Tuesday 27 October 2015

The Block Villa Wars | Living Room Reveal

You would think, after bathroom week, that creating a living room would be a piece of cake, but nothing is easy on The Block Villa Wars. The contestants had a busy week with the return of "dinner wars" as well as renovating their room. At stake was the sought-after prize of a team of professional painters to paint the exterior of the winner's house. The couples scored each other's dinner experiences very fairly (with, surprisingly, no nasty scores) and that led to Cat and Jeremy taking it out. But the week was to belong to Brooke and Mitch who won two weeks in a row with their light and airy living room.

Brooke and Mitch: 1st place | 16 points

Although Brooke and Mitch have played it very safe, what they have done is created a beautiful base that could easily be added to and enhanced further. Dulux Manorburn, a cool grey-white teamed with soft grey curtains from James Dunlop are warmed up by the lovely floorboards. I would've loved to have seen the curtains taken right up to the ceiling for a more sophisticated look though.

A David Trubridge Floral light is a great feature, but I have to say that I'm a little bit underwhelmed by the rest of the decorating. It's nice, but a little 'ho hum'. As I've said in previous posts, it feels like it needs another layer of personality.

The stone fireplace is stunning and another beautiful feature. This will be a real draw card for buyers.

Cat and Jeremy: 2nd place | 14 1/2 points

With their lowest score so far, I have to agree that it's not their best room. The wall colour, Dulux Pukehina, was criticised by the judges as well as the other contestants. I do applaud Cat for stepping outside the box, but it was risky doing the main living area in a peachy tone. We have used Resene Sakura before, which is a gorgeous peach blossom pink, and has a bit more depth than Cat's choice.

The room doesn't seem to have a 'hero' piece, there is a lot going on but no strong focus, although I like the choice of cushions and the window seat, and the nesting tables.

Unfortunately the fireplace isn't as slick as Brooke and Mitch's. Let's hope these guys can get their mojo back for master bedroom and ensuite week.

Jaime and Hayden: 3rd place | 13 1/2 points

Once again Jaime and Hayden didn't quite finish their area, and failure to complete one of the basic tasks (to insulate their ceiling) lost them a point. They continued with their strong black and white theme creating a dark media room next to a light, bright living room.

A beautiful parquetry feature wall by Martin the builder is impressive. The led backlit TV is also a feature, although, to me, the TV looks a bit lost in the big space. I know if it was larger you wouldn't see as much of the parquetry, which is far nicer to look at, but it is a media room, so the television is key.

The white room is OK, but I want more! Where are the beautiful big rugs and artworks? I'm not usually a huge fan of leather sofas, but the Freedom Atlas sofa is quite cool. The dark blinds don't work for me though, there is enough contrast with the walls and the carpet, I would've kept the window treatments light, or added some colour and pattern in with roman blinds.

Sarah and Minanne: 4th place | 11 points

The judges were scathing with their comments about the girls' living areas saying they felt cold and incomplete. I think their lack of wins and money means the girls have had to spread themselves a bit thinly. I actually really like Minanne's choice of the Dahlia sofa and Wing chair from Freedom, and their artwork above the fireplace. The colour palette is quite lovely too. But their finishings let them down with shoddy paintwork, and the placement of the pendants was an odd choice. Lighting should be either task eg: next to seating for reading, or mood lighting - those lights are neither.

The second room with the leather sofas was described as a waiting room, and that is what it looks like - there is no soul or personality in there. Perhaps it would've helped if they'd styled some pieces in the recessed boxes, and the room definitely needed a large rug (much bigger than the next door room's rug) and a large piece of art on the wall.

All that said, these rooms are easily fixed, they just need finishing off. I think Sarah and Minanne were harshly scored in comparison to the other contestants for this week.

All the teams are learning and improving (on the most part), so let's hope someone does something to knock our designer socks off with their master bedroom and ensuite.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Back To The Wall

Today I wanted to share with you the most amazing design company, Back To The Wall. Based in Auckland, New Zealand, they produce custom designed wallpaper murals for your home, office or commercial space.

With over 30 years experience in the print industry, owners and designers, Relda Frogley (below left) and Joanne Gray (below right) are passionate about all of their work. They design and print their murals on site, allowing them full control every step of the way.

The beauty of Back To The Wall is that you can tell Joanne and Relda the size of your wall and they will print your mural to fit exactly, so you're not paying for any excess. Printing their paper at 100cm widths (as opposed to standard wallpaper widths of 50-60cm) means you don't have as many joins, and they specialise in beautiful oversized images rather than repeat patterns.

There's a huge range of pre-designed murals and art prints to choose from. Email Joanne and Relda with your design choice and size requirements and they will provide you with a quote. The murals are easy to install yourself, or you can hire a professional wallpaper hanger to do the job.

If you want to customise a mural, that's not a problem. Jo is incredibly clever working with Photoshop, and she can tweak their existing designs, and alter colours to suit. Or perhaps you have a completely different vision in mind, discuss your ideas with the girls and they can help you with your own unique design.

