The Block Kitchen + Dining | Girls vs Boys

I was impressed with all of The Block kitchens revealed on Sunday. It still amazes me that they can turn this room around in such a tight deadline, and the teams also had their dining room to complete. Kitchens are such an important part of the home and, like bathrooms, they require almost every trade, and huge amounts of planning and preparation. I was surprised with the judges scores though, what did you think?

Sam and Emmett: 1st place - 16.5 points (8.5 from Fiona and 8 from Paul)

Sam and Emmett took out the win this week, but their room definitely wasn't my favourite. I found their kitchen a bit too hard and shiny, and I wanted something to soften it. The strong contrast provided by the black and white is striking, but the open shelves and blank walls are crying out for something to break it up a bit. Maybe some natural wooden chopping boards, some potted herbs, some art, a touch of colour somewhere...

The microwave on the end of the bench became a feature, which I didn't like. Preferably tuck this away in a cupboard or somewhere discreet. What I do love is the little breakfast nook with the bar stools (although the stools will need to be replaced with lower ones), and the curved dining table, which does add some relief to the hard kitchen.

The shadows created on the ceiling from the David Trubridge pendant are beautiful, I would've hung it slightly lower though. When you hang a pendant over a dining table you don't have to worry about banging into it, but you obviously don't want it to obstruct your view of the person sitting opposite you - 80 to 100cm above the table top is good, but just use your eye to determine the best height in comparison to what is around and behind the table. The rug is great!

Dyls and Dylz: 2nd equal place - 15 points (8 from Fiona and 8 from Paul and a -1 from S+E)

After Fiona's scores were revealed, both boys teams were neck and neck at the front with 8 points. This prompted Sam and Emmett to play their "-1" point won in an earlier challenge. Although Dyls and Dylz wouldn't have quite won, the -1 meant that Niki and Tiff were able to draw with the boys for second place. I like the galley style layout of D+D's kitchen, and the light wood adds lovely warmth and texture.

The splash back is a photo of their feature schist wall in the bathroom. It's a clever use of continuity and if you love the schist wall, then you'll obviously love the splash back. I love the strip lighting on the kick boards.

I'm also a fan of their dining room. The large table and bench seats have a nice relaxed vibe, the rug is great, love the curtains and the grey feature wall, and I think they did a pretty good job at styling their table too - well done boys. Being picky, perhaps a slight tonal change between the table cloth and cushions, An inky blue table cloth would look lovely with the wood and the grey.

Niki and Tiff: 2nd equal place - 15 points (8 from Fiona and 7 from Paul)

I'll always be a fan of Niki and Tiff's style, and there is a lot I love in their kitchen and dining room, but I feel like they made a couple of mistakes this week. I'll start with the negative and move on to the positive. There seemed to be a mistake in measuring as I don't think the girls had intended for their bench and cabinetry to finish a bit short of the wall. It's not a huge space, so as much storage as possible is key, and it would've looked better had it carried on to the corner. Also, I hate the space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling. It's not really big enough for proper storage or display, and I know how dirty and dusty it will get up there. Why not carry the cupboards right up to the ceiling? Even if you're not going to utilise the space, you could build a bulk head above.

Although, like Sam and Emmett, they have a black and white colour scheme, they have softened it with natural elements, and their tiles add a subtle texture. Love the butlers sink and black tap, also the discreet oven and microwave tucked behind the fridge.

I absolutely love the girls' dining table. Thank goodness for Ryan, who spent so much time restoring it. I know many of you will think it's crazy to spend thousands on what looks like a beaten up old table that still needs work to restore it (and perhaps it is), but I completely understand where Tiff is coming from. It's beautiful, interesting, full of character and personality, and imagine the stories it could tell. No one else will have one quite like it. I urge you to hold on to any older pieces of furniture that may have been in your family, if you think they could work in your home. Mix it up with some more contemporary pieces around it for a cool eclectic feel.

The chairs are also beautiful, and although the judges didn't like the girls' light, I kinda do! The curtains are great, I love the wave pleat they've used, it's unfussy and relaxed. The other styling touches such as the little bar cart, the plant, and the rustic bowls on the table all add visual interest and personality.

