The Block on show at this weekend's open for inspection

The Block on show at this weekend's open for inspection
The Block on show at this weekend's open for inspection

Approaching the Albert Park site of The Block: Fans v Faves on open for inspection weekend, one is reminded that for all the tears and tantrums, the show is still a commercial exercise.

Blocks away, sponsor merchandise could be seen adorning the punters streaming from O’Grady Street; this reporter copped more than one advertiser-distributed helium balloon to the face on her way to the apartment complex. Even the neighbours got in on the action, with several garage sales ensnaring fans of the show in transit.

Continuing into the building, crowds are funnelled past the ground floor communal pool and recreation space, which was closed off from the public. A peek through the privacy screens established that the space was surprisingly large and well planned – the communal area will afford the future residents plenty of their own space.

On to the apartments: at this point it must be noted that the crowd control staff were exceptional, funnelling punters through with impressive efficiency and professionalism.

First stop, Kyal and Kara’s apartment.

Kyal and Kara: 2/47 O’Grady Street

In the wide gallery-style hallway of Kyal and Kara’s apartment, one can understand the judges' praise of the couple’s entranceway. While not quite Tadao Ando’s Benesse House, the setting of Ali McNabney Stevens prints against the concrete walls is just the ticket for a crowd-exhausted visitor – the artwork looks beautiful, and the space (and viewer's mood) is elevated.

Entering the living areas, the judges' words again ring true – the space feels surprisingly small. It’s an intimate lower level, better suited for a young couple having a few friends over for some wine and movies than a big party. The outdoor terrace, with its plant wall, makes the space feel like a private retreat. Though the living and dining area’s size lost the couple points on the show, a quiet sanctuary isn’t so bad – but buyers may not agree.

A very slow ascent up the stairs, enforced by the number of other viewers, allows one to appreciate the timber walling that stretches from the first level all the way to the roof, a space that isn’t used to such great affect by all the teams.

Throughout the apartment, I am consistently impressed with the team’s styling efforts. Though in some rooms they show a disappointing amount of restraint (such as in their master bedroom), Kyal and Kara, along with Steve and Chantelle, have the most audacious use of colour – perhaps the boldness of youth.

However, travelling from room to room, I am puzzled by the choice to litter bedside tables and bathroom counters with bottles of Nature’s Own supplements. Who is their target buyer – vivacious but vitamin deficient young professionals? Embarrassingly, it isn’t until the same is witnessed in Brad and Dale’s apartment that the penny drops – of course, Nature’s Own is a sponsor.

Brad and Dale: 4/47 O’Grady Street

Wandering from Kyal and Kara’s rooftop terrace to Brad and Dale’s, the first couple’s outdoor entertaining area shines. The spaces are yet to be seen on television, so viewers will make up their own minds, but Kyal and Kara’s aforementioned use of colour, along with their luxurious amenities (marble benchtops in a rooftop terrace?) make their top level a stand out.

That said, size does matter. The wet/dry bathroom/bedroom move that the boys pulled this week was indisputably a success. Among the crowd yesterday, there were more than a few “wows” and one whistle upon entrance to the master bedroom, which served as a master class on how to create space. Floor to ceiling windows on two sides of the bedroom and in the en suite reflect light along the light coloured tiles, illuminating the rooms and creating a sense of light and freedom – no mean feat when there are more than a dozen other people in the same space.

The boys know what they’re doing when it comes to expanding areas, rather than closing them in. Beyond the “Bond style” hidden closet in their walk in wardrobe, there are storage recesses everywhere and nary a shelf to be seen.

Downstairs, Brad and Dale’s living area shows continues to show the boys are clever planners. They swapped out their much maligned tiny dining room table for a six seater, making a decently sized dining and entertaining area. The kitchen is nowhere near as bad as the judges made out in their review, and actually seemed quite the crowd pleaser – however, ditching the 90s style white leather and chrome bar stools would go a long way to soften the space.


Steve and Chantelle: 1/47 O’Grady Street

Onward we are ushered to Steve and Chantelle’s apartment. As the property’s agent David Wood noted last week, the couple’s living and dining area is a stand out. It immediately speaks for itself as a space for a family that likes to entertain, with bench seating along the walls and a dining area that is tucked into a booth, leaving plenty of room for the living areas.

This reporter will admit to being skeptical about the team’s styling credentials in the past – on television, their choices have read a little too self-consciously “quirky” and immature for their intended buyers to really hold on to. However, upon entering their apartment, it must be said that there is substance anchoring the couple’s style.

While all Chantelle’s references do get muddled at times (the sunny 50s feel in the kitchen jars a little with the modernist 60s style in the lounge), in general the apartment pulls off pastiche with aplomb. However, the old kerosene lamps filled with fairy lights suspended with a vintage ladder will be a bit much for even the greatest Etsy enthusiast. And the pillow printed with a black and white photo of an indigenous American man as a throwaway reference in their vaguely Aztec themed second bedroom is in poor taste. When it comes to pillows, better to stick to the Hermès.

That said, this is the first apartment of the four that feels truly lived in and liveable. The barn door, comprising almost an entire wall of their ground floor guest room, is another savvy planning decision – when closed, it’s a terrific design feature, and when open, it opens up the room as another expansion on the entertaining space. The team seems to have really understood the importance of a good party area for a luxury buyer than aspires to entertain, and that for buyers, it's all about making a first good impression.

In regards to living areas, the couple has flipped Kyal and Kara’s method; their ground floor space is made for many, where Kyal and Kara’s is a quiet retreat. Steve and Chantelle’s rooftop terrace is intimate, with a (frankly massive) day bed set in the northern corner for a couple to enjoy the sunset and city views, while the Ks have set their challenge winning dining table along with ample bench seating up top, to accommodate a big BBQ.

Alisa and Lysandra: 3/47 O’Grady Street

While on the day viewers are ushered from the top of the twins’ property down, interested buyers will hopefully have the opportunity to go the conventional route. By far, the first level is the highlight of the team’s apartment – upstairs, room has been sacrificed to make for their light vault, although the feature is a success. And that said, the confinement will not be felt nearly so keenly when the apartment isn’t filled by dozens of spectators.

The styling in the apartment is patchy – while there are some terrific pieces scattered throughout, it feels a little sterile. This is magnified in the master bedroom, the size of which is not helped by the depressing concrete wall. The room’s black wardrobe with timber inlays, design-wise, is great; unfortunately, such oppressive darkness in such a small room doesn’t help matters.

I disagree with the judges who in last night’s episode said the team’s walk in robe felt “cheap and nasty”; while the steel edges did feel too tough, after all the concrete and harsh colours of the master bedroom, the timber work provided some relief.

Shuffling downstairs, the mood of viewers changed considerably. The stairwell itself is lit with terrific pendant lights, while a wall recess housed a large art work to great effect – the absence of art in a corresponding bare space in Brad and Dale’s apartment was felt.

And the downstairs area was, as expected, the centrepiece of the twins’ apartment. The kitchen was truly enormous, and the sense of luxury continued through the living and dining areas. While the apartment’s décor lacked the warmth of the other teams, the twins’ understanding of the modern buyer was on show; the little tucked away work nooks and the option of dining on the formal table or on the huge bench space will appeal to many contemporary workers, for whom flexibility is everything.

After spending more than an hour in tight quarters with my fellow spectators, stepping out of The Block and onto the street felt a little bewildering. Strolling past host Scott Cam, who was taking photos with children while a magician entertained line-weary fans, one is reminded that no matter how the auction goes on April 8, with another season already planned for this year, the show will go on. 

Photos courtesy of Channel 9

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