Challenge Week on The Block: Fans vs Faves

Last week was the final challenge on The Block: Fans vs Faves and, just like the entire series so far, it didn’t disappoint. The couples’ were split into two teams, Kyal & Kara with Brad & Dale and Alisa & Lysandra with Chantelle & Steve, and were tasked renovating two entire houses (House 1 and House 2) in seven days. The prize this week was $500 per point from the judges. The team with the most points also won an extra $10,000 (per couple) off their reserve on auction day. The challenge included renovating three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living/dining room and a kitchen as well as the backyard… in just one week! In the words of Darren Palmer (upon entering Chantelle and Steve’s rooftop terrace a couple of weeks ago) Whoa Nelly!!!

It seems crazy for The Block to put the couples through a challenge like this after they’ve just completed eight weeks of gruelling renovations, but in recent series of The Block, it’s been for the chance to dollars shaved off their auction reserve price by winning rooms in a challenge like this. It all started back in 2012 (my first series) with the surprise renovation of a property at the rear of The Block. We were given one week to renovate the entire house. The rooms were then judged and depending on where we placed, money was taken off our reserves. The contestants on The Block Sky High were also handed a challenge like this at the end of their apartment renovations and it was ultimately that difference that let the twins take out the top spot on Auction day.

After weeks of hectic renovating, no sleep and being following around by a camera crew and a producer; it’s honestly the last thing you want to be doing… but with an extra $100,000 at stake on auction day, you just have to push through and work harder than you ever have to get it done. Emotions are all over the place and there are tears of happiness, sadness, frustration and sheer exhaustion throughout the week, but nothing beats that feeling of completing such a hugely unrealistic task that you never thought was possible. The sense of achievement that comes with it is pretty incredible.

Well the contestants on The Block: Fans vs Faves got to experience that feeling this week (second time around for the faves of course) and what they pulled off what nothing short of amazing.

House 1 belonged to ‘super fans’ Fiona and Steve who were unsuccessful applicants for The Block: Fans vs Faves and House 2 belonged to their unsuspecting neighbours John and Dawn. The Block contestants were instructed to treat the renovation like any other job: the homeowners were their clients and they were to consult with them on the desired outcome and work together as a team to complete the job on time. The team in House 2 worked particularly well together for the whole week, but the other pair of couples in House 1 seemed to disagree with almost every idea put forward and constantly ‘played the blame game’ when things didn’t work out. It is important to remember that The Block is a just game and a TV show that’s heavily edited for maximum drama, but that just makes it so fun to watch. So let’s break it down…

House 1
House 1 was handed to resident twin sisters, Alisa and Lysandra, along with competition newbies and the least experienced renovators, Chantelle and Steve. Chantelle and Steve have come an awfully long way throughout this series and learned a lot in a short amount of time, but you could tell from the outset that it wouldn’t be smooth sailing for these two couples on this particular challenge. I felt for both couples throughout the week as none of them could agree on anything and, with three very strong and independent women working together, sparks were bound to fly and it seemed natural that Steve was bound not get a word in. The end result, however, was a great one and the fact that the team had delivered a completely renovated house for a couple who were not in a position to undertake a renovation of that scale on their own, was not lost on them. The team came second with 64 points, meaning each couple wiped a handy $16,000 off their auction reserve price.

Judges Feedback
The teams were instructed to complete three bedrooms within the first three days – an almost impossible task. The House 1 team delivered a fun and playful kids’ bedroom, as well as a vibrant and youthful guest bedroom and a master bedroom. Unlike the House 2 team, who divided tasks amongst themselves such as painting and shopping, the House 1 team decided to delegate the rooms with Chantelle responsible for the kid’s rooms, with the twins selecting the guest and master bedrooms.
Shaynna knew immediately that the kids’ bedroom had been put together by Chantelle and she was very impressed. Neale, explaining that Chantelle was ‘good at fun’, commended her on the layout. All the judges felt that the room was designed with flexibility for the future.
The judges felt that the guest bedroom had great personality for a young couple with Neale going as far to say it was a ‘little bit beach shack’, although he did question the styling, asking if it was an ‘afterthought’. Darren couldn’t seem to get past the plastic plant on the bedside table and joked that they ‘need to be outlawed’. The judges all agreed that the room was a great result for only a few days work.
The master bedroom fit with the other two rooms and Shaynna liked the colour palette. Darren also liked the navy blue with white trims paired with the timber elements of the feature bedhead. Neale felt that there was a little ‘too much going on’ and complained that the shelving behind the bedhead wasn’t functional.

