In the run-up to The Block, Amity Dry was on Interiors Addict every night, doing her research. Now that’s what I like to hear! I was delighted to get the opportunity to interview one half of my favourite All Stars couple this week and here’s what she had to say…
Amity Dry doesn’t do things by halves. She had just two days off between arriving home from The Block auction and starting rehearsals for her musical Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life, which she produces as well as stars in. “My workload is pretty massive and it’s a lot to juggle at the moment, but I’m so passionate about the show that’s it’s worth it. We’ll be taking a holiday in June, that’s for sure!”
The show, coming to Melbourne and Sydney this month, is a musical comedy about marriage, motherhood and the way women juggle relationships, work kids and friendship. “It’s very funny, but it’s also really emotional in parts, as we explore topics like post natal depression, the breakdown of a marriage and the pressure to do it all,” she says. “The ultimate message of the show is that marriage and motherhood can be wonderful and the most rewarding things you’ll ever do, but they’re also really hard work and it’s ok to say that and laugh about those tough moments.
“Producing the last few seasons of the show was actually a great preparation for The Block, because both jobs are about budget and project management. The Block just has dirt and tradies and the show has costumes and performers, and is far more my natural habitat!”
Actually winning All Stars was a dream, and the prize money will be life changing. “I was so nervous during the auction that my head was spinning and my stomach was in knots. So when Scotty said we’d won I couldn’t take it in, it was just too overwhelming. But after I finally accepted it, it was one of the most wonderful feelings I have ever had. Knowing that all that work, stress and time away from the kids was worth it was such a relief.”
Being away from their kids was the hardest challenge. “I would be ok when I was busy and at The Block, but when I was out shopping and I’d see children their age, I’d just dissolve. On The Block there were no nappies, no making anyone food, no getting up to anyone in the night and no interrupting what I was doing to tend to my children. As someone who works at home and around my kids, the experience of being able to totally focus on something with no interruption was a revelation!”
There’s no doubt the couple, who were the very first Block contestants 10 years ago, were fun to watch, with Phil forever the comedian and few harsh words between them. “To be honest we probably would have argued more if we were renovating in real life and not on TV,” Amity admits.
“We were always conscious that whatever you say in the heat of the moment, you have to watch back later with the rest of the country. So in the moments we wanted to lose it at each other, we’d just give each other a look that said ‘we’ll discuss this later’ and we’d usually forget about it by then. We always tried to find the humour in situations and not to forgot that it wasn’t real life stress, it was a TV show. I think us having kids helped to keep that in perspective.”
Amity says the mezzanine, which many say made all the difference to them winning, was their builder Brad’s idea. “It was such a last minute decision and I never thought it would be as fantastic as it was. Actually I was worried it would be pokey and not work at all! Brad built it in two days, he was a machine! When it was all finished it looked better than I could have ever imagined and I knew the way the vaulted ceiling and mezzanine opened up the space was a game changer. Now I want vaulted ceilings and a mezzanine in my own house!”
And while they got on well with Mark and Duncan, “the other couples are very different to us and a few things happened that were disappointing, but it’s all in the past now.” Would they do it again? Absolutely! But maybe not for another 10 years!
“Life after The Block will be the same as life before – kids, work, friends and family life in Adelaide. We’re also hoping to buy a new house and renovate that, which is exciting. I learnt so much about renovating, styling and new products doing The Block that I’m desperate to put all that into my own home. And I’m getting asked a lot to style people’s houses or advise them on their renos, so I’m going to start taking on some of those jobs. I’m not quite sure when – but I’ll find the time somehow!”
Of course, everyday life is a little different now they’re recognised wherever they go. “It takes us twice as long to go anywhere as people are constantly coming up for a chat! It’s so lovely though, because they want to congratulate us and tell us how much they loved our house, so it’s not a bad thing. People definitely feel as though they know us. We came into their living rooms every night for 6 weeks, so they will give us a hug and ask about our kids. We really have been blown away by the public support we’ve had, so we’d never complain about it being intrusive.”
In terms of where she looks for inspiration, Interiors Addct is right up there (yay!): “I was on your site every night in the lead up to The Block! I was also obsessed with Pinterest and had boards for every room, which was so incredibly helpful throughout the process. I found being able to give my builder, or kitchen designer, a picture to explain what I wanted, was so much easier than trying to explain it. It also helped to refer back to what I had liked when I was overwhelmed with choices, like in bathroom week.” Amity also liked looking at Adore Home magazine, Houzz, The Design Files, The Everygirl, Peoni Home, The Decorista, Hamptons Style, Down That Little Lane and South Shore Decorating Blog.
“I really found blogs and online sites had a massive impact on the job I did, because I had access to so much inspiration and knowledge, which I never had when I did The Block 10 years ago. I was also really determined to feature the work of small businesses and buy their products when I could. As someone who earns a living being creative and needing people to support my work, I took the opportunity to support other people (particularly mums) who are making their own cushions or artwork and give them some exposure. And of course I found them all on the web. I also love Belle, Real Living and House and Garden magazines.”
Being exposed to all the latest trends and products of course makes her want to replace everything in her own home! “It’s mostly French provincial but I haven’t had the chance to update it in years and I’m sick of pretty of everything! I’m waiting until we get our new house and I’m just itching to get started!”
The mum of two says it is possible to have a stylish home with children but you can’t take it too seriously. “My two year old is capable of making an enormous mess and I’ve given up trying to make her room look as gorgeous as it should be, she can mess things up way faster than I can tidy them. So it can be stylish but it has to be a relaxed version of stylish and you can’t be obsessed about trying to keep it perfect.
“We have white sofas (that are now kind of grey) but they’re loose covers so I can put them in the washing machine. And I’ll buy new ones when my youngest is past the toddler stage. We have nice things, but they’re not at breakable height, so I’m not forever worrying about them. But I definitely think you can have a stylish house without spending lots of money, it’s just how you put things together.”
Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life dates:
- 19 April to 1 June, Adelaide (Star Theatre, Hilton)
- 1 to 5 May, Melbourne (Chapel Off Chapel, Prahran)
- 10 & 11 May, Melbourne (Karralyka Centre, Ringwood East)
- 23 May to 1 June, Sydney (Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre, Darlington).
House photos courtesy of real estate agents 1ST CITY Hasemer+Caldwell.Eyles.