Emma and Courtney: Last place - 13.5 points (7.5 from Fiona and 6 from Paul)

I was most surprised by the low scores for Emma and Courtney's rooms, I felt they deserved more. Perhaps their finishes weren't as good, I'm not sure. But the added value of having a butlers pantry is huge, I wish I had one.

I love the girls' tiles and their inset shelf, but I might be biased on that, as it's very similar to my own kitchen that we renovated last year...

I have to say, I prefer our cabinetry with it's panelling to E+C's flat cabinets. I like the subtle texture introduced by the panels and they way it contrasts the angles of the cube tiles. But their kitchen looks tidy and functional, and the wood helps to break up all the white.

I think what brought their scores down was their dining room. Perhaps so much time went into working on the kitchen and butlers pantry that the dining room was a bit of an afterthought. The skylights and David Trubridge light are fab, but the table is pretty uninspiring, and the wall behind it is crying out for a large piece of art. It was a shame as I think E+C thought this might be their week to shine. On a positive note, they scored the highest from the team votes, so were able to pocket $2,000 - nice!

This week is another crazy, busy week for all with their entrances, stairs, landings, and hallways needing to be completed. It should be entertaining for us as the teams are all having to perform an act in front of a live audience for their latest challenge. We got to enjoy Emma and Courtney rocking it last night looking like divas from the eighties. Their genre was 'music', but I think they would've done quite well if it was 'comedy'. Tonight we'll see Niki and Tiff's comedy act (eek!), then we can look forward to seeing the Double D's in lycra performing acrobatics - I think Junior will nail that. Lastly Sam and Emmett will wow us with poetry. I can't wait. Catch up on lots more Block action on TV3.

Messervy House For Sale

Matt and Kate Arnold discovered the Messervy House whilst on a walk down a quiet cul-de-sac in their hometown of Christchurch. After talking to it's owner, they learnt that it had been designed for her family in 1964 by architect Allan Mitchener, and she'd lived happily in it ever since. Matt and Kate kept in touch with Biddy Messervy, and when the time came for her to move out, they bought the house off her.

As only the second owners, Matt and Kate spent last year restoring Messervy House back to her former glory. They painted inside and out in the original colours, replaced the cork flooring and cracked windows, had new linen curtains made, re-wallpapered, and replaced the kitchen benchtop. Everything was carried out with the intention of maintaining the original design of the house, and using the original materials where possible.

Now that she's finished, Messervy House is on the market, and it's very important to Matt and Kate that her new owners are design enthusiasts who will fully appreciate her. Not only the highly imaginative design, but also the effort that has gone into her restoration. The house has a stream at the back with a footbridge connecting to Ilam fields and gardens, and it's a nice walk across the park to the University of Canterbury.

For more information about the house and how you can view and/or buy it, click here. I asked Matt a few questions about the restoration process, read on for his answers.

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
Finding cork tiles. We hit a national shortage, nobody had them. Kate called almost every Bunnings in New Zealand and sniffed out anybody who had cork tiles stashed away. We scrounged together just enough by buying them in small packets from all over the country. We almost went down the route of parquet floors, but finally got the cork.

Tell me more about the wallpaper you used?
The house originally had wallpaper, which is slightly unusual for a modernist house, but it seemed to work. The old wallpaper was done for, it was torn, faded and stained, but finding a replacement was surprisingly difficult. Have you ever shopped for wallpaper? It's bewildering. We finally settled on a seagrass, but at the last minute we spotted the green arches designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune (architects we really admire) and we were away.

Do you have any advice to help people find the right architect or draftsman for their project?
Go straight to Michael O'Sullivan.

You've done such a fantastic job with this home, will you be taking on another restoration or renovation in the future?
I think we will. There are lots of these wonderful little houses in and around Christchurch designed in the 50s and 60s that are perhaps a little bit under-appreciated. And when they're made of concrete, like this one, they don't rot or leak, and all you need is some white paint and enthusiasm. I think with these types of places, the less you do the better, really.

photography: Sam Hartnett

I wish you luck Matt and Kate, and to all my readers... if you are interested in buying this beautiful home, or know someone who might be, get cracking! I have a feeling it may be snapped up quickly.