WEEK 8: LIVING, DINING & NIB WALL FIREPLACES

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

Written by Steph Sandhoff



This week is going to be short and sweet because well… I’m short and sweet. Just kidding, (I am short though) I actually just wanted to make the most of my public holiday. Now most people would assume living and dining rooms would be a relatively easy week. I mean it’s just furniture and a TV right? Wrong. Living and dining rooms can be some of the hardest to get right. This is because they have separate requirements but need to be designed in connection with each other; especially in open plan houses. Furniture can be some of the hardest choices to make, particularly in spaces that require such large quantities of it. Coherent furniture packages take time to get right and time is not something the Blockhead’s have all that much of, so this could be interesting.



HOUSE ONE // Ronnie and Georgia


Image Attribution: Nine



Let’s start with House 1 and their lounge room, which is the perfect continuation of the kitchen and the judges were quick to agree. Darren Palmer stated that everything now makes sense, while Neale Whitaker thought the Master plan had finally been revealed. Their ability to layer texture was evident again in the stone shelf, fluted paneling and herringbone timber floors. If you didn’t already know, you’d definitely be able to tell these guys have some serious money just by looking at the furniture they chose; there’s nothing flashy about it. The value can be seen in the modern forms and subtle but stunning fabrics, such as the boucle lounge and occasional chairs, pointed out by Shaynna Blaze. Now if you don’t know what I’m talking about, Boucle (pronounced boo-clay, you’re welcome) is that ‘faux-shearling’ type fabric that looks like a sheep with a buzz cut. I actually think boucle is the perfect way to describe Ronnie and Georgia’s style as a whole, on trend but not obvious; textured but subtle.



Image Attribution: Nine



Moving on, the dining room flowed effortlessly on from the lounge, connected by that amazing steel door. Although I love the door itself and like the idea of acoustically closing off the main living areas from the hallway, it does make that wall quite busy. I would have loved to see the artwork in the dining room hung on the opposite side of the table to un-clutter that feature wall (already clad with the couple's signature Laminex paneling) and allow the door to be more of a feature. With the painting on the opposite wall, you have a piece of art visible no matter where you are standing. Finally, lowering the ceiling was a genius move, as they were able to make the most of those gorgeous soaring ceilings in the lounge and kitchen while at the same time utilising some of that additional space by creating a mezzanine level; the best of both worlds.



Image Attribution: Nine



DARREN:SHAYNNA:NEALE:TOTAL: 28½ PLACE: 3rd MY SCORE:




HOUSE TWO // Mitch and Mark


On to House 2 and I’m a little disappointed. The one thing the judges liked in their living and dining space was their high ceilings and numerous skylights but I actually have to disagree. They definitely needed some to highlight the ceiling and show off that gorgeous tree but there were way, way too many. The utter abundance of skylights, combined with all those sets of downlights made it look so cluttered. You know what they say about ‘too much of a good thing’? Yeah, that’s how I feel about it. They are diminishing the effect of those skylights by using so many in such close proximity.



Image Attribution: Nine



The major issue with the living and dining spaces this week is the layout, something that should probably have been flagged by a team with so much experience. Placing the kitchen where they did was not a problem in itself but it left a 'square' area for both the living and dining rooms. The problem with a square room is they are very hard to get right. As a general rule, a rectangular room is much easier to lay out; especially when you’re trying to fit two separate but connected rooms in one area. Put simply, the proportions are just better. Most of the time you need more width and less depth. Mitch and Mark have a huge amount of depth but not enough width for both a lounge and dining. This is what resulted in that dead or wasted space between the kitchen and the wannabe ‘foyer’. It also caused the TV to be placed above the fireplace; a choice I am not particularly fond of. Not only does sit visually clutter the wall but it also doesn’t function particularly well as you end up with the TV too high on the wall. You'll sit down to relax and get up an hour later with a very sore neck.



Image Attribution: Nine



Their actual choice of furniture I don’t love. It just looks a little too much like the dentist’s waiting room I worked on last year; not really the vibe you want for a multi million dollar, modern Queen Anne style renovation. Their choice of pendant light is dated and doesn’t match the style of the home or surrounding furniture. The art is generic and their colour choices are a little obvious. My first thought would have been to reference the colour of that skylight tree and the stained glass from their breakfast nook. There should always be a reason why an element is chosen. Look at the context of the house, it’s surroundings or existing details and work with them. The more you celebrate a home’s unique features, the more resolved and refined a space will feel.