There's something for everyone including a gorgeous range of kids' murals...

And beautiful work by contributing artists, Helen Bankers and Diana Watson.

Lastly, just in case you're not already totally inspired (I know I am!), your wallpaper doesn't need to be confined to the wall. Relda and Jo can create smaller pieces of art for the back of shelves, the front of your stairs, cabinet doors... let your imagination run wild!

Tuesday 20 October 2015

The Block Villa Wars | Bathroom Reveal

The teams on The Block Villa Wars stepped it up on bathroom week. Renovating a bathroom from scratch in one week is absolutely crazy, but that's The Block! Knowing how much work, and how many trades go into a bathroom design, I'm impressed. But there was a bit of controversy as early leaders, Cat and Jeremy, scored the same as Sarah and Minanne despite not finishing their bathroom.

Brooke and Mitch: 1st place | 18.5 points

Being a plumber was a definite plus for Mitch on bathroom week. It meant he was only too aware of the process and could put his tradie skills to good use. They came away with the win producing a bright white, contemporary bathroom, and it also helped that they won $10,000 of bathroom appliances the week before.

As well as the bathroom appliances, Mitch had won an extra point in the "guess the child" challenge. But a breach in the rules, where they took work off-site to finish after tools down, meant they had the point taken off them as punishment. A further challenge saw Brooke win the point back in the "guess what's in the bucket". The couple used their point to boost the judge's scores, but it turns out they didn't need it as they won by two points.

I like Brooke and Mitch's tile choices with some lovely texture in the Tessere Bianco tiles from Tile Space, in contrast to the large matt Blendstone Grey tiles on the floor and opposite walls. Brooke's styling is improving too, don't you think?

Sarah and Minanne: 2nd equal place | 16.5 points

After a truly rocky start on The Block and lots of indecision, the sisters did a great job to complete their bathroom. The Frozen Garden tiles, once again, added lovely texture, and although the Marvel Pro Noir tiles were pretty cool, I would've loved some rich colours to contrast all that black - perhaps in some beautiful towels and/or accessories.

The judges criticised the simple wooden shelves, saying they took away from the glamour of the room. It's really important to nail all those smaller details as they have such an impact on the overall feel of the room.

Cat and Jeremy: 2nd equal place | 16.5 points

Cat and Jeremy's secret weapon in bathroom week was a wall of moss tiles shipped from Scandinavia and never seen in New Zealand before. 
It definitely added a "wow" factor and impressed the judges. Despite the fact that living green walls have been used a lot in recent Block series, I really like the look of the wall, and admire the risk. But I would be interested to know how it lasts, and if it's easy to clean and maintain.

The matt black tapware and accessories  are lovely, and the subtle Cementia Grey tiles allow the moss to be the hero. With the tight deadline, and the fact that you can't install the glass shower screens onto wet tiles, Cat and Jeremy failed to finish their shower. This is what caused a wee stir when they got the same score as the girls who had managed to finish in time. What are your thoughts on this?

Jamie and Hayden: 4th place | 13 points

It was more than just the shower screen that caused Jamie and Hayden to reveal an unfinished bathroom. Their ambitious design with a suspended ceiling, floor to ceiling tiles, and plenty of custom wood details meant they also failed to finish their tiling or install their toilet before tools down.

The suspended ceiling is a great feature, and I love the hexagonal Firenze Nero tiles and the towel rail from Mico. The slatted divider is cool, but I would've liked to have seen it carry on a bit further, and I question whether the raised bath platform was a good move. I know what they were trying to achieve here, but I feel that the bath should be moved away from the window, and the platform should be larger for practicality and looks.

Remembering all of these teams are amateur designers, I think they're doing a pretty good job. I notice that a lot of people are quick to criticise on social media, and I guess if you put yourself forward for a reality TV show you have to be prepared for that. But be kind people - constructive criticism is much better than pure nastiness.

Monday 19 October 2015

Styling a Long Shelf

On Friday night we took part in a fantastic Design + Style evening. It was a fundraiser for the Te Awanga Kindy, and Dael and I demonstrated how we work with colour and pattern, and also styled a console table with three different looks. We wanted to give the women who attended some simple tips that they could take home and try in their own home. Our main advice is to work with groupings of objects; vary your scale and texture for interest; and layer, layer, layer!

At the end of the evening somebody asked me how to style a really long shelf as she was having trouble with one in her home, so I thought it might be helpful to show you all some examples. Stick with adding pieces of varying heights, and create smaller groupings along the shelf. Break up the smaller objects with larger pieces to add weight - pictures hung on the wall behind can help to achieve this.

As well as wall hung art, you can also lean artwork or mirrors against the wall for a more casual feel. If you have a window this will act the same as art, contrasting with the smaller objects.

It's nice to keep some areas empty on the shelf to give your eye a little breather. Remember, when it comes to styling your home it's that last 15% - the vases, the candles, the little curiosities - that turn a house into a home. Display pieces that you love, and have meaning to you, and your home will always make you happy.

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