Teams prepare for reno battle (Photo: Three)
Teams prepare for reno battle (Photo: Three)

Pop CultureSeptember 13, 2023

House Rules NZ has come to take The Block’s reality renos crown

Teams prepare for reno battle (Photo: Three)
Teams prepare for reno battle (Photo: Three)

Tara Ward checks out Three’s new reality show, where a bunch of strangers work together to renovate someone else’s house. What could go wrong?

What’s all this then? 

House Rules NZ is Three’s new renovation reality series. Based on a popular Australian format, the show sees five pairs of homeowners work together to transform each other’s homes, in the hopes of winning $100,000 towards their mortgage. Each week, one brave team hands over their house keys to the competition, who then renovate the house according to a specific set of rules chosen by the homeowners (the titular “house rules”). 

Teams have five-and-a-half days to transform the interior of one home, before moving onto the next, until all five homes have been renovated. It’s a rapid turnaround, and the results are judged by both design experts and the homeowners themselves. House Rules NZ’s big point of difference is that everybody wins, because even if teams don’t score high enough to earn the grand prize, each couple still comes home to a freshly renovated house. 

What’s good?

House Rules NZ will fill any Block NZ void you might have in your life. It’s got the same stressful reno energy, time pressures and hectic design choices, but thankfully, none of The Block’s ridiculous challenges. There’s no Mark Richardson either, with House Rules NZ host Duncan Heyde bringing a more mellow energy to the show. 

House Rules NZ also works at a faster pace than The Block, thanks to an entire home being transformed in one week. The first house to be renovated belongs to Jemma and Alvaro, who live in a 1970s property with no shower and a hole in the bathroom floor covered by a hand towel. Their first house rule is to “fuse Scandi and coastal in a modern way”, an instruction that suddenly makes the beach an extremely confusing place. “What is ‘coastal’ to you?” Nikita asks husband Sherwin. “Hibiscus plants?” Sherwin wonders. 

Judges Michael Murray and Katrina Hobbs, with House Rules NZ host Duncan Heyde (Photo: Three)

Design experts Katrina Hobbs and Michael Murray urge the teams to be bold and embrace colour, but Jemma and Alvaro’s house rules don’t lean into this vibe (their already renovated kitchen is white-on-white). Martinique and Andre quickly begin to build an entire bedroom out of plywood, having once enjoyed a romantic tour of a plywood factory during a South Island holiday. Where is this magical plywood paradise? Asking for a friend. 

There’s a good mix of abilities in the teams, and plenty of personality to give the show some spice. In the kitchen zone, first-time renovators Jarrad and Theresa struggle to bring their vision to life. Most of their drama involves Jarrad’s plan to use a bold blue fish-scale wallpaper, which their zone neighbours – competitive mother-daughter team Violet and Char – loathe. Everyone keeps it polite (it’s only week one, after all) but Violet later takes her revenge by sweeping dust directly into Jarrad’s zone. Game on. 

After three episodes, Jemma and Alvaro return from the local playground where they’ve apparently spent the last five days, and begin to cry as soon as they see Char and Violet’s transformed lounge area. There are no more hand towels covering holes in their floor, and there’s genuine joy as Jemma and Alvaro see their renovated home for the first time, particularly because they’re about to reveal what “scandi/coastal/modern” really means.

Alvaro and Jemma are amazed (Photo: Three)

But a tour of the house brings mixed responses from the homeowners, who go wild for Martinique and Andre’s light-filled bathroom but are underwhelmed by Char and Violet’s plain master bedroom. It’s a sentiment echoed by the judges. “I want a bit of yum-yum,” Hobbs tells the teams, which is high-level design speak for “stop being boring”. They want teams to take more risks, although if you stare at Jarrad and Theresa’s magnificent magic eye wallpaper for long enough, the words “this is what risk-taking looks like” clearly rise to the surface.  

Char and Violet aren’t impressed with Jemma and Alvaro’s  “brutal” scoring, but Theresa and Jarrad take their 6/10 result on the chin. Martinique and Andre top the leaderboard at the end of week one, as the teams move onto their second renovation project. It’s a solid opening for House Rules NZ, but let’s hope the show doesn’t become repetitive with its design rules (please, no more scandi/coastal/modern) and the fewer dull shopping trips to Lighting Direct/Target Furniture/Resene we have to watch, the better. Give us the yum-yum, House Rules. 


Watch it. House Rules is a faster-paced version of The Block, with a warmer vibe. Rather than being dependent on the success of the housing market, the show rests on a bunch of strangers working together to transform someone’s life – hand towels and all. 

House Rules NZ screens on Three on Sundays at 7.00pm, and Mondays and Tuesdays at 7.30pm. The show also streams first on ThreeNow with episodes uploaded at 12pm each day. 

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