The Block judge and Domain columnist talks through the latest trends and how the contestants fared.
House 1 – Jason and Sarah
Jason and Sarah succeeded by successfully completing one of the hardest ways to start The Block – creating a wet area. The decisions and timelines required to make a good bathroom can take weeks or months to work through in the real world so to start this high-pressure competition with all the layout decisions, tile choices and tapware, porcelainware and accessories selections all working well and looking great is something to be commended.
You can undo some of the impact of a good room, though, with the wrong decoration. Not putting in enough décor to paint a picture of its best use can prevent potential buyers from seeing a room’s full potential. Creating a mood with flowers, plants, towels and aromas from hand soaps, creams or candles can excite buyers and create an emotional response that lingers after they have left.
But putting in too many things can detract from an otherwise impressive space. Over styling can be the result of putting in more than you need, but it can also be attributed to trying to fill every available space with something without considering how objects can best cluster together to form vignettes.
Focusing on styling the areas you want to highlight, whether that be, in Jason and Sarah’s case, the very appealing hydronic heater, the storage under the vanity, the ample vanity top or a functional and stylish niche in the shower, will best bring attention whilst also showcasing their use.
The items also need to work together in a palette, so stick with two types of towel colours, possibly a colour/print and a plain, and a simple palette for décor, say a metallic, timber, concrete or stone. Using one or two of these as part of your styling palette and creating purposeful and appropriate vignettes is the key to bringing your bathrooms to life.
House 2 – Clint and Hannah
The adage on The Block is “Change the architect’s plans at your own peril”. It’s not that the architect must always be right or that opportunities to improve aren’t to be found, it’s that the time frame the architect has to consider the different permutations of the plan are longer than those of the contestants and he has many years of experience up his sleeve that allows him to foresee some of the knock-on effects of other floor plan options — which may not reveal themselves to contestants until it is too late.
Decision making, too, can eat up valuable construction time so it’s important on The Block to make swift and decisive decisions so that you can get on with the job of planning your space, sorting your budget and finding the right suppliers and tradespeople to carry out your vision.
We saw in Clint and Hannah’s bathroom what happens when one link in the chain doesn’t deliver as well as hoped, the knock-on effect of the tiles not being completed being catastrophic for the finished, or in this case unfinished, room.
A great layout, a sizeable and grand bathroom with high impact inclusions and finishes was knee-capped by the fact that it was not a completed bathroom.
The layout, too, points towards at least one opportunity lost at the expense of an extra hallway. In any small- to medium-sized layout you want to reduce your transitional spaces to a minimum, using that square meterage for amenity instead. Unfortunately, Clint and Hannah were off to a less than ideal start, though they showed good decision making in their tile and tapware choices.
House 3 – Ronnie and Georgia
High impact was apparently the goal for Ronnie and Georgia’s bathroom decisions and that is exactly what they achieved. Black, white and brass, this bathroom feels bold, contemporary, but with the traditional charm appropriate to these old homes.
Encaustic tiles are a great reference point for appropriately traditional tile choices, but this smart and graphic, black and white design works really well as the base for this smart but simple room.
The black metal frame of the shower screen is edgy and current, working well to break up the space, though the obstruction it causes to the room does clearly demarcate the shower as one zone, the vanity and bath as another. Zoning large spaces is a great idea to show separate use, but in a small space it can have the effect of reducing the visual size of the room.
The freestanding bath tub spout is also a potential obstruction to physical and visual flow, with its location being for visual and architectural effect though a more discrete position, perhaps in the rear corner or adjacent to the shower, would have opened up the available floor space visually and physically.
We also saw discussion about the inclusion of an expensive audio solution. In bathrooms particularly it’s important to stimulate all the senses. Touch, sight and smell are the primary targets but audio can create a great deal of impact. There are many solutions of speaker and sound system integration that you can install throughout a house, especially in a new build, that will cost less than the option put forward by Ronnie.
House 4 – Sticks and Wombat
Character abounds in Sticks and Wombat’s design decisions, reflecting well their own character and personal style. The challenge when a contestant has a clearly definable personality that carries through into their work is how to interpret, redirect or dilute that into a finished room that appeals to the target market in the particular suburb of the home.
Creating a functional space, looking at the best possible layout, working through the checklist of inclusions, from large bath, ample shower, lighting, storage and materials sets the foundation for a well-considered bathroom result.
It’s through tile choice and accessories that the personality of the specifier will be highlighted and it’s wise to contain the personality and the impact it can provide in a measured way, through a feature or features.
Sticks and Wombat succeeded in taking this approach, with simple and contemporary wall tile choices setting the foundation for the interesting, art-inspired mosaic tile in the shower. This sort of tile choice, though it runs the risk of alienating some of the market, makes an impact and is memorable. The buyer who likes it will recall it after open for inspections and those who love it may regard it as one of the factors of their potential purchase.
The handmade and character packed bathroom accessories are a risk, but considering that these can easily be switched out by any purchaser, this is precisely the place for Sticks and Wombat to display their own unique take on design.
House 5 – Josh and Elyse
Josh and Elyse created a vast and impressive first room. Larger in proportion than some of the other bathrooms, the room was packed full of features but utilised a simple and contemporary palette of concrete and timber.
Whether the dark and contemporary room will appeal to a buyer enticed to open for inspections for a heritage conversion is one thing, but standing on its own merits the layout, tapware and vanity choices all stand up well as a well resolved and sophisticated bathroom.
Impact is achieved through the swimming pool-sized bath tub, which is architectural in form and constructed from a lovely, contemporary matt solid surface. The skylight over the shower and vanity is the most elegant solution seen across the five homes, all of which featured skylights in one iteration or another.
The simplicity of the integration of the skylight’s void into the design of the ceiling sets it apart. Rather than a rectangle cut into a ceiling, the room wide length of the void cuts a striking form, connecting the occupant to light and views to the sky above as well as increasing the volume of space about their head. This sort of approach creates luxury through finesse and through the scarcity of space.
Light is also provided well in the bathroom through the choices and positioning of artificial light sources within the room. Task lighting above the vanity is important, but ambient light in the form of pendants, sconces, perimeter lighting and spotlighting is an important consideration when planning any bathroom.
All in all, as a baptism of fire, all the contestants on The Block have done an admirable job this week in creating unique and considered results. The lessons learned by those that have a way to go in terms of styling, inclusions, project management or those who had a touch of bad luck will be applied to their coming rooms and I sit with bated breath until the next room reveal.