These are the 5 teams renovating St. Kilda’s Oslo hotel into The Block for 2019.
Built more than 150 years ago on the back of the Victorian goldrush, the address was once home to society families, but more recently slumped it into a low-rent backpacker hostel, with walls burrowed out, foundations moving and problems galore.
Homes are double the size of 2019’s Gatwick, and more than four times the size of the original Block in Bondi.
The Block’s resident architect, Julian Brenchley said, “The plans include four bedrooms, four bathrooms, living areas, media rooms, luxurious kitchens, terraces, gardens, garages and more. There’s even a lift. And of course, they can make changes as they go.This is by far the most ambitious Block ever attempted, but we’re aiming for the stars. In every sense of the word, this is going to be huge.”
Joining Scott Cam and Shelley Craft again are site foremen Keith and Dan with judges Neale Whitaker, Shaynna Blaze and Darren Palmer.
Tess & Luke, Queensland
You know what they say: if at first you don’t get on, apply, apply again. This couple from Far North Queensland, who have applied for the program four years in a row, have practical know-how and “go get em” attitude. “This year we had so much other stuff going on. We were getting married, and lots of other stuff was happening, so we just did our application and thought no more about it,” says Tess, one half of The Block’s youngest team this year. “Then when we got the first call up we lost our minds.”
Tess has been with Luke for eight years, after meeting him at a music festival. She abused him when he stood on her foot at an Art V Science gig. “I remember I grabbed him by the shirt, pulled him back and said a few choice words,” Tess laughs. After the rocky start they reconnected a few weeks later, he apologised, and it’s been love ever since. Young, motivated and full of good ideas, organised Tess is always up for a challenge. Recently she changed her life completely, leaving her 10-year job as a hairdresser to pursue a career in sales at the Cairns Post. Tess is looking forward to starting married life amidst the rubble and dirt of The Block, and though she admits she can sometimes be “hot-headed and not afraid of confrontation” she’s glad she has Luke to balance her out.
Luke might look like your typical tradie from Far North Queensland but, according to new wife Tess, he’s a total softie at heart. Ask about their gorgeous engagement story and you’ll find out first hand. “It was bloody romantic,” Luke admits, “you might need a box of tissues.” Luke has been renovating houses professionally since he was a teenager. He bought his first place with his brother and sister when he was just 16. Since then he’s renovated another Queenslander with his brother, and he and Tess have just completed their most recent project up the road. “Rats wouldn’t even live in there, it was that bad when we bought it,” Luke says. Easygoing yet driven and determined, he’s great with a budget and an absolute wizard at saving money. Though he tends to go quiet when annoyed, it’s A-OK because he’s got Tess to fire up for the both of them. “But you don’t want us both fired up. That’s when it’s really explosive,” he says.
Mitch & Mark, NSW
Experience? This couple have it in spades. Together 14 years, Mitch and Mark have been flipping properties, 15 in total, since they were just over a year into their relationship. They’ve worked on a range of renovations in Sydney’s inner-east, with budgets ranging from $30,000 to $250,000. But here’s the thing: they’ve never done much of the work themselves. Now can they up their game for The Block?
Ever the optimist, Mitch will give just about anything a red-hot go. Exuberant – and in partner Mark’s opinion, sometimes over-excitable – this Sydney-based marketing man turned part-time house flipper has oodles of love to give. Mitch has three grown-up kids, Zoe, 33, Chad, 31, and Blake, 28, from a previous relationship, and is now proudly called Poppy by his five grandkids, aged six months to seven. “Family is everything to us,” says Mitch, who along with Poppy Mark is close to all his kids. “I always say they have a mum, who is a big part of their life, and two dads. How lucky are they?” Mitch loves decking out their properties with his favoured luxe aesthetic – think crystal chandeliers and lots of bling. So does his taste in design match his personality? “Well, I say more than I should and I wear more than I should, so I guess yeah,” he laughs.
Mark is the ying to Mitch’s yang. Trained as a psychologist and now working in personal injury and insurance, he’s grounded and down to earth, but still up for any madcap adventure Mitch decides to drag him on. Enter The Block. Mark shares a close bond with Mitch’s extended brood and says the role of grandparent still takes him a little by surprise: “I never even thought I’d be a dad.” He’s respectful of the relationship the kids have with Mitch. “Maybe it’s the psych background, or maybe because my own parents divorced, but I knew if I decided to commit to a relationship with Mitch I needed to be mindful of the kids and respectful that he is a part of a bigger family.” It has worked well so far. “They call me for the fun stuff and they call Mark for the grown-up stuff,” Mitch says. “I sometimes think, hey, I’m grown up too! It’s so annoying.”
El’ise & Matt, WA
These two are experienced renovators. And with hubbie Matt a chippie and owner of a company that specialises in renovations, they’re coming at this competition with a serious advantage. With fire in their bellies and a will to do all they can to give their young family a leg-up, this couple are prepared to go all out for Block victory. And the other contestants had better watch out: they’ve been in training.
