on the block. It’s a level of lounge room we’ve never seen before, and similar to Neale Whitaker, personally didn’t think I wanted. But this room has changed my mind too. It is grand and cosy, whilst being stylish and comfortable; a lethal combination.



Image Attribution: Nine



Keeping with the consistency of their home, Georgia utilised another neutral colour palette this week, this time with a moody slant perfectly suited to a basement theatre room. The choice of glossy mushroom curtains and luxe velvet paneling, highlighted perfectly by the off-white linen lounges made for the perfect colour (and textural, I think) palette according to Shaynna Blaze. Talking furniture, these lounges were a great choice for this room; modern with their linen layers and (what looks like) a super comfy ‘slump’ style with a deep seat, perfect to kick your feet up on. I also love the layout of the room with the lounges situated towards the back of the room and matching chaises in front on either side with a viewing aisle down the middle. It's another touch that makes the room feel less commercial.



Image Attribution: Nine



This room was taken to new heights (ha, see what I did there) with a ‘sun roof’ style starry sky, framed perfectly by the architectural addition of a ‘tray ceiling’. This ‘ceiling border’ is what keeps the imitation night sky from feeling cheap and gimmicky because you can’t see how it was installed; where it ends and touches the walls. Put yourself back on the Healthy Harold bus, that point in the lesson where they turn the lights off so you can see the twinkling stars. Yeah it wasn’t as good, was it? That’s because you spent the last 50mins of the lesson looking at the rough and ready installation of felt that is now peeling down the walls or being held up by badly placed electrical tape. Or maybe you’re still creeped out by the anatomically correct, naked body behind the wall. I’m getting distracted.



Image Attribution: Nine



There was only one problem with their room this week and that was the lack of acoustic properties, easily fixed and I don’t really care. I’ll deduct half a point but that’s it.



DARREN:SHAYNNA:NEALE:TOTAL: 28½ PLACE: 2nd MY SCORE:




HOUSE TWO // Mitch and Mark



It’s Mitch and Mark time, or “rude, rich snobs” if you prefer. Not my words, just borrowing. These guys are changing it up this week and thank god. There are only so many “cinematic experiences” I can be bothered talking about. These guys opted to use half their basement space as a home day spa (steam room, sauna, etc). Though don’t call it a bathroom or you’ll get in trouble, these two are quick to remind everyone just how different it actually is. The difference? No bath, plus some extra layers of waterproofing. Got it. How could we even entertain the thought of these rooms being the same? Crazy.



Image Attribution: Nine



Want to know the actual crazy part? This room looks way more like a bathroom than it needed to. Personally, I didn’t mind the idea of a steam room but I would have really lent further into the idea. Gone crazy and called it a sauna. When it came to their design choices, it's as though these guys thought of the room as an extension of the upper levels of their home, whereas I would have looked at the basement room as an extension of their future outdoor areas and potential pool. Imagine, a pool, luxury outdoor area continuing on to a steam shower/spa room and maybe a home gym? Although the elements they placed in the room would work with either idea, their choice of finishes has limited the potential and resulted simply in a 'blue version' of their 'pink bathroom' upstairs.



Image Attribution: Nine



When it comes to tiles, it’s the light blue subway feature wall that I have the biggest issue with. Although it made Neale feel like he was up in the clouds, I would argue it’s in the wrong place. It would be much more effective and restful in the shower itself, on the back wall. They’ve fallen into the same trap as with their last bathroom. One wall is overly cluttered and busy with (quick take a deep breathe – it’s a long list) feature tiles, two pedestal sinks, tapware, double mirrored wall cabinet, hand towel, two robes and floating shelves. Not to mention the styling of ‘collections’ that wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of hoarders. In comparison, the other wall is empty except for a towel rail and white toilet.



Image Attribution: Nine



Although I agree with the judges when it comes to the scale and earthy, organic feel of the ‘sandstoney’ tile slab, the pops of brass and those amazing pedestal sinks (I really, really love those); the room felt unresolved to me. The two separate basins look more like a line of urinals on the wall, where you can watch yourself pee. A powder room style with one sink and a simple mirror above would have made more of the stunning fixtures and clean lines. Swap the blue tiles for a timber element and this room would have achieved much more of spa vibe, in my opinion.



DARREN: 9 SHAYNNA: 10 NEALE:TOTAL: 28½ PLACE: 2nd MY SCORE:




HOUSE THREE // Tanya and Vito



Calling all cheaters! Vito is nowhere to be found but not to worry; Tanya answered the call, though she’s still not sure if she’s using her personal phone or the block phone... It doesn’t matter; we have a hidden microphone on her so we’ll catch everything she says anyway. These guys have the biggest basement this week and have chosen to complete a theatre room, perhaps so they can catch up on all the previous Block series they’ve missed. Who knows, I can only tell my truth…



Image Attribution: Nine



…and my truth is this. Tanya and Vito’s home cinema makes me think I’ve been abducted by aliens, who have an unhealthy obsession with the colour orange, and was left to live on their shiny blue spaceship.



