Who knew the great songwriter Cole Porter would have nailed the essence of The Block, 2022 near on a century ago? “Give me land, lots of land under starry skies above; don’t fence me in.”
If we could design to add a line to the brilliant tunesmith’s work, we might try to weave in something about the mighty Macedon Ranges being the spectacular backdrop to a season almost as epic in scale as those moody peaks.
Welcome to Gisborne, a verdant hamlet only around 45 minutes north-west of Melbourne. It’s here, on the biggest series ever, that our five teams of intrepid Blockheads are boldly going where no others have gone before them – to the countryside and The Block: Tree Change.
There are renovations on a whole different scale. Old country houses, full of charm, character and not much else, have each been set on a 10-acre (four-hectare) spread, with the contestants challenged to create the quintessential new-millennium homestead. From the empty green pastures, out of the early mud and mayhem, a little community has been created and a village has emerged – a sustainable, off-grid, thoroughly modern village, that is.
It’s majestic in both scale and spectacle, but the most impressive thing? The Blockheads have survived a rugged rural Victorian winter and lived to tell the tale through the five dazzling homes that reach across the landscape.
Beyond the walls of glass in every one of these smooth new pastoral palaces, the ancient range is the august, anchoring view – no fences, but a deep sense of place.
The idea of convenience seemed redundant, the buzzy local shopping strip was soulless and, at the end of the day, after good health for my family and myself, what I really craved was space and beauty within nature. Green fields, an endless summer sky and bright, starry nights. A rocking chair on the verandah and the feeling of the earth beneath my feet – yep, I caught the tree-change itch.
Many Australians are now mulling over the idea of a different way of life and casting their gaze towards a life in the countryside: genuine outdoor space, a welcoming country kitchen, rolling hills, a mudroom (please), a roaring fire in winter, a pool to laze around in the scorching summer and, ultimately, a home that will be a soothing balm to an at times crazy and dense life. Tom and Sarah-Jane, along with the other four teams, have created properties that tick all of those boxes and then some. They have each built a new version of the great Australian dream and it’s a pretty alluring one. I’m off to dust off my gumboots – I’ve got houses to inspect.
Tom & Sarah-Jane
Hard work and hearts on sleeves, that’s Tom and Sarah-Jane. But don’t let this dynamic, upfront Melbourne couple’s breezy brio fool you – there’s warm style here and Sarah-Jane’s excellent design eye is a game-changer.
Rachel & Ryan
Not everyone has been on the same page as the (one-day) latecomers and their “contemporary country” vision but these two are moving stylishly through their renovation with convincing conviction – their focus firmly on the big picture.
Ankur & Sharon
The renovation novices took some time to settle into their groove; there have been dramas but there’s been some impressive learning and leaning on each other to deliver some genuinely impressive, luxurious spaces.
Dylan & Jenny
This sanguine, smiling squad of two from the sunshine state is as tight a team as we’ve seen. Second-generation builder Dylan and lady tradie Jenny (from The Block) might just be the perfect combination.
Omar & Oz
Best mates, bros, bright sparks; the Western Sydney duo are super-engaging with their big energy and generous spirits. Bringing diversity and daring to the competition their all-stops-out approach has handsomely paid off thus far.
From the tiny blue powder-room basin to the luxurious and spacious living-dining room, prepare to be enthralled by a home that attends to detail at every single sophisticated turn.
As an example, we offer Exhibit A – the main bedroom.
There’s boldness in that divine olive-green feature wall but it’s leavened in the loft of the ceilings and contextualised by the wainscoting opposite. There is daring in applying the same tone, but the white walls above create the relief needed to fully appreciate the fine alchemy.
191 McGeorge Road, Gisborne VIC 3437
Tying it all together is the wood-fired heater’s warm country comfort. Superb.
Beyond the plush wardrobe is the exquisite en suite – a note-perfect combination of beautiful feature tiling and lush gold accents.
The floor tiles with their aged patina around the edges are a masterstroke. Oh, and the teardrop chandelier – tears, indeed. In fact, the bathrooms here are worth the price of admission alone, splendidly articulating the journey across eras. The main is a classical picture; its blue-and-white scheme the definition of country class.
The autumnal-toned guest bathroom is a gleaming contemporary beauty that heroes earthy, coppery mustards.
In the guest bedrooms, particularly the divine “Scottish” room with its blue tartan wallpaper, the feel is so bucolically crisp, you’d swear you could smell the freshly laundered linen.
By the time you get out to the kitchen, dining and living area, you begin to think you’ve seen it all; you’d be wrong.
It’s not just the big-ticket items that bring the luxe vibe – that ILVE oven, the blush metallic fridges, the opulent butler’s pantry – it’s the attention to storage and display space too.
The inclusion of a pot filler tap above the cooktop – something both deeply utilitarian and wildly glamorous – tells you everything you need to know about this place.
As the light moves from soft and languid in the bedrooms to radiant and revealing in this largest Block living room, spectacular raw beams bring definition to the soaring spaces.
Bucolic vistas beyond the banks of glass become framed in the trusses’ rustic heft.
The Cheminees Philippe fireplace that takes grand centre stage here is an almost sculptural centrepiece that seamlessly completes this design tour-de-force.
There is an attention to space in this elegant home that is singularly brilliant. An awareness of dimension is crucial and if overlooked can turn a large home into a wind tunnel of featureless excess.
Not here. This house embraces its space by accentuating certain details, and simultaneously paring back others. Delineation occurs through smart material change, or height difference or the inclusion of an unexpected but apposite feature.
