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The $300,000 Room On The Block - A Behind The Scenes View

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The $300,000 room - how it was created (By Darren Palmer from The Block)

The First Steps

It’s really not as easy as you’d think to get the designer’s dream brief: create the most beautiful room possible, using the highest quality and most expensive pieces and spend every cent of the $300,000 budget.

I know. It doesn’t sound hard at all but trust me, it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

There’s a real challenge in getting pieces to work together in a room, whether the budget is $3,000 or $300,000. The key to success is making decisions that do the following:

1    -    reflect your brief

2    -    reflect your taste

3    -    have a clear aesthetic direction or vision

4    -    relate to each other whilst not being matchy matchy.

Starting With The End In Mind

Now I see plenty of homes that have been filled with furniture and décor that the homeowner “just loves!” but just doesn’t work. The price tag doesn’t solve this problem in the slightest. You can have a room full of beautiful things that are all perfect pieces in isolation however when you blend them together they don’t work.

The solution is not to buy things in isolation. Starting with the end in mind is the best way to end up with what you want. It’s the shifting sands of tastes and desires that will ruin your finished product and cause you endless angst and headaches along the way.

Ok so that’s easily said, but how do you start with the end in mind? Well you need to create your brief (who will use it, what will it be used for, how many people, what are their ages, what are the requirements of the inclusions in terms of wear and tear, safety and maintenance, cost, mood, dos & don’ts) and then find a bunch of reference that reflects the brief and your taste.

Once you’ve got a brief and some reference as your guide plan out the pieces you need for your room. Make a list and then find pieces that are available that match your reference and your guide. But find them online or by browsing shops first. Don’t buy things before you complete the picture.

If you go about creating a room with a clear vision and a guide to keep you on the path your chances of creating something coherent that works well for you multiply exponentially.

Bringing In The Character & Life

When I created the $300,000 room for last night’s The Block challenge, I had to source all of the pieces to suit the warehouse brief and the size of the room in a day. I had to call every high quality designer furniture showroom I could find - poliform, space furniture, great dane, zuster - to get them to supply me stock that they had available for delivery 2 days later. This doesn’t often happen in real life, that designer furniture is in stock, so if you have your heart set on designer furniture, especially from Europe, allow yourself 12-16 weeks for it to be made and shipped across. You can usually get Australian made designer furniture within 8-10 weeks depending on your requirements.

Even layering in all of the beautiful furniture didn’t create a beautiful room. I’d placed all the pieces into the space that Neale & I had chosen and the room just looked like I’d shoved a bunch of furniture in it. It was incomplete and didn’t have a message for anyone that looked at or entered the room. It just shouted, “I’M VERY EXPENSIVE!” which is never the desired outcome. What it needed was character and life.

To instill character and life into a space you need to show your personality. It needs to have décor items, things from your travels whether it be from your journeys overseas or your journeys down the local shops. It doesn’t matter, but having things that are beautiful to you make the world of difference to the personality of your room. Art is just as important and thankfully there is no right answer to what art is right. The art that you respond to is the right answer for you.

The Finishing Touches

Another very necessary layer in a beautiful room is plant life. Flowers, succulents, ferns, whatever it is that works in the environment and works for you is good. With flowers I think big clusters of one flower work beautifully and you don’t need to be a florist to arrange them.

The curtains in the $300,000 room framed the windows from wall to wall, falling 10mm from the floor. This creates a softening effect as well as emphasising the height of the those amazing windows and the room itself. It’s another textural element that adds to the personality of a room.

Layering in the last elements of books and candles all but completes the room. These elements add colour and variation of height and really flesh out a space.

The very last thing you need in a room, probably the most transformative and perceived to be by some as the most fluffy and least important, are cushions. They change sofas from monotone lumps to colour coordinated beauties. The right cushion on a chair can lift its visual appeal which in turn lifts the room. The right cushions in a space can tie together all of the visual elements and add the final bit of personality.

It’s not easy to make a $300,000 room, and surely not easy to replicate it for the low budget the contestants have been given, but the winner on Sunday’s The Block challenge will be the one that has understood the feeling of quality, luxury and has created a cohesive space that works. Be watching The Block on Channel 9 at 6.30pm.


Written by Darren Palmer

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