As a judge on The Block and the editor-in-chief of magazine Vogue Living, Neale Whitaker, unsurprisingly, has a wealth of interior design knowledge. Seen as one of Australia’s foremost style gurus, he is a man who shuns trends, disliking the lack of individuality they can impose.
“As an editor, it’s my job to see trends at the broadest possible level, how everything interconnects,” explains Neale. “I rarely get enthused by specific colours or moods because those trends come and go so quickly. For me, the most interesting contradiction is the way in which design is increasingly dependent on technology and information-gathering, yet escapism and romanticism have never been so popular. Yin and yang for sure.”
[contextly_sidebar id=”2puVQTN4IVNGzh4RIdYv6uYBzWFAT340″]Excited by so many things, for Neale inspiration doesn’t come solely from interiors, but rather from people, places and projects. So when asked the difficult question, to name his favourite products and designers of the moment, Neale’s answer was always going to be hugely diverse. “I’m intrigued by clever brand-builders. Ben Gorham is doing brilliant things at the Swedish fragrance brand Byredo; the Swedes are effortlessly cool in my book. The work of Italian interior architect and sculptor Vincenzo de Cotiis is awe-inspiring, as are the industrial lighting designs by New Yorkers Apparatus and Lindsey Adelman. Lee Broom is doing some really glamorous but interesting work in London. And mid-century Italian design will be the next era to have its place in the sun — I’m convinced of that.”
Previously at the helm of Belle magazine for eight years, Neale only took up his new post at Vogue Living late last year. “I feel incredibly privileged to be editing such an iconic magazine and excited by the opportunities we have across online, digital and social media. Vogue Living is truly a brand.”
Having been the boss of two of Australia’s biggest magazines, Neale is constantly surrounded by contrasting yet beautiful spaces, which has left him with a personal style that is hard to define. “What’s my style? That’s hard. The best answer I can give is unpredictable. In my role I have to appreciate and understand so many different styles. I’m often surprised by the things I find myself attracted to!”
However, it is all this experience and diversity of inspirations, likes and dislikes, that make Neale such an ideal judge for The Block, and is why, after five years, us viewers can’t get enough of him and why he himself keeps coming back. “I never get tired of seeing what each new group of contestants can achieve. It’s also a privilege to be involved with such an incredibly popular show. And after five years, The Block feels like my extended family — from the production team to the soundos and the cameramen. Not to mention my fellow judges. They’re a brilliant crew.”
With rumours already swirling about the next season of The Block — which went into production this May — I couldn’t resist asking Neale what’s in store. Though fair warning, his lips were fairly sealed! “You can expect blood, sweat, tears, laughter, drama — and some damn good renovations!”
Want to hear more from Neale? He will be talking about the who, what and where is currently inspiring him at this month’s Life Instyle, Melbourne. His talk will take place Friday 31 July from 10-to-11am. Tickets cost $100. For more information.