TV presenter Neale Whitaker on his escape to the country and why it’s OK to break the rules.
INTERIOR DESIGN EXPERT AND TELEVISION PRESENTER
As one of Australia’s most famous interior design gurus, do fans come up to you on the street to ask you styling questions? To be honest with you, the thing they ask for all the time is a selﬁe [laughs]. People are lovely; they just want to say hello.
You’ve had a “stellar” career (pardon the pun) that began in London. Do you miss the UK? London is in my genes – it will be forever. I do miss it but only really
because I still have friends and family there. It’s always lovely to be there. Having said that, I’m always very happy to get on the plane and come home to Australia.
Speaking of all things stellar, you’ve been part of this magazine since our ﬁrst issue three years ago. Do you remember a column that really struck a chord with readers? I love being part of the Stellar family! There are no columns that immediately spring to mind, but
there are lots that spring to mind, if that doesn’t sound like a weird answer. People warm to anything that gives them advice. I try to encourage people to do everything from the heart.
On Love It Or List It Australia, you advocate for renovating your home, while Andrew Winter proposes buying a new one. How real is the competitive banter between you? It’s 100 per cent genuine. Andrew and I have a very good relationship based on mutual respect for what the other does, but we have an almost gentlemanly, old-fashioned sort of competitiveness between us. It’s very friendly and we have a lot of fun.
So is there a scoreboard on who loves it and who lists it? And who’s winning so far? [Laughs.] In Andrew’s mind [he is winning]. If my life depended on it now, I could not tell you who is winning. We both like to win. It’s as simple as that.
You’ve been a judge on another of television’s juggernauts, The Block, since 2010. When you’re a judge on a show like The Block, sometimes you get caught up in rules because those rules set the boundaries by which you judge. I’ve never trained as an interior designer myself – my path into what I’m doing now has been through publishing. So unlike my fellow judges on The Block, who are professional interior designers, I have always come at it with a slightly different eye. I’m less about rules and much more about emotion. I think most people are like that. It’s OK to break the rules. At the end of the day, we’re not saving lives.
You have a lot of commitments. What do you do in your downtime? I don’t think I get that much of it at the moment, but when I do, I love nothing more than spending time with David [Novak-Piper, his partner] and our two beautiful old dogs. That’s enough for me.
You’ve all recently moved from Sydney to Bundewallah in country NSW. What prompted the relocation? A slow burning love affair with that part of the world. It might seem on paper that it was a very spontaneous decision, but we’ve been planning it for about a decade. The dogs absolutely love it. We call it their retirement home because they’re old fellas [laughs]. Just like their owners.
“It’s OK to break the rules. At the end of the day, we’re not saving lives”
Love It Or List It Australia Season 3 premieres 8.30pm, Wednesday September 25, on Lifestyle and available On Demand.