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How will ABC’s new renovation show stack up against The Block and Dream Home?

Restoration Australia host Anthony Burke and interior designer Yasmine Ghoniem will go head to head with Nine's The Block and Chris Brown's upcoming Dream Home.

Restoration Australia host Anthony Burke and interior designer Yasmine Ghoniem will go head to head with Nine's The Block and Chris Brown's upcoming Dream Home. Photo: TND

With housing affordability in sharp focus, owners wanting to sell or expand their living spaces will draw inspiration from not two, but three home renovation shows on free-to-air television next year.

Nine’s The Block will celebrate its 20th anniversary season mid-year, Seven is launching Dream Home with Dr Chris Brown at the wheel – while the ABC will deliver Grand Designs Transformations in January.

So much choice for consumers of reality lifestyle television.

Home Beautiful magazine points out that there’s “something about good home improvement television that turns all of us into expert interior renovators and designers”.

“Watching the best home renovation shows can easily make us think that a gut kitchen renovation is an easy weekend job,” it wrote in its August issue.

“No matter the reason you watch, we love spending time seeing a home go from dated disaster to Pinterest-worthy in a mere 30 to 45 minutes.

“Plus, it’s much less stressful than managing your own renovation.”

Agreed.

Anthony Burke and Yasmine Ghoniem

Anthony Burke and Yasmine Ghoniem. Photo: ABC

Heavyweight hosts

These three shows will deliver very different formats from execution to finished product, and its looking like the ABC’s new lifestyle series may well be the classiest reno show yet.

We’re all familiar with The Block‘s chippy Scott Cam and Byron-Bay real estate agent, Shelley Craft, and celebrity vet and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! former host Brown.

But who will host the ABC series?

Some serious house heavyweights.

Restoration Australia’s Anthony Burke, a University of Technology Sydney architecture professor, will join founder of one of the country’s trailblazing interior design studios, YSG, Yasmine Ghoniem.

“Things are moving so fast in design and architecture at the moment. It is fantastic to see the way issues like sustainability, multigenerational living, tiny homes, recycled homes and more are being explored by Australian homeowners, stepping outside the expected and into the provocative at all scales of building,” Burke said.

“People are rolling up their sleeves and transforming our ideas of living in Australia, one project at a time.”

Ghoneim, recently described by the Australian Financial Review as “the reigning ‘It girl’ of interior design, said she “was blown away witnessing extraordinary achievements by ordinary people”.

She’s lived all around the world, designed bars on barges in Shanghai and celebrity houses in California, fronted rockbands in Sydney and done aid work in Kenya and Vietnam, she revealed in a 2021 Design Files podcast.

“She grabs life by the horns, and brings the same fearlessness to her interiors,” it wrote.

Ghoniem thinks young home-owners watching her ABC series will be inspired to take risks and “give it a red hot go when it comes to realising their own renovation dreams”.

“There’s nothing better than seeing others understand the benefits of good design, listen to their gut and go for it,” she said.

Marble, linen, silk and honed travertine were used in Ghoniem’s interior design in Sydney’s Palm Beach. Photo: YSG Studio

What’s different about ABC show version of The Block?

Having endured three-months of The Block – resulting in childhood sweethearts Steph and Gian taking home $1.7 million in prize money – we know the tried and true format.

Screen-tested couples are curated from thousands of applications Australia-wide to turn up and transform a rundown dwelling into a state-of-the-art living space.

Manufactured dramas and tensions on building sites, heavily sponsored content from car companies and fast-food outlets dominate, and dozens of tradies in utes turn up to lay foundations, water-proof bathrooms and carry in marble slabs for kitchen benches.

Carpets, furniture, cushions and throws and artwork are often already curated from The Block Shop, Schots Home Emporium, Freedom Furniture and Beacon Lighting (to name a few).

Not so on the ABC version.

Yes, there will still be “ordinary Australians” wanting to live the dream of home ownership or already own their homes (or businesses) and need inspiration for their DIY jobs and improvements.

The new co-hosts will also provide “insight, expert advice, and the odd shoulder to cry on”, just like the others do (or will do, in Brown’s case).

Burke and Ghoniem may well be going next level though, in renovation and design influence.

They’ll oversee a Moroccan oasis in the Blue Mountains, a pink palace on Queensland’s Gold Coast, a French-inspired convict cottage in Tasmania and a low-cost eco retreat on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Each episode will showcase two stories and two home reveals – be it interior design, renovation, or a landscaping makeover.

Onyx, blue granite, Isernia stone and American white ash inDarlinghurst project. Photo:YSG Studio

Ghoniem will deliver a masterclass

If her body of work is anything to go by, these home renovators are in for an absolute treat.

In an opinion piece for realestate.com.au, Ghoniem, whose formative years were spent in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia before studying interior design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the US, said she was often asked at dinner parties what she did for a living.

“I’m an interior designer.”

“Oh cool, really? So, you pick pillows and stuff … right?”

“Yep, exactly. I pick pillows and stuff,” she wrote, sarcastically.

“Industry labels like ‘interior designer’ and ‘interior decorator’ have been used interchangeably for years – and they shouldn’t.

“I’m here to set it straight and clear confusion surrounding an industry which so many Australians are obsessed with but, understandably, know so little about.

Ghoniem said, “at its heart, interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavioural patterns in order to create functional spaces for them”.

Designers “apply their technical skills, including drafting documentation for computer-aided design programs, to provide a response to a person’s life, home culture, dwelling and local surroundings.”

Dr Chris Brown will help.

Brown’s reno show

Meanwhile, at the Seven network’s recent Upfront showcase for 2024, Brown will host Dream Home.

“These will be the greatest home transformations Australia has ever seen,” he told a converted audience, adding that contestants will “help each other renovate each other’s homes, turning their own somewhat basic house into their very own dream home”.

They battle it out room by room, and someone wins a big prize.

James Warburton, Seven West Media managing director and chief executive, told The West Australian the series will be “very emotional” for viewers.

“It really goes towards what the name suggests: People’s ability to completely renovate their home into their absolute dream outcome,” he said.

He said Dream Home would be very different from The Block.

“It’s not a reality show based on renovating something to go to auction to win – every single couple in the show wins, in terms of the fact they will actually end up with their very own dream home.”

But, it may well be Grand Designs Transformations that win the design prize.

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