LIV­ING

RE­AL­ITY TV HAS OPENED THE DOOR ON WHAT THE CON­SUMER WANTS

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - by Neale Whi­taker Neale Whi­taker is edi­tor-in-chief of Vogue Liv­ing.

Neale Whi­taker cel­e­brates the in­flu­ence re­al­ity TV has on de­sign.

You know some­thing’s a “thing” when the ac­claimed De­sign Academy Eind­hoven in the Nether­lands is on to it. They re­cently con­tacted me to dis­cuss the role of re­al­ity TV in de­sign. Ap­par­ently I’m what’s known as a “cross-over” (I’ll take my com­pli­ments wher­ever I can find them), and it seems word of The Block has reached the es­teemed Academy that’s given us such stel­lar de­sign­ers as Mar­cel Wan­ders, Maarten Baas and our very own Henry Wil­son.

I felt strangely heart­ened by the ac­knowl­edge­ment from afar that re­al­ity TV has – like so­cial me­dia – a valid role to play. But, to be hon­est, it was a thing long be­fore the stu­dents in Eind­hoven thought about it.

If I’ve been asked once over the years how I rec­on­cile be­ing a mag­a­zine edi­tor with be­ing a re­al­ity TV host, then I’ve been asked dozens of times, and the an­swer is al­ways sim­ple: quite nicely, thank you for ask­ing. The two worlds might seem poles apart, but ac­tu­ally they’re closely linked. One of the many priv­i­leges of edit­ing a mag­a­zine such as Vogue Liv­ing is get­ting up close and per­sonal with the work of some of the world’s great de­sign­ers, watch­ing trends emerge and hav­ing first dibs on amaz­ing homes in Aus­tralia and over­seas. But it’s an equal priv­i­lege to meet con­tes­tants on The Block (and home­own­ers on the forth­com­ing Love It Or List It Aus­tralia) to see what res­onates with them and how de­sign func­tions in their daily lives. Call it mar­ket re­search, but for me there’s noth­ing bet­ter than talk­ing to Aus­tralians about how they want their homes to be, based on what they choose from mag­a­zines, blogs and so­cial me­dia. With­out con­sumers, the de­sign com­mu­nity has lit­tle pur­pose.

Of course, the down­side of putting your head above the re­al­ity-tv para­pet is the so­cial me­dia barbs. “There’s more to in­te­rior de­sign than throw­ing a few cush­ions on the bed,” is one of the kinder com­ments di­rected at me. Yes, there cer­tainly is. Like the con­ver­sa­tions I’ve been hav­ing this week for our new Fox­tel show around as­bestos re­moval and the lay­ing of a new con­crete slab to make a once-proud home hab­it­able again. Or the sleep­ing ar­range­ments for a fam­ily of… well, wait and see. We’ll get all those sorted be­fore we worry about cush­ions. The great thing about re­al­ity TV is that some­times it’s just that. Real.

WHEN WORLDS COL­LIDE (from top) Neale Whi­taker puts his the­ory as edi­tor-in-chief of Vogue Liv­ing into prac­tice on TV’S The Block, where he judges con­tes­tants’ de­sign choices, such as in these two rooms.

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