Raw timber and red brick: Industrial design on The Block

If there’s one stand out design feature on Channel 9’s The Block: Fan v Faves, it’s industrial furniture. Tasked with creating luxury loft style apartments in a former art-deco cinema in Melbourne’s Albert Park, the contestants are taking a cue from the building with their furniture choices. Recycled caster wheels, solid timber floating benches and heavy pendant lights abound.

The producers behind The Block couldn’t have happened upon a more fitting trend, with industrial styling serving the show well. Any reality show will at some point come under fire for being inauthentic or overly slick. By choosing the Albert Park site and pushing the industrial design brief, The Block: Fans v Faves has neatly side-stepped any such issues – at least in relation to style of the final properties. And the trend’s DIY aesthetic is of course perfect for the show’s participants and its audience of aspirational renovators.


Photo courtesy of Channel 9.

Beyond The Block, industrial styling is undoubtedly the trend of the moment. With the young middle-class increasingly desperate to claim some sort of ‘authenticity’ (blame hipsters, if you must) and property stylists everywhere after a new point of view, industrial furniture fits the bill. The chrome, glass and black leather masculinity trend of the late 90s (the equivalent of a high shine polyester blend suit) seems a little too slick and cynical for a post-GFC world, while the crafty, kitsch vintage trend that followed always read as a little infantile. The interior design pendulum seems to have settled, for the moment at least, on a decent middle ground.

The best industrial furniture relies on material and form, rather than ornamentation, to make its statement. Red brick, stripped timber or iron can add texture to a space or piece of furniture, avoiding sterility without sacrificing strong lines, while using recycled industrial elements gives furniture rarity without fuss. 

The furniture of Australian designer Mark Tuckey (pictured below) speaks to this sentiment. Featuring high quality timber, his furniture’s simple lines showcase his materials. Tuckey’s designs have been front and centre on The Block this season. The judges’ set was styled by his wife and business partner, Louella Tuckey, and features their company's furniture. The contestants have purchased wares from his Fitzroy showroom to furnish their properties, and last week an entire episode revolved around the designer.

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Photos courtesy of www.marktuckey.com.au

Each team was tasked with creating a piece of industrial style furniture in Tuckey’s Thornbury workshop, featuring recycled caster wheels. The teams, who all went for tables of some description, answered the brief with varying degrees of success.

Alisa and Lysandra, though they didn’t win, did a great job. The twins created a rolling bench with inset plant pots along the centre softening the piece’s lines (see below) - and 10 points for their use of negative space between the bench top and its base.



Pictures courtesy of Channel 9.

Other teams didn’t fair quite so well, with Steve and Chantelle’s piece (pictured below) attempting to shoehorn in too many industrial elements. A vintage ruler inset on the tabletop and table legs made of a ladder and a trolley made their furniture look a little too arts n’ crafty.




Pictures courtesy of Channel 9.

And sadly Brad and Dale’s table (pictured below) fell apart at the last moment.


Pictures courtesy of Channel 9.

The challenge’s winners, as judged by Tuckey, were Kyal and Kara. The couple produced a timber-topped table set on cast iron (pictured below). With a simple silhouette, it certainly was the piece most in keeping with Tuckey’s style, and one of the challenge’s more sellable pieces.



Pictures courtesy of Channel 9.

As Tuckey’s furniture shows, the best industrial pieces are simple and showcase the materials - in his case, recyled timber. 

But there’s also more to the appeal of industrial furniture than its trendy aesthetic. While reusing old industrial elements reduces the chance you’ll see an identical piece in your friend’s house, good old fashioned recycling also serves its intended purpose – to cut down on waste and save on energy. 

Singapore based furniture company d-Bodhi is another that’s been featured on The Block. In the show’s 2011 season, sisters Katrina and Amie used an impressive dining room table from d-Bodhi’s Kasting collection (pictured below), made of reclaimed teak and galvanised pipes.


Picture courtesy of Channel 9.

Marketing its products as ‘eco-furniture’, d-Bodhi produces furniture using materials such as recycled denim, old teak from dingklik (benches at roadside eating carts) and Javanese license plates. With sustainability looking to be a design trend that’s here to stay, industrial furniture designers like d-Bodhi, who are striving to achieve a carbon neutral footprint and have planted about 10,000 trees since May 2012, are fitting the brief.

Tapping into the push for environmental awareness in design and the raw edges of its Albert Park site, the producers behind The Block certainly know how to capitalise on the industrial design trend. And with viewer numbers hitting 1.3 million for its most recent Sunday room reveal show, you can bet that renovators across Australia will be doing the same.



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