Legend has it that the team who wins front garden week goes on to win The Block NZ. So there was no pressure this week as our teams planted, painted and pushed their way to front garden nirvana, all determined to create the best first impression for their buyers. Join me as we walk towards the light at the end of The Block NZ tunnel in our (sob!) second to last recap.
Maree and James
They began The Block NZ with a hiss and a roar, but lately they’ve fizzled to a sigh and a splutter. With only a few days left, Maree and James were determined to present a perfect house – but needed some good fortune and cold hard cash to help them do it. They got both: Maree’s competitiveness and expert memory skills won them $3000 in the tile challenge, where teams had to memorize and reproduce a tiled pattern. James’s reaction to the win was typically melodramatic, while Maree put their success down to greater powers. “Thank you Lord, we needed that money!” she squealed. I’m sure the Lord was happy to help in such a mercenary way.
The gods smiled on them again at the next challenge. “There’s pipes everywhere, so it looks like it’s the pipe works challenge,” deduced Maree. Nothing gets past her! They finished second, but when Mark disqualified winners Alex and Corban – Maree and James were promoted to first place. James gave another of his overemotional reactions, and frankly, I’m not sure how I’ll cope with James’ histrionics if he and Maree win on auction night.
Their front garden had a Pacifica theme and they worked frantically in the final moments to complete their tropical oasis. Never mind the colourful flowers — has anyone seen their missing front door? Maree added rocks to the garden, which Shelley reckoned provided a sense of adventure (I think Shelley needs to get out more). The judges felt the garden was unfinished and scored Maree and James in last place. Mark Richardson rubbed salt in the wound when he asked what had happened. “Gone off the boil lately, haven’t you?” he said. Ouch.
Alex and Corban
Our favourite over-achievers were multi-tasking again this week, working on both their front yard and the still unfinished lounge and entranceway. They designed a custom-made wooden feature for their lounge ceiling, but Corban had no tradies to finish it. He begged for mercy from the all-powerful Wolf, who was in a typically sympathetic mood. “Frankly, it’s not my problem,’ he growled. Corban was stuck in a bespoke American cedar paneled ceiling quandary. What are the chances of finding another builder in a city of 1.3 million people?
With deadlines looming and pressure high, Alex and Corban decided to create one more design feature. They visited a factory to source materials for some wacky-do architectural panels for the house exterior. “This is where the board comes from all round the world,” said The Salesman. Wait, did he just say from ALL ROUND THE WORLD? My mind is officially blown. Corban and Alex, this is all good and well, but you’re already two weeks behind! Stop wowing us with your architectural genius, lay some river-stones and finish your house already!
Super organised to the last, they proved me wrong and finished their front garden early. Shelley loved the final result, a low maintenance space that took the judges on a journey from front to back (‘journey’ is wanky design-speak for ‘I walked on some pavers’). There was bespoke black concrete, architectural plantings, and consistent design and style. Mark pointed out the undercoat on the fence and the bare brick wall, but they still tied to win with Jo and Damo, finishing their adventure back atop the (albeit crowded) winner’s podium.
Jo and Damo
Damo has worked like a packhorse these past three months and it seems he’s finally run out of puff. He and Jo are physically and mentally exhausted, but their hard work made them fit in unexpected ways. Ben bought over a copy of New Idea magazine, which featured an article on ‘The Top 10 Fittest Women in New Zealand’. Look who made the cut: it’s our Jo! Damo misread the title as the ‘Top 10 Tittiest Women’; ‘no, fittest,” corrected Ben. “Even better!” said Damo.
The women of The Block NZ had time on their hands this week. First there was the totally impromptu, non-scripted afternoon tea with lizard cake for Maree, and then an emergency apparel intervention for Damo. “There’s no dignity there,” said Jo of Damo’s ripped shorts, which featured a hole running from, erm, top to bottom. There’s no dignity for us viewers either, Jo. The girls offered Damo some flash new threads, but he wasn’t impressed; as long as his shorts have a waistband they’re still wearable to him. Satisfied their modesty was now suitably protected, Damo returned to build his deck. “You like your big deck, eh honey?” asked Jo. “Yep” replied Damo, “most people do, actually”. Nudge nudge, wink wink.
There wasn’t much to see of Jo and Damo’s garden this week, mainly because it totalled about three-square metres off the side of their main garden. Where is their award-winning front door? How do you get into the house? It’s a mystery I’ll never solve, and Judge Mark was no help whatsoever. He focused on the lack of pergola over the spa and the missing towel hooks on the fence. Shelley, however, thought they’d used the space cleverly and their colourful plantings and inviting spa pool earned them a winning score, alongside Alex and Corban.
Quinn and Ben
It’s taken the lovebirds of The Block NZ three months to hit their stride. This week Quinn and Ben were productive! They were decisive! They were determined! While they’ve struggled this season, we’ve seen barely a harsh word pass between them. Jo reckons they’re the romantic couple of The Block NZ, and Quinn says that sparks still fly after seven years together. It’s so sweet that I feel nauseous.
Ben had itchy palms this week, which made him think he was coming into money (I’ve heard something else about itchy palms, but this probably isn’t the place to discuss it). It seems Ben’s hands were indeed psychic, with a win of $1500 in the Pipe Challenge and the kicking of Corban’s bespoke butt in the ‘who can pinch the concrete off the truck quickest’ contest. The smallest victories mean the most, eh Ben? Such smooth sailing had Ben worried, “it usually means something bad is about to happen.” Spooky: later that week they placed last in the Tile Challenge. “We’re not used to being the most useless at…everything,” said Ben, while Quinn showed her philosophical side: “you gotta laugh, or else you’ll cry.” That inspirational advice is going straight onto my Facebook newsfeed.
Quinn and Ben continued their simple design in their front garden, mainly because they had no money to buy anything to complicate it. Quinn did a lot of painting, though her technique was so terrible that it would have been quicker to chuck the bucket of paint at the fence and hope for the best. The judges thought their front garden was appealing to families and awarded them third place. Third! That’s practically first place, Ben and Quinn!
So, there it is. The houses are done and we’ll soon discover the winner of The Block NZ 2014. It’s all on like Donkey Kong for our two frontrunner teams Alex and Corban, and Jo and Damo. We can’t discount Maree and James’ lush Pacifica sanctuary with its huge back garden, and as for Ben and Quinn? I reckon these two are the dark horses: auction order will be crucial for these two. We await Friday night with bated breath: who will come out on top?
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.