Say “three under three” to any parent and you are likely to be met with looks of sympathy and the occasional shudder. So spare a thought for El’ise: she had her three kids in quick succession while renovating. “I came home one day from work, looked up and said, ‘El’ise, what are you doing?’ She was up a ladder painting the house and 35 weeks pregnant,” Matt recalls. Mum to Baxter, 8, Charlize, 6, and Maverick, 5, (they’re big Top Gun fans), El’ise also works full time for a fashion wholesaler in Perth. She’s been studying interior design too and even finds time for the gym. After narrowly missing out on a spot on the show last year, making it to the final auditions, El’ise became so determined to get in this year that she put herself in training. “I made a conscious effort a year ago, after we got the no, that I would get up at five a.m. every morning and go to the gym,” she says. “I wanted to get myself Block-fit, and in Melbourne time.” So does she feel well prepared for what’s to come? “I have achieved a lot of things this year and I feel wonderful in myself,” she says. “Am I match-fit? Yes. But my brain slows down at the end of the night and I like my nice comfy bed.” Oh dear …
Matt has dedicated his professional life to building other people’s dream homes. Now it’s his turn. Owner of his own renovation company, this chippie is the backbone of his family, the solid, dependable guy they all turn to in times of stress. He always keeps his cool. “His presence is very calming,” says El’ise. “He’s a great listener and a brilliant father, and he’s selfless in everything he does. He’s like, ‘El’ise, you have this. You get it for the kids.’ He’s never a person to ask for or want or need anything.” But don’t be fooled. Though he has a soft side, this exacting, perfectionist carpenter likes things done properly and he’ll always put family first, so that means he’s ready to do serious battle at The Block. “I renovate other people’s properties, but I would love to be able to do it on my own,” says this driven tradie who one day hopes to flip properties solely for his own family. “It would be great to make a bit of money.
Jesse & Mel, Victoria
Jesse was literally on the show last year, the auctioneer responsible for selling Hans and Courtney’s apartment, netting them a $410,000 profit. A super fan from way back, Jesse engineered a way to appear on The Block last year and wasn’t content with that. He applied this year and got on, with his “secret weapon”, girlfriend Mel. Both St Kilda locals, they’re presently renovating just around the corner. But do they really have the insider advantage? Only time will tell.
Jesse put his first application in to the show when he was 18 and has been obsessively dreaming of Block glory ever since. “I always wanted to be a part of it,” the tenacious young agent, who trained as a professional tiler, says. “So I got into real estate. And as soon as I did, I was like, ‘I’m going to sell a property on The Block.’ That was my goal.” Just two and a half years later he achieved his dream. Jesse says helping Hans and Courtney get a whopping profit last year is one of the proudest achievements of his life. “We faced south, we had no outdoor space, the kitchen was disjointed from the living and dining room, the hall opened straight into the kitchen, but I loved the style and all the aesthetics about the apartment were fantastic,” he says. “For them to come third by $5000, well they were the real winners of The Block. Every agent I speak to says you guys won. That is phenomenal.” Could this dream-big schemer be on one heck of a lucky streak? All part of his carefully laid plan for Block domination? Jesse replies: “It’s funny, people who don’t know me would say, ‘Oh, you’re lucky.’ People who do know me say, ‘You are so motivated. And you work bloody hard.’”
Mel, a contracts administrator, is a go-get-em kind of girl; someone who’s not afraid to get her hands dirty doing the task at hand – something that came in handy during the couple’s recent renovation. “Mel was there helping on weekends. You couldn’t tell if she was a girl or a boy, she was all covered in black, wearing a hoodie. It was hilarious,” says Jesse. A pragmatist, neat-freak and tomboy, Mel is also a doer, and she’ll be taking charge of the work onsite while Jesse heads out shopping. “Jesse is very good with style, and he knows what the buyer wants,” she says, pointing out that their hobby of visiting open houses has given them an appreciation for what high-end buyers are after. She plans to be on the tools while her boyfriend is out styling up a storm. “I’m happy to be the labourer,” she says. “And I love being told what to do, learning new things. I’m not a girly girl.”
Andy & Deb, NSW
These two might be from the country, but don’t write them off as a couple of bumpkins. They have style in spades and have renovated five properties together over the years. Down-to-earth, laidback and friendly, they’re looking forward to competing on The Block for the experience, and if they make some money for their family along the way, all the better.
Andy is a stand-up comedian who also works for TAFE designing training packages for disadvantaged communities and individuals. He is extremely proud of his heritage. “I am Australian Aboriginal, from Biripi country, which is beautiful Taree,” he says. Proud family man and partner to Deb, he says he’s looking forward to showing Australia that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are “normal people who need and want the same things as everyone else in Australia”. Or as he cheekily said during auditions, “You can’t have diversity on TV with spray tans, it’s gotta be natural.” Andy, whose background also includes child protection, might be The Block’s most laidback contestant but don’t let his amiable charm and larrikin sense of humour fool you – he’s one heck of a hard worker. Fiercely loyal, he’ll always fight for what’s right and stand up against bullying and injustice. No stranger to the limelight, this budding stand-up star has appeared on a range of televised comedy specials and galas and toured with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow. Something tells us The Block will provide him with plenty of new material.
A country girl through and through, Deb is also a woman with her finger firmly on the design pulse. Along with her sisters she owns The Shed Luxe, a stylish homewares and fashion retailer based in their home town of Taree, on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. Organised to a fault, Deb is the driving force in this family of six, which includes the couple’s two kids, Luca, 14, and Tyler, 9, as well as their foster children Leilanie, 22, and Gregg, 21, who both joined the family when Tyler was a baby. “I think our paths were meant to cross with these particular kids,” Deb says. “It just felt very right and happened quite organically because the connection was there.” Deb is an expert at juggling work and home life, and single-handedly keeps the wheels turning while husband Andy – who she has known for 35 years, together 28 and been married to for 19 – is on tour with his stand-up comedy. Deb’s a Blockaholic who loves to watch the show with her son Tyler. “He says he’s watched it since he was born! He loves it and I have no doubt he’ll be my phone-a-friend throughout the series – he’s got great taste,” she said.
7pm tonight on Nine.