The Block: Glasshouse finale

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A surprise win in this seasons The Block reminded us that sale-ability is the name of the game, and even the most stylish of contestants needs to keep that in mind.

The unique element of our favourite design show, The Block, is actually something that you often forget as the series builds momentum: Each week we tune in to look at how the contestants approach a design challenge. We see budgets being stretched, styles being invented and ideas that we definitely want to copy ourselves.

But when the finale looms, design and style are mere supporting cast members to the grand auction. Money makes the final decision. It’s the extra dimension to any approach to interior design, and one that we can all learn from.

Worthy winners Shannon and Simon were one of two teams that blew the rest if the field away at the auction. The brothers, and married couple Chris and Jenna both made over 300,000 on their apartments, 270,000 more than third place.

And it’s that margin that was somewhat of a surprise. Both teams may well have had two impeccable apartments, but the other contestants, especially Darren and Dee, had also wowed us throughout the series with their own suave and stylish designs.

Yet if the aim of the game is to make money, sometimes style isn’t enough.

There is a reason why showrooms are all so uniformly decked out with simple, light colours, clutter free. They always look spacious, they always look airy, and they often look rather plain. Showrooms have to appeal to everyone and they’re designed to sell. Designers want you to walk into a show room and see yourself living there. They want you to visualise where you’ll put your pictures up, where you’ll position your TV and where you’ll sit back and relax. They don’t want to frighten you with feature upon feature of statement style. Wow factors at every angle. It’s hard to see yourself living in an apartment that has been styled like multiple alternate pages of a glossy magazine, all at the same time.

And that’s exactly what Shannon and Simon got right. There’s been lots of talk about auction order having a big impact on this years results. And there’s no denying that the winners and runners up were both canny and lucky. But that arguably savvy strategy does not tell the full story.

All the teams this year really did wow us. The winners however, if anything, were marginally underwhelming. But it’s exactly that simple fact that may have given Shannon and Simon’s apartment the edge. Theirs was clearly the most uniform apartment of the five: Each room was telling of their approach to design. The materials and colours used were consistent, they worked together. They used statement walls and wow factors in all their rooms, but these were tied together overall: time and time again we saw the wood effects, the youthful colours and horizontal lines. As a whole, their apartment worked better as one than any of their rivals.

Their rooms were unmistakably designed by them. And fit perfectly together. Even the harshest criticism, reserved for the lack of luxury in their living room, failed to appreciate that the design was still perfectly in keeping with the rest of their apartment.

By contrast, some of the best rooms of the series belonged to Darren and Dee. Their style was flawless. But the rooms weren’t individually for sale; the whole apartment was. Those gorgeous natural materials of the terrace sat alongside the stunning modern back and white of the kitchen, which, in turn, sat alongside the understated eloquence of the bathroom. It was showroom stuff, but it was not a cohesive apartment. The apartment as a whole was simply not as good as the separate rooms.

Maybe the auction order won it for the boys, but we think they found their style and stuck to it. While most of us tune in to The Block to get fresh and awe inspiring ideas, the buyers attend the auction to buy an apartment. And that might well be why Shannon and Simon took home the prize. It’s a good lesson for our own stylish renovations.

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