WEEK 9: HELLWAYS, LAUNDRIES & POWDER ROOMS

Written by Steph Sandhoff



It’s hallway and laundry week! More importantly, it’s the week of art and I’m so exited! Finally we get to see some ‘one of a kind’ pieces by some of Australia’s best artists. Bring it on. We did start strong with a couple Jai Vasicek prints last week from Tanya. However, in true Georgia style she said 'whatever you can do I can do better'. Not only did she get a Jai Vasicek original but she got a custom original. I mean, does it get much better? Jai is definitely the 2021 version of David Bromley from a few years ago and I couldn’t love either artist more.



HOUSE ONE // Ronnie and Georgia


Hallways


Now these guys have showcased exactly why I love hallways so much and it’s because they double as art galleries. All three judges loved the art choices in House 1’s hallway because of their connection through colour. Although different sizes, styles and subjects, every piece of art has been chosen to work in harmony. The collection appears to have been curated over time and honestly I think this is because they have been. These aren’t works that have been chosen on a one day shopping whim because they all incorporated greens and blues. These artists were purposely sourced to design and create custom pieces that would work together to create a refined entrance appeal. Art is also an investment and the amount of current and future value hanging on those walls benefits the home both visually and financially.


Image Attribution: Nine



All this art was stunningly highlighted by both natural and artificial light. The choice of track lighting added to the gallery vibe of the space and the skylights, which looked a little seductive on that angle, were perfectly placed along the hallway. However, Neale Whitaker didn’t feel the feature pendant lights were exactly right. Although I don’t mind the pendants and think they link to the other brass pendants in the home, I’m not sure they are entirely necessary. I personally would have kept it simple and allowed the skylights and track lighting to sing. Then on entry to the living room, the stunning pendant in the kitchen would grab your attention before it diverts to the pendant over the dining table.


Image Attribution: Nine



The console table, mirror and subsequent styling I love and it is the perfect introduction to the rest of the home. However, it’s in the wrong the place. It needed to be closer to the door for better functionality. You look down that long hallway and expect to have it open up at the end to those beautiful living, dining, and kitchen spaces only to have the grand reveal cluttered visually and spatially with furniture. The distraction of dropping keys, mail, etc. needs to happen not long after opening the entry door so to enjoy the full effect of that hallway. Also, just to nitpick; that runner needs to either be skinnier or wider. Either layered properly under the console or distanced from it. At the moment, both look like they were chosen by different people and don’t sit well together.


Image Attribution: Nine



Also, I am not sold on having every piece of art on one wall. That is one very empty white wall on the left. Personally, I would have alternated the art along both sides of the wall. That way you feel surrounded by the art. Picture a gallery, there is art hung on every wall which not only creates more interest but it subconsciously guides you around the room.


Image Attribution: Nine



While their entry hall showcased the height of their ceiling with skylights (The Block’s version of Masterchef’s much loved hibachi), their second hallway made the most of the space by including attic storage. By lowering the ceiling they are not only making the most of the space they have but are also ranking the hallways by giving more visual importance to the entry hall and additional utility to the secondary hall. Sounds unimportant I know, but this is what allows a home to flow. A home is like a story and stories need both main characters and background characters to be complete. Fully lined and seamlessly hidden in the ceiling, this attic space is perfect suitcase and Christmas tree storage.


Image Attribution: Nine



Laundry


This laundry is the perfect addition to their kitchen and butler’s pantry. By repeating the kitchen finishes this space flows perfectly. I also love the way the laundry connects to the butler’s pantry. Having these utility areas linked with access to the exterior of the house is so fluid it’s actually exciting. It just makes sense. Great planning, great layout, great outcome.


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




HOUSE TWO // Mitch and Mark


Hallways


On to house 2 and their entry hallway is actually just a wall with a piece of art, which all the judges seemed to love. Now, personally I don’t love this artwork but art is subjective and this piece is effective. It’s effective in the way it connects all the rooms and ties the house together on one wall. It references all the colours they have used in previous rooms and gives you an idea what the rest of the home will feel like.


Image Attribution: Nine



Now I’m not sure how I feel about the glass floor… I like the idea of allowing light to rooms downstairs, however the placement looks a little random to me. To interrupt the flow of those gorgeous herringbone floorboards is a big decision but I’m going to reserve judgment until the home is complete.


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The layout of the second hallway is bang on. If you look at the photo below you can see how the boys have offset the walls in order to hide the entrances to the bedrooms and butler’s pantry. Doesn’t seem like a big deal? Discreet doorways are something you don’t notice unless you don’t have it. It is a feature evident in correctly designed homes and elevates the space without you even realising. In Darren Palmer’s words it “delineates the public and privates spaces”.