The inside of both properties was completed on Sunday night, and the backyards were delivered on Monday night’s episode with the judges doing the rounds on the same night.
Real estate guru, John McGrath from McGrath Real Estate Agents, stopped in to assist the judges with their final round of judging and offered some advice and feedback about the main living spaces and backyards from a real estate perspective.
Starting in the living room, all judges were ‘stunned’ with the changes. Neale commented that the room ‘felt young and fresh but still sophisticated’. John was impressed with the stucco rendered plaster on the ceiling and let slip that he has the same finish in white on the walls of his own home. Shaynna loved the reading nook and Darren commented on the ‘beautiful’ flooring. She also loved the double-sided fireplace stating it was ‘well thought out and clever’. The team stumbled again with their styling and neither John nor Neale like the cushions or the painting over the sofa. Neale went as far as saying that the room ‘lacked soul’.
The dining room, John felt, was ‘more resolved’ than the living room and was ‘simple and modern’. In terms of structural changes; Darren loved the skylight and Shaynna liked that the kitchen and dining areas felt like ‘one space’. Neale didn’t and John agreed, explaining that the space was ‘a little claustrophobic’.
In the kitchen, things got better for the team. All the judges loved the tiled splashback. He didn’t love the pendant over the island bench though but said that the twins were ‘great at creating kitchens that function as the hub of the house’. Darren loved the marble look Silestonebenchtop as it is much more durable than real marble.
In the ensuite, Darren loved the feature wall tile but all the judges agreed that a lack of attention to detail had let them down. Shaynna picked on the lack of the storage and Darren didn’t like the placement of the toilet. Neale said that it was obvious it had been completed in hurry and wondered if the feature wall tile was a diversionary tactic from the layout, which wasn’t up to par.
The team didn’t redeem themselves in the main bathroom. Although the judges were compassionate on the short timeframe, they felt that with the combined experience of the couples, it should have been completed properly. Neale didn’t like the styling and John felt that the room was very 70s and very grey. Shaynna also pointed out that you actually had to get into the bath to turn the taps on.
Franklin Landscape & Design were recruited to complete both of the backyards and their skill and expertise definitely shone through this week. With the inclusions of a low maintenance deck with a dining space, casual seating, pizza oven and BBQ, Neale said the space was ‘spectacular’ and that the backyard felt like the ‘pinnacle’ of the house and was the ‘perfect party space’. Neale said that even though he normally wasn’t a fan, he loved the tranquil feel of the water feature. With a huge grassy area big enough for a game of test cricket; John said it was a ‘great garden for a young family’ and that it was ‘young and vibrant like the homeowners’. Darren loved the effect of firewood stacked underneath the bench seating in the separate seating zone towards the rear of the yard, complete with a fire pit.

All in all it was a great outcome for the team and their clients, Fiona and Steve. The house will surely be the envy of all of their neighbours… well except for House 2 of course.

House 2
House 2 was allocated to experienced renovators, Kyal & Kara, and seasoned professionals, Brad & Dale. Kyal and Kara have dominated the entire series, winning all but one of the weekly challenges and the most rooms in their converted warehouse. Both couples seem to have had a fairly conflict-free run this series and this followed through into the final challenge week. They got along well with each other and their clients, John and Dawn, and were very aware that the clients were the bosses. Finding the balance between impressing the judging panel and delivering on what the client wants is a difficult task, but the mellow team seemed to do this with ease. The judges awarded them first place with 69 points, and each couple secured a whopping $27,250 off their reserve price on auction day.

