THE WOW FAC­TOR

De­sign god­dess Shaynna Blaze lights up our screens in quest of some­thing clas­si­cal with a mod­ern twist

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Graeme Blun­dell Shaynna’s World of De­sign, De­mo­li­tion: The Wreck­ing Crew,

She’s best known as one of An­drew Win­ter’s side­kicks in the suc­cess­ful Sell­ing Houses Aus­tralia, along with hand­some and in­dus­tri­ous land­scape de­signer Char­lie Al­bone. In­te­rior de­signer Shaynna Blaze, fa­mous for her cush­ions, art­ful de­ploy­ment of empty vases and dis­play bot­tles and dec­o­ra­tive job-lot art­work, has be­come one of tele­vi­sion’s style queens, and she’s so pop­u­lar she’s known to most of us by her first name.

She’s a bit of a sex sym­bol to the many men who tune in, it must be said, not just for her in­ex­pen­sive bath­room makeovers. Blonde and emo­tion­ally in­tense, she’s also direct and for­ward mov­ing, of­ten al­most on the run, con­sti­tu­tion­ally in­ca­pable of suc­cumb­ing to melan­choly, though laugh­ter of­ten has her close to tears.

She’s also handy with a paint roller, mix­ing it with the tradies, and has prac­ti­cally rein­vented the throw or scat­ter rug, be­ing ar­tis­ti­cally adept at ran­dom place­ment.

Her ca­reer has spanned not only in­te­rior de­sign and com­mer­cial artist but en­ter­tainer and jazz singer, and in her de­sign pre­sen­ta­tions there’s some­thing of the so­phis­ti­cated co­me­dian about her, witty and self-re­liant.

Her hon­esty and that sense of un­tram­melled en­joy­ment of be­ing a celebrity are on full dis­play in her new two-part spe­cial, Shaynna’s World of De­sign, which fol­lows her on a high­stakes jour­ney through the glam­orous de­sign cap­i­tals of Milan, Venice and New York as she at­tempts to cre­ate an ex­clu­sive sig­na­ture range of in­te­rior light­ing with the pos­si­bil­ity of in­ter­na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion.

As she says, light­ing was once “a ba­sic ta­ble lamp ly­ing next to some­one’s bed”; now it’s of­ten the main fea­ture of a room, ca­pa­ble of the­atri­cally trans­form­ing it, fix­tures as im­por­tant when they’re turned off as when il­lu­mi­nated. But Shaynna is wor­ried that our houses are all start­ing to look the same, lack­ing sub­tlety and char­ac­ter, al­to­gether too prag­matic with art and poetry rig­or­ously ban­ished.

So she’s look­ing for some­thing clas­si­cal with a mod­ern twist, height­ened de­signs that pro­vide ar­chi­tec­tural, sculp­tural pools of light. But, of course, this be­ing a quasi-re­al­ity fac­tual doc­u­men­tary, things do not really go to plan.

Along the way she talks to de­sign­ers such as the in­flu­en­tial if icy Aus­tralian ex­pa­tri­ate Jeanne-Marie Ci­lento, ed­i­tor-in-chief of De­sign & Art Mag­a­zine, in Milan, and idio­syn­cratic ar­chi­tect Iris Tas­salini in Lake Como, a lively mis­tress of de­coupage. And in the drollest se­quence Shaynna shares a gi­ant bird’s nest sur­rounded by huge white eggs with Ros­sana Or­landi, in her part de­sign shop, part gallery, part sun-dap­pled court­yard cafe back in Milan as part of the fa­mous Salone In­ter­nazionale Del Mo­bile.

Or­landi, known as the fairy god­mother of de­sign­ers, tiny but mer­ci­lessly vi­va­cious, has some sim­ple ad­vice. “Live into the de­sign,” she says in­tently, which they cer­tainly seem to be do­ing in that bird’s nest thingo. Shaynna’s ad­vice to us is less meta­phys­i­cal. Add lay­ers to let your rooms evolve, she advises, con­tain col­lec­tions in clus­ters, re-pur­pose sec­ond-hand pieces and, above all, tell your own story.

The show is beau­ti­fully shot by pho­tog­ra­phers Matt Bronger and En­rico Stocco, and pro­duced lightly with the right com­bi­na­tion of de­sign man­ual and trav­el­ogue by Amanda Brown. It’s the per­fect coat hanger for Shaynna who, for all her glam­our and “as­pi­ra­tional­ism”, as TV de­sign­ers like to say, is prac­tised at con­struct­ing a kind of fa­mil­iar neigh­bourly form of ad­dress. She’s the ex­pert in those is­sues of per­sonal style and fash­ion but as much de­ter­mined that we change not only our houses but our­selves.