Image Attribution: Nine



I can only find two positives to say about the room this week. One is the size of it, huge at 7m by 5.2m, with Neale recognising he’d been in smaller actual cinemas which is pretty impressive. Impressive if you think picking the house with the biggest basement is impressive. The second positive is the low lying, dark cabinetry unit under the screen and the linear cladding behind it. It’s functional with a good amount of storage but also dark enough to disappear, necessary as not to compete with whatever is being shown on screen.



Image Attribution: Nine



Darren and Shayna disagreed when it came to the curtains, with Darren insisting they’re a nice change to the overdone glamour of velvet. Personally, I agree with Shaynna – I don’t like them. They’re the wrong colour and needed to be looked at in situ before being chosen; in the dark, with that neon blue light cascading down them, they look orange. It looks like Tanya draped drop sheets over the walls to protect them from Vito’s “horrendous” paint job on the ceiling.




Image Attribution: Nine




I’ll give them this, they got the acoustics right for the room; Darren noted the addition of stud walls behind the drop of curtains. He also liked the residential play of colours and textures in the room. The furniture choices themselves, I actually like. However, the soft caramel colour and matte leather texture of the recliner style chairs, and the almost boucle texture of the lounges are both lost in the dark room and would be better admired and celebrated in their presumably light filled, lounge room upstairs.



DARREN: 9 SHAYNNA: 9 NEALE:TOTAL: 27½ PLACE: 4th MY SCORE:




HOUSE FOUR // Josh and Luke



In house 4 this week we have… another CINEMA! Didn’t see that one coming. Wish I hadn’t seen the life size “collectable” Iron Man coming either. Though it does have a purpose, it’s for the kids coming through the open house! Of course, all those kids that have been ‘learning from home’ have used the extra time to start side hustles, worth millions of dollars. It’s going to be a bidding war between Josh and Luke’s trades and all the mini multi millionaires on auction day. If you know a mini millionaire please feel free to send me their details, I was pretty good at talking my younger sister out of her money when we were younger, so it would definitely be worth a try.



Image Attribution: Nine



I don’t even know where to start or what order to talk about everything that's wrong with this room so I might just copy Shaynna and say it’s crap. “Absolute crap”.



Image Attribution: Nine



Apart from the fact that they literally divided the room in two with an invisible line down the middle instead of a an actual wall; the room felt like it was thrown together in time for a kids 'movie themed' birthday party… in the middle of the family's home renovations. It looks like they’ve left just enough room for another row of lounges, another ceiling platform and a few metres of carpet. I don’t think that’s what the show had in mind when they said they needed to complete half their basement.




Image Attribution: Nine



Design wise, none of their choices work particularly well. The commercial style lounges look tacky and are oddly placed in the room. The red, velvet panels I assume were meant to create the feeling of a theatre but in reality look homemade and already stained. Add to that the fact that the panel joins don’t line up with the steps of the ceiling and I’m just about done with this room. I can’t leave however, without mentioning the abundance of storage surrounding the screen. The finish itself has a ‘stainless steel’ look and would be more at home in a garage but my bigger issue is the quantity and design. The (almost) ceiling height cupboards on either side are massively distracting and look like an afterthought. They don’t even match the height of the paneling they butt up against. Interior design isn’t a party theme; these boys are a joke, please kick them out, sincerely, all of Australia (minus their mum, dad and probably fiancé Olivia).



DARREN: 7 SHAYNNA: 7 NEALE: 7 TOTAL: 21 PLACE: LAST MY SCORE: 5




HOUSE FIVE // Kirsty and Jesse



Last but not least, because these are the nicest people I’ve ever (not) met. They’re almost too nice, like so nice they make me feel bad about what I’m about to say… These guys are winners this week and as happy as I am for them, I don’t agree it was the best room. Far from it actually.



Image Attribution: Nine



Kirsty and Jesse went for a Hamptons style take on a traditional cinema this week. Walking in through one of two doors, all three judges thought the double entry and aisle was very cinematic and loved the paneling of the doors. Where the other successful couples went for a residential feel, these guys opted to go commercial and left the judges confused as to why they didn’t mind the ‘drink holder’ recliners. Neale believed it was in the layering of finishes and materials; the vertical paneling mirroring the vertical pleats in the curtains and coffered ceiling created a sense of presence and grandeur. Personally, I feel like the room already looks dated and is a little stiff and gimmicky in it's attempt to look like a real cinema.




Image Attribution: Nine



The coffered ceiling itself, requires some additional acoustic properties and was the couple’s Hamptons style element in the room. In creating this feature, the ceiling has to sit lower in the room than it originally had to and in my opinion makes the room feel more like a basement than it needed to. A slighter lighter paint colour could have made the ceiling feel less oppressive or potentially lowering both the cabinetry (which doesn’t need to be floating) and the screen would have given the impression of higher ceilings. This end of the room feels very top heavy in my opinion.



Image Attribution: Nine



Overall, the judges thought the couple had been listening to their feedback and were successful in paring back and knowing when to stop. Their old-school styling of movie posters, vintage projector and art deco wall lights made the judges feel like they were in an old-fashioned picture house and deemed this room the best in House 5 so far.



DARREN:SHAYNNA:NEALE: 10 TOTAL: 29 PLACE: 1st MY SCORE:




See you next week for the final bathrooms this series. Nope, I don’t completely understand what this means either but I’m sure Luke and Josh will be even more confused than we are.


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