197 McGeorge Road, Gisborne VIC 3437
The broad hallway illuminates the point. Giving a central passage its dramatic due; here it serves as a glamorous gateway to the fabulous open-plan living-kitchen-dining areas. Being able to spot the dazzling feature hearth from a distance ties disparate areas together and gives the house a sense of balance.
Which brings us to that stacked-stone fireplace that turns a splendid contemporary home into luxury lodge via this spectacular focal point. It’s a towering wall column running right down to the magnificent blackbutt flooring, flipped up to line the ceiling. The stunning combination anchors the rangy spaces around it while creating a terrifically brawny reminder of the natural environment. It is truly a spectacular sight.
A long platform to the side creates a stage of sorts, from which to view the volume. These details define this house; this attention to space allows the material palette and brilliant rooms to shine brightly.
The super elegant kitchen – beautiful clean lines, excellent kit and the handsome timber quirk of the breakfast bench breaking out of the island stone – is a showcase in that sharp modulation. So too, our favourite: the sublime main bedroom with its ornate cornices, wainscoting feature wall, stacked-stone fireplace and views for days.
As the biggest house on the block, quite literally, the sheer size of this home would tempt many to minimise its volume by distraction – look at the shiny thing over there, see all the pretty baubles everywhere.
The genius of this house is its excellent balance. There are rooms that rightly go full-throttle opulent, while others are serene, calm and stylishly composed. What that gives you, then, is a house that reflects life – sometimes big, sometimes intimate, all the time brilliantly flexible.
223 McGeorge Road, Gisborne VIC 3437
We want to give a special shout-out to the fabulous kitchen here, which – cliches aside – is truly the heart of the home. That long sweep of black granite island bench is drama itself.
Match it with dusky champagne tones and lift it with radiant blond herringbone flooring and you’ve got yourself a flat-out corker.
The stone hearth that centres the lofty living room is another powerful presence, thrown into relief by the light that swirls around it; that wonderful equilibrium in neat evidence again.
The main bathroom has an excellent line in glamour too, its deep bluestone accents offset by gold fittings – and lest you think it misses the heritage brief, many’s the country manor that combined rich stone and gilded tapware in their smallest rooms.
If you seek quieter space, here you will find it in abundance.
You need only to wander into the main bedroom to find all the elegant repose you need. Now, while this isn’t exactly small – it’s the largest main bedroom-robe-en suite of all five houses – it manages a delicacy that is super impressive via muted tones, the admittance of light and views of the great green beyond.
We adore the en suite here the way you would a gilded thing of great beauty – fireplace, skylight, wallpaper. Wonderful.
Crisp, clean, fresh-faced and fabulous: is it the house or the house-makers? What is certain is that, when one reflects the other, you get a home replete with authentic flair.
So it is here from the moment you open the door. The coherent style sits beautifully in the rural milieu; taking natural colours and folding them into the excellent material choices.
225 McGeorge Road, Gisborne VIC 3437
The result is an atmosphere that is consistent all the way through. There’s a stylish ease to this house – it embraces a thematic program where things like arches and colour schemes repeat across the floor plan but never falls into a trap of uniformity or monotony.
In fact, the ante is upped by judiciously applied touches demonstrating the appealing design eye here. Take that pink palm tree graphic wallpaper in the en suite or the pops of black appliances that anchor the effortlessly lovely green, white and gold kitchen colour scheme. The brass mesh drawer backs are another small detail that pack a big punch, in both style and country credentials. Understanding the depth a smartly chosen accent can create, making space for both light and shade, is what makes a good house great.
The towering living and dining room here boasts a lofty column of pale blond bricks above the two-way fire.
We also love the savvy addition of a tiny house that offers up the opportunity for additional income or a quirky space for guests to enjoy.
It’s almost as if this house cycles through the seasons with its palette, from winter greens and whites through pinky autumn sunsets and bleached summer pastures. It’s an approach that softens and moderates the dimensions so they are approachable and languidly liveable. Light streams in via banks of northerly glass and the place shimmers with vigour, with possibility.
House 5 – Omar & Oz
Sometimes you walk into a place that is so well-modulated it hums. Welcome to this glorious example of luxe living, where glamour goes hand-in-hand with brilliant utility to deliver a home for the ages.
The material palette here is memorable. Take the guest’s en suite for example – you get magnificent terrazzo, its sober beauty offset by neat touches like glossy subway tiles laid in an inverted L-shaped pattern. It’s one example of modish individuality, but it speaks stylish volumes.
241 McGeorge Road, Gisborne VIC 3437
The original home has been treated with a delicate hand; fretwork and period finery in cameo appearances are pleasing sights.
Most notable is the way the old is seamlessly connected to the new.
It’s not exactly a hand-holding exercise to draw you into that majestic contemporary wing, but the long hallway, its end flanked by epic picture windows before a set of full-width steps, gives you just enough pause to make the stylistic adjustment. Simply brilliant.
Then you’re up and into that completely astounding kitchen brimming with $250,000 of top-end kit; the incredible stone island bench with its compartment galley sink and surrounding dark grain cabinetry the perfectly rendered dramatic frames. A handsome timber bulkhead warmly draws all the components together.
Turn on your heel and behold the utterly jaw-dropping living-dining space, which is large enough to comfortably accommodate an elegant baby grand piano. We don’t think we’ve ever loved a red-brick fireplace column so much. It’s a touch retro, ever so slightly bold and simply beautiful.
There are surprises here as well as sage style; it’s a tremendously successful combination in these sure, confident hands.