In this new se­ries she blends the softer, more fem­i­nine con­cerns of the in­te­rior de­sign world with the harder fo­cus of man­u­fac­ture, con­struc­tion and mar­ket­ing, tied to­gether by Brown with a highly cin­e­matic aes­thetic. And while many high­brow makeover shows il­lus­trate a class-in­fected style of guidance around ques­tions of style, taste and so­phis­ti­ca­tion, Shaynna ex­hibits a class­less sense of chic, en­ter­tain­ing as much as she ed­u­cates. I’m sure Blaze would agree there’s some­thing atavis­ti­cally sat­is­fy­ing in watch­ing one of those so-called con­trolled ex­plo­sions where mas­sive build­ings grace­fully col­lapse in on them­selves, brought down into their own foot­print. They teeter, then fall in el­e­gant slow mo­tion, ini­tially sound­lessly af­ter the blast, in a ma­jes­tic blos­som­ing of smoke and dust. All that con­crete that took so long to con­struct in­stantly dust, decades of mem­o­ries oblit­er­ated in a big bang, the per­fect mo­ment for a selfie.

Some­times th­ese so-called “blow-downs” cause a na­tion­wide de­bate about the value of ar­chi­tec­ture and how we might im­prove the de­sign qual­ity of the built en­vi­ron­ment. “The fact is that a lot of mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture is mon­strous, and see­ing it blow up is an ec­static release,” Bri­tish ar­chi­tec­ture critic Jonathan Jones wrote re­cently, adamantly suggest­ing that 1960s tower blocks that were built in an ugly spirit of au­thor­i­tar­ian de­sign, com­bined with cor­rupt penny-pinch­ing, de­serve to be de­stroyed. “As for cool­ing tow­ers that dom­i­nate a town or, much worse, an en­tire ru­ral land­scape, the fewer of them there are, the bet­ter.”

Well, they come down in won­der­ful fash­ion in the new BBC se­ries De­mo­li­tion: The Wreck­ing Crew, which fol­lows the bring­ing down of some of the big­gest build­ings in Bri­tain. It’s the story of a rough-and-tum­ble bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try, a world of dy­na­mite, dust and de­struc­tion, a con­tin­u­ous cy­cle of oblit­er­a­tion and re­de­vel­op­ment that’s chang­ing the face of Bri­tain.

With his for­mat — part science demo (lots of physics with art­ful graph­ics), history les­son and blokey against-the-clock thriller — di­rec­tor and pro­ducer Adam Hop­kins con­cen­trates on re­veal­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties of de­mol­ish­ing mas­sive struc­tures and the fas­tid­i­ous­ness needed to safely re­duce com­plex con­struc­tions to rub­ble. This is a pity. The sto­ries of the ex­perts and the of­ten odd­ball, ob­ses­sive char­ac­ters who plan, en­gi­neer and com­plete the re­moval of ob­so­lete, dam­aged or dan­ger­ous build­ings take a sec­ond seat to the sheer de­light of blokes plug­ging holes with tonnes of ex­plo­sives and hit­ting the det­o­nat­ing plunger.

Maybe in later episodes there will be greater com­par­isons be­tween the de­mol­ished build­ings and their re­place­ments and more dis­cus­sion about how the Brits used to work and live and how they might in the fu­ture, as the se­ries seemed to prom­ise.

In the first episode, a de­mo­li­tion crew from Coleman and Com­pany at­tempt to bring down the 100m high, 10,000-tonne cool­ing tow­ers of a de­com­mis­sioned power sta­tion in Did­cot that have long dom­i­nated the Ox­ford­shire land­scape, their big­gest job in 50 years. The lo­cals are preparing to make the night a pub­lic event, camp­ing out in sur­round­ing fields, the at­mos­phere cir­cus-like. But the de­mo­li­tion chaps are un­happy. It’s a job of work, they snap, not a pub­lic event. Mean­while, Paul John­ston, a much smaller op­er­a­tor, is tasked with tak­ing down a small bridge, fac­ing se­vere fi­nan­cial penal­ties if he can’t com­plete the sched­ule.

And in Hast­ings one of Bri­tain’s favourite piers des­per­ately needs saving. It’s an in­tri­cate and dif­fi­cult op­er­a­tion with some com­plex de­mo­li­tion con­ducted from a cage on the end of a gi­gan­tic hook dan­gling from a crane on board a spe­cial­ist barge floated in from Nor­way.

While it’s all en­ter­tain­ing enough, it doesn’t ex­plore why bad build­ings were built in the first place and how they could blight the lives of com­mu­ni­ties that have to live with them. Al­though a se­quence when the mother of the en­gi­neer in charge of the pier de­mo­li­tion is shown the re­sults does give a sense of what a se­ries about re­pair­ing dam­aged places might have been.

John­ston (“I say it as it is”), his ac­cent as thick and gritty as a bucket of mor­tar, might have been worth a se­ries in his own right. “That bridge has gone, that bridge is no more and what is ev­ery­one else do­ing?” he rasps as the dust set­tles. “Sit­ting on a couch watch­ing The X Fac­tor. Look what I’ve done. I’ve made a bridge dis­ap­pear.”

Life­Style Home.

8.30pm, BBC Knowl­edge.

Mon­day, 8.30pm,

Satur­day,

Shaynna Blaze ex­hibits a class­less sense of chic

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