Image Attribution: Nine



Laundry


Image Attribution: Nine



Similarly to House 1, the laundry flows on from the existing butler’s pantry. Designed with the same finishes, the laundry and butler’s pantry are almost mirrors of each other. By placing the sinks near each other, Shaynna Blaze notes the ‘his and her’ style layout. Both rooms simultaneously benefit each other. The washer and dryer definitely need to swap positions and I am confused at the cheap finish of the additional storage cupboard. Perhaps it was a budget issue but whatever small amount of money they saved wasn’t worth it.


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DARREN: 9 SHAYNNA:NEALE: 9 TOTAL: 26½ PLACE: 3rd MY SCORE: 8




HOUSE THREE // Tanya and Vito


Hallways


Next up is House 3, and similarly to Mitch and Mark, these guys don’t have an entry hall. With the front door opening up onto their sunken lounge room, the main hallway for the Gucci gang comes off their kitchen, dining and additional sitting room. Having only 3 bedrooms in the home, a study nook was incorporated at the beginning of the hallway. The glass door does provide natural light however it looks like they’ve tried to copy Ronnie and Georgia but couldn’t afford it. The door they’ve chosen looks like an exterior entry door.


Image Attribution: Nine



Additionally, I like the general location of the study nook; near the living and kitchen areas. However, in a 3 bedroom home and as the only study space this is way too small and not at all practical. Tanya herself spoke about the importance of an office space and working from home in 2021 but this isn’t that. On one hand it is in a transition area, so there will continually be people walking past and on the other it is way too small. The size is barely large enough for one person let alone two. The style of the desk joinery does suit their mid-century home and references the unit next to the TV, however it isn’t functional. Someone please show me how anyone could fit more than a laptop or single book on this table. Not adequate even for kid’s homework, this desk certainly wouldn’t work for an adult, and definitely wouldn’t work for a family. It is suitable only as a kitchen nook for things like mail, bills, etc.


Image Attribution: Nine



The judges seemed more focused on the art, if you can call it that. What I’m assuming is an attempt at a gallery wall is actually just 2 small prints (framed incorrectly) and an original photo of the house hung in the most visually uncoordinated way. Now normally I love when teams incorporate historical elements from the home, such as original photos or some crumbly newspaper article found under the floorboards. However, this wasn’t done properly. It was a cheap attempt to fill some wall space. Neale thought the scale was mean and he was so right. A series of large original photos, black and white in classy frames along the walls like a personal museum exhibit, sure. This is not what we got. Tanya would have been better off painting something herself, as she has done arguably successfully in previous rooms.


Powder Room


Image Attribution: Nine



The powder room is a bit of a dud. The tiles are good choices and reference their other bathrooms. The black toilet (as much as I don’t like it) was used in their master ensuite... but that mirror. I have no words. Wait, actually I do. It's tacky. Now, it’s from Fenton and Fenton, who actually have quality kooky pieces but this isn’t the right choice for this home and certainly not in conjunction with that basin. The two don’t work together. They are both a feature and there is nothing around to soften or support either of them ie. a towel rail. The mirror would be more at home in a minimalist, pop art style Airbnb where the guests are visiting for an ‘live in’ design experience. If they wanted to keep the mirror, then the basin and toilet needed to be kept simple and the art in the hallway subdued in order for this mirror to be a feature. Also the mirror and basin weren’t even centred on each other. Probably because the mirror wouldn't fit close enough to the wall and the basin needed to be flush with it, so there was room for the toilet. Planning fail.


Laundry


Image Attribution: Nine



Talking of planning fails, welcome to House 3’s laundry. The laundry was visually good. Again, another extension of their kitchen design. However, functionally it doesn’t work.


Image Attribution: Nine




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


HOUSE FOUR // Josh and Luke


These amateurs definitely fell short this week, underestimating the space and overestimating themselves. What’s new? Renaming hallways, ‘hellways’ like the week wasn’t already dubbed hell week years ago. Anyway, moving on to their entrance hallway, if you can call it that. Obviously not finished and obviously amended from last week, this hallway isn’t really a hallway anymore. With the wall that divided the entry from the living room all but removed the judges were at odds at whether this was a successful alteration. Personally I thought the idea was right, but the execution was off. Last week, I questioned why they bothered to even make this area into a hallway. An entrance can be achieved with furniture and correct zoning without having to erect a wall that is unnecessary, looks awkward and blocks natural light. However, if they were determined to keep it but remove some of the length, it probably needed to be slightly longer. I would have opened the entry door and lined the new wall up with that. This way it is still offset with the opposite wall but long enough to have a presence and potentially be useful on the other side.


Image Attribution: Nine



The best use of Iron Man so far.


