‘Star Pupil’ Matt Chats About the Couples Winning Loggia and Re-Do Room

Matt and Kim have continued to impress the judges with their slightly alternative, but ever maturing design approach throughout The Block. They have now clearly positioned themselves as a huge threat come auction day after securing the last room win for their luxury apartment in the heart of South Melbourne.

The couple have taken The Block experience and everything it offers and worked really hard to improve week-on-week to please the judges and their real estate agent, Kent Morgan, by delivering a high-end, well thought-out home. This Sunday saw no cash prize, but the ultimate private getaway to the most northern Great Barrier Reef resort, Lizard Island, located off Queensland’s coast….jealous much?!?!

I caught up with a very busy Matt to get the latest on the couple’s efforts this week and their plans for the future.

Congratulations, it was your last chance to pull off something great and you didn’t disappoint!! Well done on the second room win and the amazing trip to Lizard Island, it sounds incredible. You must be absolutely relieved to have your apartment done and dusted.

I absolutely loved your loggia, or ‘winter garden’, as us Melbournians refer to it.  You have so many great features and in my opinion have definitely used the space to its maximum potential.  From your BBQ and casual eating space, to your relaxation space where you can sit back and watch a movie on that projector… wow… to your more formal outdoor dining space.  Overall, you have created a great area that compliments a great home.

You have consistently received plenty of positive feedback from the judges as the competition has progressed, which of course continued into this week with Neale again wowed by the “sophistication” of your loggia. It must feel pretty great to know you have won the judges over. In saying that, sometimes we (by we, I mean contestants) don’t necessarily agree with the judges, but how important do you feel the judges feedback has been each week?

The judge’s feedback was incredible. Everything Kim and I do, we seem to do to the extreme. Our transition through the show saw us move from extreme design to extreme care. The last half of the show we laboured over every little detail including layout, feel, potential buyer, style, mood, etc. The judges taught us how to refine our ideas and breathe a different life into these rooms.  I (Matt) have been criticised for being egotistical at times, but I think that is simply crazy. We are the only couple on the show that improved week to week. We happily accepted our failures, we listened to the judges and we allowed change to occur. I mean think about… how many people in Australia get free design advice from these amazing people. It’s priceless.

Can you give us some insight into your thought process when you designed the loggia?

The loggia design blueprint was simple. Complement the view. Make it useable. We created 4 spaces that acknowledged 4 different purposes and moods/scenarios whilst always considering the beautiful backdrop.

The first space was the BBQ space. It is Sunday with the cousins. You can sit on the tassie oak storage box, cook some steaks and drink a beer whilst peering at the city skyline.

The second space was the breakfast bar. Cook some bacon and eggs on a sunny Sunday morning and read the paper on your high stool in the peace and quiet.

The third space was the lounge area. This is a casual day area to sit and chat informally and with the flick of a button on the iPad, the lights disappear and the space transforms into a surround sound theatre, equipped with a stunning fireplace.

The fourth space is the outdoor dining. This space is moody, social and inviting. I am most proud of this space because of its reach. It allows you to enjoy the city view in four completely different moods and environments. It is the only apartment that considers the Melbourne weather adequately with a fireplace and stunning radiator from Italy and in doing so adds even more usable rooms to the apartment. It hasn’t received a bad comment yet.

What was the biggest challenge for you when designing the space this week?

The biggest challenge was making good use of the space. The layout. There are a lot of doors to open… they need space. There are a lot of view opportunities. Our biggest philosophy with design is ‘make it usable’. Everything must have a purpose and logic. I remember the feeling I had when I handed Kim the plan for the terrace. I was buzzing. I just said to her, trust me this is going to be amazing. I knew no one would have used the space in that way.

It seems you have covered off every possible aspect for an area like this, is there anything that you aren’t happy with or would change if given the opportunity?

It sounds cocky but I love that space. It was a real moment of clarity and wouldn’t change a great deal.

It honestly seems like a lot of thought has gone into the room and that every decision was carefully considered, was this the case or did you literally make this one up as you went due to budget restrictions?

There was a monster amount of planning with this room. I had been working on it for weeks. The projector and green walls were in the budget from the start. The final layout came one night very close to commencing the work on the space. It was so much work to conceal the projector screen. The bulkheads were the perfect distance apart to allow the projector to work. The fan height was set so the image could be projected without interruption. Don’t get me started. Haha I’ll say this – nothing comes easy. 

What is your favourite element/product in your loggia this week?

My favourite element!! Dani, how dare you make me do that. Umm…I love the wall-hung fireplace from Designer Heat. It denotes a real feeling in this room. It separates the four spaces but also unites them. Again there aren’t many of these floating around in Australia yet but it won’t be long. My favourite overall element is the rooms’ ability to make you recognise its many moods and purposes. I never imagined this space to have a total outdoor feel, or a total indoor feel. I think finding that balance and creating a reason to go out there (like the home theatre) gives the house another real entertainer’s spot. It bugs me that often spaces are designed to impress, not de-stress. And that’s coming from the creator of the panic room, haha!

Each week there is always pressure to do something different but there is also the importance of maintaining continuity. The judges commented that “the continuity of your design continues to impress”. Has this been easy for you to do while still ensuring you are creating something new and exciting each week?