Judges Feedback
Although the teams were asked to deliver three bedrooms in the first three days, House 2 owners, John and Dawn, decided they wanted to delete one of the bedrooms and have a large walk in wardrobe and ensuite. This decision caused all sorts of drama with House 1 as they argued that ‘three bedrooms’ was the brief. At the end of the day, it’s what the client wanted and the client comes first. Delivering a bathroom in three days is a huge achievement in itself, let alone all the structural changes the team were undertaking by removing the existing supporting roof beams in the living room to increase the ceiling height at the same time.
The guest bedroom impressed the judges with its ‘nice feel’. Neale loved the colour palette and actually spoke in a softer voice due to the room’s calming effect. Although the room was small, the judges agreed that the team had decorated the small space comfortably and that it was ‘thoughtfully and confidently styled’. Darren couldn’t move past the plastic plant though and stated that they should ‘all be melted down’.
The positive comments outweighed the negative again in the master bedroom. Neale said that it was a ‘very nice and well resolved room’ that was relaxed and friendly and Darren pointed out that there were many low cost inclusions in the room but that nothing felt cheap. Although Shaynna loved the chair in the corner of the room, she felt that it was too large.
Heading into what they quickly realised wasn’t a third bedroom, but actually an ensuite, Darren claimed that it ‘must be some kind of record’ to pull off a wet area in three days. He again pointed out the low cost materials and what could be achieved on a budget. Shaynna was impressed with the ‘perfect execution’. She also pointed out that she would have been concerned about the deletion of one bedroom if the house was to be sold, but was certain that the owners of House 2 would be living in and enjoying the house for many years to come.
When the judges (including John McGrath) walked into the living room on Monday night’s episode, Neale was so amazed at the level of structural detail done in the short timeframe that he announced: ‘John and Dawn will not know what has hit them’. He felt that it was ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’ and would enable John and Dawn to put their own stamp on it. Darren loved that the sofa wasn’t up against the wall but John wasn’t impressed with the rug, explaining that it could have been at least one metre bigger.
The dining room received a similar response, Neale loved the dining table and chairs and said that they were the ‘perfect choice’. John felt it was a great dining space and that the team had done a perfect job in zoning the spaces. Darren loved the overall floor space because it felt very liveable.
All the judges felt that the kitchen flowed beautifully from the living and dining rooms. Neale said it was one of the best kitchens he has ever seen on The Block. He also loved the choice of pendants (also featured in Brad and Dale’s Block apartment) over the island bench. All the judges agreed that the three spaces felt like they had been completed by a team who had worked together.
Eliminating one bedroom had freed up space for the team to include a new laundry which the judges were all impressed with.
House 2’s main bathroom had the same wall tiles as House 1, however the judges all agreed that they looked much more interesting paired back with a contrasting floor tile and the inclusion of a timber step in the room. Shaynna was happy that the team had left room for the clients to put their own stamp on things and she felt that overall, it’s a ‘contemporary bathroom that will serve the clients well for years to come’.
In the backyard, Darren felt he had been ‘transported somewhere else’. The homeowners wanted a low maintenance garden and, according to the judges, the team fulfilled that brief perfectly. Complete with a large BBQ, low maintenance deck, Astroturf, a dining space and separate casual seating area the overall effect of the garden was pared back but sophisticated. Neale applauded the choice of plants (conifers) along the boundary, as they will grow into the perfect hedge. As the only criticism of the space, John felt that the dining table was too small.

As the couples now shift their focus to the all-important auction day, Neale explained that the ‘challenge was the best sign off’ for the series.

Make sure you check in tomorrow, when we will have an interview with the series wining couple from the auctions which will be aired TONIGHT on Channel Nine… I’m so excited!!!
We’ve enjoyed bringing you an inside look at all of the couples rooms with interviews, ‘Get the Look’ features as well as various trends and guest posts. We can’t wait to do it all over again next series.

The Home Journal is an Interior design and Lifestyle blog by Dani Wales, fomer contestant on The Block.  Check out her blog for more inspiring articles.