Image Attribution: Nine



Now, on to the secondary hallway, which leads to guest bedrooms and bathrooms. This is exactly what happens when you don’t specifically design your transition areas and don’t offset walls correctly. Now if you read my section on Mitch and Mark (thanks for not skipping straight to the twins weekly roast) you’ll know they were the example of ‘how to’ disguise private spaces. Now as usual, the boy’s have a great example of ‘how not to’. Bedrooms, ensuites, etc. are the private spaces in a home; the one’s you don’t bother tidying up or cleaning when guests come over because they really don’t need to visit them. They also don’t really need to see them. Ever been to someone’s house and afterwards wondered what is down that hallway? It’s really none of your business because these are the private areas of the home and should be disguised as such. The boys have a short wall attached to the kitchen, which provides a large entry to the hallway, however by extending this wall and allowing a more standard door width we wouldn’t have to see the series of doors.


Powder Room


Image Attribution: Nine



This powder room is simply too small. The judges agreed, with Shaynna saying she could wash her hands whilst still sitting on the toilet. Probably pretty handy as with the door closed you would barely fit in front of the basin. Although the black toilet was an incorrect delivery, the room feels super masculine (as does the rest of their house) and they too have no towel rail or soft elements. Also I just need to point out, the gorgeous concrete basins by Nood Co. should not be the singular attempt at using colour in a bathroom. Don’t just throw in a blue basin and think you’ve designed a winning bathroom. It’s also the surrounding elements, the other stunning finishes that really allow these custom basins to reach their potential.


Laundry


Image Attribution: Nine



The boy's laundry was their only glimmer of hope this week. It’s a functional room with a huge amount of space. The amount of space however has me questioning whether the amount of extra room would have been more advantageous incorporated somewhere else. Also, the hanging rail on the above-counter cabinetry is far too low to actually be useful.


Image Attribution: Nine




DARREN: 6 SHAYNNA:NEALE: 6 TOTAL: 18½ PLACE: LAST MY SCORE: 6




HOUSE FIVE // Kirsty and Jesse


Hallways


Image Attribution: Nine



Onto House 5 and welcome to “Heaven Week”. After a rough week these guys really pulled out all the stops and were rewarded with the win, deservedly so. Even if they didn’t manage to finish their rooms this week they deserved the win simply for that hallway. Already wider looking than all the other houses, they incorporated arches, wainscoting and more importantly that gorgeous ‘mud room’ nook.


Image Attribution: Nine



Ok, so I love any kind of bench seat, mudroom vibe storage and this one… makes the hallway feel even wider than it already is! It is also perfectly at home in the contemporary, country, coastal style house. I want to go on and on about how good it is but I’ve run out of things to say. It is simply one of the best decisions and inclusions these guys have made. Design wise and functionality wise. There is not one element wrong, the scale, finish, proportions, etc. Ooft. Good design is so sexy. Also can’t forget about the runner, art and chandelier. All the perfect size and style for the house. Love it. Great job guys. This hallway makes every other room in this house even better.


Image Attribution: Nine


Powder Room


Image Attribution: Nine



Now looking at the powder room which is actually more accurately a full bathroom. This is the culmination of all the best parts of their previous bathrooms. The shower itself is a great inclusion. The repetition of shower shelf, arched mirrors, Nood co. basins and brass tapware is perfect. The thing I love most is the use of the VJ paneling. Not only did it save these guys money but it also differentiated this room (a powder room) from the other bathrooms (ensuites) and gave it a more public feel. The paneling makes the room feel more like a powder room and less like a bathroom. This subtly lets you know it’s a public space and guests see this a sign they are allowed to use it and will feel more comfortable in doing so.


Laundry


Image Attribution: Nine



Next we have the laundry or fifth and final mini kitchen for the week. Both attractive and functional this room is also a hit with judges. Good size, good placement and great layout. Neale noted the use of his favourite tile of all time; the white handmade subway. The thing I love the most and it’s only a very, very small detail is that they haven’t continued the splashback along the right hand side of the bench. Check out Tanya and Vito’s laundry for an example. See how they’ve continued to wrap the splashback along the right hand side of the bench. By lining it up with the end of the bench it won’t ever line up with your above-counter cupboards. The result, although not incorrect, ends up looking unfinished and cheap. It’s the little things that make homes feel resolved.


Image Attribution: Nine




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



We’re coming to the final few weeks of The Block and next week we are headed outside. Exteriors are more expensive than you would think and are often a massive challenge. For a few years there, we could predict the winner of backyard week by who got Dave Franklin on the phone first but looks like he is already putting in pools for two of the houses. In general, landscape design is often sadly left until last and the incredibly talented landscape architects are given little to no money to create something special. How many tacky outdoor palm tree cushions does it take to ruin a house? We’ll find out next week.

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