With the hotly anticipated new season of The Block due to kick off this Sunday, we spoke to judge Darren Palmer and tried (unsuccessfully if we’re honest!) to get some secrets out of him! That said, he assures us we have a lot to look forward to watching and hinted it’s one of the best series yet. I am so excited, I can’t wait! The Block is just what cold nights in on the couch with a blanket have been calling for!
“I love working on The Block and returning every season to the familiar faces behind the scenes as well as my fellow judges,” Darren says. “The working environment is brilliant and it’s always exciting, making filming every season something I really look forward to. That said, some seasons have been harder or more challenging in terms of having an uneven balance of skills and good results to judge but this season is constantly surprising and uplifting and seeing what the contestants have been able to do with these dream houses has made this season a standout favourite of mine.”
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen houses, rather than apartments, on the show, so that in itself is something that will bring changes. “The houses make it easier to film, give us much more to see and give us some great opportunities to judge things that apartments might prohibit in terms of scale, detail or amenity,” Darren says. “I think people at home across the country that live in houses will see opportunities in their own homes they might not have recognised and you definitely have that luxury, aspirational side of The Block loud and clear on this season. These are true, long-term, dream houses.”
If you haven’t kept up with the spoilers, this year, The Block have upped and moved four heritage weatherboards (literally cut them in half and put them on trucks!), ripe for demolition, and plonked them in Melbourne’s Elsternwick (a site that cost a rumoured $10 million) to give them a new lease on life, 9km from the CBD. “It’s great that they’ve saved these old beauties, isn’t it? I loved walking into the first week with that visible scar running down the centre of the buildings. The houses start off as pretty ramshackle, but it only improves from there.”
Darren loves that the homes in season 13 are being restored and reinvigorated in a new location with modern amenities. “It’s a really neat take on fusing the old and the new.”
What constantly surprises viewers, or what you may not realise, is that the judges rarely get to meet the contestants until it’s all over. “I didn’t get to meet any of the contestants this season,” Darren shares. “We rarely do, save for perhaps a challenge once a season, but this season the most contact I’ve had with any of them is to wave hello to a tired contestant on a Sunday morning.” So there you go!
Darren has a reputation for swapping between Mr Nice Guy and Bad Cop from season to season. “My judging really depends on the approach of the contestants and how well they interpret the brief. If they listen, take on advice and understand what they’re delivering to the market and create high quality interiors that suit the area, I’m full of praise and good vibes.”
The chemistry between Darren and fellow judges Neale Whitaker and Shaynna Blaze shines through on screen, although they certainly don’t always agree. “I love those guys. They are two of the most hard working and talented humans. We make each other laugh. We have a great friendship that has spanned many years and we respect each other.
“They relentlessly mock me behind the scenes and that seems to bring them joy. I have a thick skin so I’m ok with it! They’re genuinely funny and warm people and I’m very blessed to be able to work with good friends.”
While you might think the interior designer lives out of a suitcase, he reveals he usually goes between home in Sydney and his Block commitments in Melbourne on the same day, traveling light. Nevertheless, he’s a busy guy, so he works hard to keep healthy and happy. “My tips are eat super clean, lots and lots of vegetables, and have a really low sugar intake (most of the time). I do whatever I can to relax and unwind when I’m not working.
“I train at the gym, more now than I have for the last few years, but I’m getting back to peak health and fitness slowly but surely. I’m very diligent at looking after myself and prioritise time with my family and to keep myself well maintained rather than saying yes to everything that comes my way. It’s important to create the balance you need to thrive and I feel I’m doing a fairly good job of that at the moment.”
He has lots more happening at the moment too, including his own homewares range for Myer, launching very soon. “I’m bursting with excitement about seeing my logo and name on swing tags on the most beautiful product I’ve been working on for a good while now. I haven’t been able to talk about it, but now that it will be in all Myer stores across the country, I could not be happier.
“I’m working on a few projects of my own and I have plenty of brilliant and interesting corporate relationships like writing for Domain, the ambassadorships with Audi, Hafele and Carpet Court as well as some interesting short term alliances. I’ll be doing another Yourtown Christmas prize home later in the year and will have a few shoots and things to keep me occupied. As always, watch this space!”
His own home needs a lot of time and money spent on it, but has amazing potential. “It’s a slow but steady process. I do what I can that doesn’t cost much or that I can DIY, working with my favourite suppliers as much as possible. My house is a sort of pre-reno fix-up. I’ve painted walls and ceilings and laid floors, tizzed up [that’s a technical term!] a few rooms here and there and styled my lovely Myer range throughout, but there’s a lot left to do and a lot I want to do with the house. It has huge potential but the real reno is going to have to be done in stages and will take a lot of time and money. I’m patient though and I can see clearly what the house will become, which is good, but it also makes me very eager to see it in reality.”
Of course, you can rely on us to bring you all The Block room reveal details, pictures and gossip as the series progresses. We can’t wait!