It got easier towards the end. We figured out a formula to create enough continuity and inject enough Matt and Kim too. I promised Kimbo at the beginning… “It will make sense at the end”. I admittedly was given the bulk of the design responsibility and therefore wore the brunt of the bad responses, along with the good. The continuity comes from ceiling finishes, doors, skirts, timber choices, and even little things like matching the legs of tables. It actually makes it easier to design because you go ok, we are running tassie oak through, shadow line through, Scandinavian furniture through etc. Then you add Matt and Kim. Give it punch in spots. Force mood on the room. A good room makes you want to run into its fun spots.

Moving on to your ‘re-do room’… Wow, what a change!  Were you sad to see the “Panic Room” go (although not completely, I loved your little reference to Jackson Pollock on the side table.)?

We “depollocked” the famed panic room, yes. It was like giving a son away to war. Not that I have a son to give and nor can I foresee a future war but that is the analogy I’m going with. We got away with the Pollock Room. It lives forever in television land for everyone to question and comment on. And I think that is the best place for it. I’ll say this though, Kim and I are proud of our design range. Don’t think for a moment that we are incapable of doing the ‘white walls, generic furniture, colourful cushion’ thing. It’s just it bores us. I would do the Panic Room a thousand times again before I did that.

What’s hard to believe, and something I think to be very true, is that things like the Panic Room WILL appear in homes in years to come. As people become more liberated there will be a tendency to take risks. But hey, The Block demands you present a mainstream home for auction. The real test is, could a couple create a home that is off beat and win. I guess we will have to wait and find out in the coming weeks. 

It’s exciting to see the change from a Week 1 room to something that is completed at the end of the competition, are you proud of the way your style has evolved? It seems as though the judges are, with them labeling you “Star Pupils”…

‘Star Pupils’ is a lovely tag to have pinned on your chest. Thanks guys! I bet it must be nice for them that we did listen. At the end of the day we are very proud of our efforts. I am moving into a career in design after the show whilst continuing my architecture studies. Ideas were never the problem. I felt like the most successful people on the show were the ones that exceeded the judge’s expectations. I mean for a future designer, winning The Block won’t give you hope. Blowing them away is the goal. That has longevity. And I’m glad to say we joined the pack! 

You know I love the polished render, and it looks fabulous in your re-do room.  Congratulations on your announcement of starting up your own business in this craft, and of course we love that you are bringing it to Melbourne. Exciting times… Is this something you had considered doing prior to The Block?

Yes, amongst the many things about to commence in Matt and Kim World, the polished render business is soon to launch. I’m hoping to have it up mid-July. It will be Perth- and Melbourne-based. I’m currently learning some amazing new renders from Europe too. Our plan is to bring high-end finishes to the masses at a reasonable price. So I do urge you to call me and get a quote and investigate our range of finishes. You will be surprised at what is possible. I’ve always wanted to set up a specialty rendering company but never had the time. Now is the right time, stay posted for more. I’ll leave my contact info with you Dani, for any interested HJ readers. 

We’ve seen you on the phone to your real estate agent Kent quite a bit (who is wonderful by the way as he was our agent for The Block 2012), asking questions and seeking advice on particular things. How important do you feel it is to constantly be seeking that expert advice and maintaining contact with your agent when renovating for sale?

Kent is a gem! I think it’s very important to take all knowledge in. Our real estate guy is an expert in South Melbourne. Our criteria was to create an apt apartment for a South Melbournian. I would strongly urge people to consult a local real estate person for renovating and developing properties.

Looking back on your completed apartment, besides the Panic Room, which you had the opportunity to change, is there anything else you would do differently if given the opportunity now?

Um… I think the ladies’ ensuite could use a little timber. That’s about it. Level 2 at The Block is a place to be walked through. It has a considered, high-end feel that is difficult to capture on a television screen. If I could change anything, it would be locations with Trix and Johnno. I feel that in the end, our apartment belonged on the penthouse level.

Many of our readers ask about the products used by all of the contestants and The Block does wonders for the Australian economy in that sense.  For someone wanting to recreate your style, can you select your top five product picks from your apartment?

1. A 60′s dining table (Dining room). It is Mesmate timber from Curious Grace. Stunning!
2. Fireplace (Bioethanol BB_O) (Terrace) from Designer Heat. It is so cheap to run but also functional and stylish.
3. Featherston Armchairs (Living room). Pure design! We purchased ours from Curious Grace.
4. Custom timber – OSBuilding. So much of our home is designed by us and I really urge people to do the same. Aidan from OS is a furniture store. Filling a room with furniture cannot extract amazement. Designing your pieces to meld with the room can. Our master bedroom, spare bedroom, living, dining, terrace and foyer explored and featured our ideas. People like individuality.
5. Trinkets from The Minimalist. There are tonnes of things in the house that will help you achieve the ‘Matt and Kim Look’, but The Minimalist pieces have this style to them that is really confident and edgy. You kind of feel like you will like the person that designed them without having met them. How does a person do that?!

And finally, as The Block draws to an end in just a couple of weeks, what is next for Matt and Kim (besides the new business of course)?

I am literally seething with ideas at the moment. Along with the rendering business, and trusting the auction is nice to us, we’d like to buy and renovate another house. That will be the personal outlet and another opportunity to showcase some ideas.

I love design, so I will be making myself available to help with interiors in the near future too, maybe “Pollock Designs” haha (that’s copyright, so easy up). I have some other, much larger plans and I mustn’t say too much just yet, but it will all be design related. I should say too, Kim and I just had our house in Perth filmed by A.C.A, Woman’s Day and the West Australian. It is very different to The Block apartment but still really fun. Perhaps we could send some pics over to you guys.

We’d love that, thanks very much Matt and good luck to you and Kim with the Auction if I don’t have another opportunity to chat with you before then.

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