Image Attribution: Nine



DARREN:SHAYNNA: 8 NEALE:TOTAL: 25 PLACE: 4th MY SCORE: 7




HOUSE THREE // Tanya and Vito



Image Attribution: Nine



Next up, we have House 3 who finally got a win tonight, perfectly timed by the producers and not at all deserved. I was actually excited to see this sunken lounge room idea come together, as most of us probably were. It’s been on everyone’s wish list at some time or another but this one really didn’t satisfy these long-term cravings. The concept was perfectly suited to their house but the execution just wasn’t there. Firstly, there is only one entry to the sunken area, which isn’t functional and the lounge itself was a bad choice. Not only does it look dated but it’s also the wrong configuration. The tight U shape doesn’t allow for any foot room around the double coffee tables and please tell me who would be happy sitting at a 90 degree angle to the TV? Also, that abstract shelving next to the TV… it screams “running out of money”.



Image Attribution: Nine



Don’t worry, things got better the closer we got to the dining room. That fireplace wall. Ooft, good job guys. Love the wall height, love the cladding, love the placement and love the low minimal profile of the fireplace itself. Dubbed “monolithic” by Darren, this dividing wall zoned the large space well and was the perfect take on modern 1950’s. Walking around it, we come to a sitting room with extra TV and large dining table. Now the choices in this room were much better. Whereas the sunken lounge room felt dated, the dining end of the space had a much more modern feel; contemporary furniture with references to 1950’s style. This area coordinated with the kitchen and although not perfect (it needed a lil something, something… more layers I think) it was one of the better spaces they have designed so far. Having a TV visible from the kitchen doesn’t seem like a big deal but it’s something most families take for granted everyday. It’s 2021 and if you can be bothered cooking dinner you shouldn’t be punished by having to pause your show.



Image Attribution: Nine



DARREN:SHAYNNA: 10 NEALE: 10 TOTAL: 29½ PLACE: 1st MY SCORE: 9




HOUSE FOUR // Josh and Luke



Image Attribution: Nine



Ok, I’m going to keep it simple because apparently that’s how the twins need their feedback delivered. ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ should be their tag line.



Image Attribution: Nine



I’m sorry, I just can’t with these rooms. Christian Cole, love the table but that’s the only thing worth mentioning in House 4 this week. The end.



Image Attribution: Nine



DARREN: 7 SHAYNNA:NEALE: 8 TOTAL: 22½ PLACE: LAST MY SCORE: 6




HOUSE FIVE // Kirsty and Jesse



Image Attribution: Nine



Finally on to a team that actually knows what they’re doing, House 5. I have to start with the dining room as it’s one of the best I’ve seen. It may not be your style, but for a contemporary, country and Hampton’s style House this room couldn’t really get much better. The choice of traditional furniture, the proportions of table, rug and chairs all topped off by that modern brass pendant; perfectly resolved. It did actually get better though. Those beams, exposed by Kirsty and Jesse was a masterstroke. As the only house without crazy high ceilings, this was a great way to make the most of the limited height they do have. The beams also create some architectural interest, make the home feel established and provide the space with a sense of history. The simple act of exposing the roof structure really celebrates the home and makes the most of all it’s features.



Image Attribution: Nine



Now, the one thing that bothers me about the space this week is that nib wall fireplace. In my opinion, there are very few times when a nib wall is a necessary design element. Personally I think they’re a lazy person’s solution to zoning and take up physical and visual space. As much as I like the lounge room itself, it is quite busy. Now this isn’t a problem, the furniture choices are perfect, the cabinetry provides storage and the shelving on either side of the TV are a very suitable inclusion for this style of home. However, as warm, welcoming and homey (not ‘homely’ as Shaynna said; homely is not a compliment, look it up), that nib wall fireplace clashes with the cabinetry and feature-shelving units. It doesn’t work in the space and unnecessarily dates what is an almost perfect room. A minimalist suspended or ceiling hung fireplace would have been a much better choice for a room this size.



Image Attribution: Nine



DARREN:SHAYNNA:NEALE: 10 TOTAL: 29 PLACE: 2nd MY SCORE: 9




See you guys next week for the remaining interior rooms and transitional spaces; powder room, laundry and hallways. Little fact about me; I love Hell Week. Hallway reveals are my favourite every year and I’m ridiculously excited to see them all.




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