REALITY TV HAS OPENED THE DOOR ON WHAT THE CONSUMER WANTS
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.