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Conversations with the Designers - The reality of TV renovating vs real life renovating

Uncategorized Aug 20, 2021

A renovating television series can give you the inspiration to take on your own renovations; you’ve watched the couples demolish, design and construct and you're thinking...if they can do it, so can I !!

So you clear your diary and plan on knocking over a complete bathroom renovation in just under a week, because that’s all it takes, 6-7 days according to the show, right?

Wrong…there is nothing quite like a reality check when it comes to real home renovations. Reality renovating television shows are one of the key factors in the surge in DIY home renovating over the past few decades and like many TV shows, the story line is somewhat fictional. The reality is that it takes weeks, if not months (depending on the size of the renovation) and the use of experienced tradespeople to complete a renovation successfully, particularly as large renovations have to meet building code standards and to also stand the test of time.

In TV land a lot of cash is thrown around to complete a renovation project, along with large crews of trades... often the trades have to return to finish the project post production. All of this gives the viewers a false sense of building practices and time lines.

Before and after of an M + L Design renovation project in North Bondi

A quick DIY renovation that doesn’t follow the correct building procedures can in the end cost a lot more than the ‘quick fix’. For example with a bathroom renovation if you don’t waterproof correctly or allow sufficient time for each layer of water proofing to dry there may be issues down the track with leaking.

You want the workmanship in any renovation to be of a high standard, and if you aren’t a skilled trades person yourself, you are far better off engaging the services of someone who is. One of the benefits of using qualified trades for your project, is the work comes with a Builder’s warranty. If in the end something does go wrong, then you are covered.

For a little insight into the realms of a TV renovating show we spoke to past seasons contestants on ‘The Block’, Kyal and Kara, and asked a few questions on the reality of TV renovating.

Firstly Kara, describe for us yours and Kyal’s experience of being part of a reality renovating show?

Kyal and I have always loved renovating. Before we bought our first home, we were restoring old furniture I would buy at second hand furniture stores. Once we had a house of our own, we loved working on it, so much so that I would go to my ‘day job’ as a physiotherapist and wish I was at home shoveling dirt or painting walls. When applications opened for 'The Block' Kyal was so keen, but the thought of being on national television terrified me. I’m not a naturally loud or out going person and the thought of a camera in my face was scary! I’m usually the one leaving the room when the video camera comes out. Then one day I realised that I wasn’t expected to ‘act’ and if I had a job to do, I would get on with it, even if that meant there may be a camera following me. When we commenced filming for 'The Block', and were given our first challenge, I was so surprised at the lack of direction and help. Not that I expected help.

Do you think TV gives a realistic time frame for achievable renovating results for the general public?

Reality television gives a skewed view of achievable time frames.There is often pressure on trades to achieve quick results ‘as seen on TV’, however, unfortunately, materials take time to arrive, trades get held up on other jobs and shouldn’t be expected to work through the night to finish projects within a week. A job can flow well if it is well organised and communication is open. Respect your tradies and they will be stoked!  

What have you and Kyal been up to since the ‘Block’?

Kyal and I have launched our own Design & Construct Business 'Diverse Design & Construct' offering quality bespoke services to transform homes into stylish and functional spaces. We’ve been flat out working on some beautiful projects over the last few years, keep an eye out on our website and social media for photos. We’ve also been busy in our roles as ambassadors for Australian workwear brand ‘Bisley’ and Australia’s largest tile company “Beaumont Tiles’. On a personal note, we’ve just bought another home, this one close to our hearts, a beach shack in our dream location.

And then there are the renovating shows where someone in need receives a ‘surprise renovation’. We asked a family who went through this experience what it was like to be part of such an experience, what the workmanship was like, was the work completed in the time frame portrayed on television and if there is anything they would like to change or have changed since the show aired.

Firstly, there are some things that were not so great after the makeover, however overall the whole thing was fabulous.The experience for us as a family was fantastic; it was so much fun and really exciting! The kids had a great time and we were all so excited about what they would do to the house. There were lots of stopping and starting and retakes etc, but that was fine.The workmanship on the whole was okay. We went to put up a new coat rack in the hallway recently and when we pulled it off they hadn’t painted underneath the old one! I have to say that the electricals have never been the same since the makeover, for example the swim spa trips all the time. The back porch light has not worked since the makeover. I feel like a whinger in saying this however that is the reality of the reality renovating show.

What you need to do is put these reality shows into perspective. They are essentially for entertainment. By all means, take inspiration from them for style, placement of fittings, finishes and ideas. However the reality is, building and renovating a home doesn’t happen in a matter of days or a week, it needs to be a well-planned process that follows standard building practices and the work should be done by qualified tradespeople. Tell us about your thoughts on Reality TV renovating shows or your DIY adventures, successes or mishaps!

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