We spent the day with Dan and Dani, well-known renovators from Channel 9′s the Block







It’s everyone’s dream: a beautiful home that looks picture perfect. So it’s no surprise the Channel Nine series The Block won the hearts of many, particularly the interiors put together by Dani Wales and her beau Dan Reilly.

We were lucky enough to spend the day with this television duo turned design celebrity to chat about their latest renovation project, Dani’s new blog and their life in Melbourne.

Psst, you can stop fluffing pillows and straightening furniture…according to this designer, the picture perfect look is overrated.

“I don’t know how people live in those picture perfect homes in the magazines…That’s why you need big cupboards…throw all the mess in when people come over so it looks like the magazines,” Dani laughed as she chatted from her home in Melbourne’s inner city Richmond.

Far from the character painted by some of the show’s critics, Dani was welcoming, warm and friendly, and more than happy to share her secrets for a stylish home. And it’s not all expensive furniture and fancy lighting like you might think.

“I’m a huge scents person,” she revealed. “When I go into people’s houses, the first thing that hits me is the smell…It almost tricks people into thinking this place is nicer than it is. I like to have fresh flowers, I love to have my plants and I like to have candles. They’re little things that make a big difference.”

Discussing her busy schedule (and painting her nails while we chatted!), it didn’t take long for me to figure out that this girl can multi-task! She’s barely picked the paint from under those nails since her and Dan’s appearance on The Block 2012 and The Block All-Stars 2013, and already she’s back getting her hands dirty on the new home they’ve just started renovating. The building is the first of many to come as her and Dan’s interior design/property development business ‘Red Door Project’ takes off.

“I’d love to be given a house that wasn’t going to be judged or sold and just really go crazy and do what I really want. There would be very high ceilings, perhaps four to five meters with amazing lighting and big open spaces. Lots of beautiful American oak timber, natural stone and concrete floors with plenty of glass. And the furnishings would be amazing products sourced from all over the world. A girl can dream.”

Unfortunately that dream will stay pinned to the mood board for a while yet. With a goal to completely transform not one, but two houses every year, Dan and Dani already have their hands full. “We’re learning everyday but we’re getting better at it,” she said. “It’s hard to remain a bit detached because this house isn’t our forever home. It will be a home that we will live in and we might end up staying there, I don’t know. But all intentions is still focusing on a potential buyer and on resale,” Dani said.

“I like simple furnishings and believe that everything you have should have a purpose or mean something as I hate clutter,” she said.
“A lot of people take pride in their appearance and invest in fashion. It’s the same thing for me if people are coming into my home.”

When she’s not browsing window dressings on Melbourne’s Bridge Road or wandering through an exhibition, Dani is lapping up all the wonders Melbourne has to offer.

“My ideal day in Melbourne as a local would be an early morning walk around The Tan with Dan and Hazel my pup and then off to breaky at our local cafe A Thousand Blessings. They have the best eggs,” Dani said, admitting she’s also drawn to the decor and lighting (you know what they say, once a decorator…).

“I’d then head into the city for lunch in a lane way and a bit of window shopping in the mall and perhaps an afternoon show at one of the theatres with a girlfriend. Then it would be off to a rooftop bar somewhere for drinks with friends followed by dinner at my favourite restaurant Chin Chin.”

But if it’s design inspiration you’re looking for, one of Dani’s favourite haunts is the urber stylish Hermon and Hermon furniture store. Dani said she got to know the owners well on The Block and was inspired by their passion for mentoring aspiring designers. “We formed quite a close bond and they’re just really lovely people,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to go to their shop. It’s always set up so beautifully. They’ve got beautiful designers there, they stock beautiful brands and it’s just a nice place to go.”

What Dani doesn’t realise is she too is emerging as an inspiration to budding designers. The Home Journal – Dani’s design and decor blog developed with business partner and friend Georgie Corke – is the latest go-to interior inspiration destination.

“The angle we wanted to take with The Home Journal was making it accessible to everybody no matter where you are, and making it realistic. Because you see a lot of blogs and magazines around and the things that are in them are lovely, but they’re just not accessible for everybody. Either we can’t afford them, we can’t get our hands on them or something else,” Dani explained.

The blog has thousands of followers so you can imagine our delight to get a sneak peak into the concept for The Home Journal’s new app to be released early next year. Dani said the app and online store would become something different to everyone, from a mood board, to a product, brand or shop finder or just a way to keep up to date with what’s out there. “We wanted to make it really interactive, really beautiful and, again, accessible.”

It might make you feel better to know that, like many of us, even this renovation star is still dreaming of her fortress.“I always had an interest in making my room look nice and “pretty” as a kid,” Dani said.