TV pre­sen­ter Neale Whitaker on his es­cape to the coun­try and why it’s OK to break the rules.


Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by ADRI­ENNE TAM

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.

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