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In a narrow semi-detached house in the inner-west suburb of Leichhardt in Sydney, Rosie Morley and Paddy Milne are squeezed in the front bedroom with a camera crew. They are the hosts of new lifestyle series Selling in the City and they are filming a “Snooze breakout moment” that involves building a six-pillow pile and arranging two bedspreads (one to lie flat, the other to create texture).
“As a total composition, I’m really happy with it,” decides Morley, an award-winning interior designer. Adds Milne, a landscape designer: “Were you a fluffer in a former life?”
At this, the pair dissolve into laughter and prepare to film another take, while tradesmen walk up and down the hallway and a painter puts the finishing touches to the frame of the outside window. Another take goes seamlessly, although Milne is asked to “love the side tables a bit more”.
Landscape designer Paddy Milne and interior designer Rosie Morley present Binge’s new real estate show Selling in the City.Credit:Foxtel/Binge
Australians, it seems, can’t get enough of building, designing and judging other people’s homes. Selling Houses Australia is the best-performing show on Foxtel’s LifeStyle channel, while The Block still pulls in more than a million viewers an episode after 18 seasons on Nine (the owner of this masthead).
Selling in the City hopes to capitalise on this love affair, but it’s clearly aimed at a younger audience, with the show emphasising the personality of not only the houses that are renovated, but the suburbs they are in.
An apartment in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, for example, is designed to reflect the area’s outgoing personality, with the bathroom given a dark-tiled makeover to make it look like the pub downstairs. A poky two-bedroom terrace in Sydney’s Newtown, meanwhile, is given a neon artwork in the shape of a stiletto boot to reflect the suburb’s vibrant drag queen scene.
So far, so not The Block. But, like The Block, the properties are being renovated with a view to sell, except in Selling in the City they are going for maximum bang on a minimum budget. The owners of each property provide Morley and Milne with the money (in Newtown, for example, it was $80,000) and they work to transform each property within that budget. There is a slight cheat in all of this, of course, in that discounts and deals are in place, with the logos of each company given plenty of camera time.
Today in Leichhardt, Morley and Milne walk me through their latest project. It’s day three of a four-day shoot, and it still looks like a building site – the kitchen is being installed, paint is still drying and the tilers are still in the bathroom. The owners are due to arrive tomorrow and find a finished, furnished house. At the moment, all that’s ready is a bed with six pillows on it.
The budget for the Leichhardt house has been set at $103,000 and Morley and Milne have designed it to reflect the suburb’s Italian heritage. Inside, the walls have been given a “warm pink hue” and the old U-shaped kitchen has been ripped out and replaced with one that allows for “360 movement, which always reads as more luxurious,” says Milne.
And, in what is the holy grail of tiny inner-west houses (one of which, I also own): a pantry cupboard has been installed. That alone will add thousands to the sale price, I tell Morley. “Seriously?” she says. Next stop is the bathroom, where an enormous bathtub that weighs a quarter of a tonne has somehow been manoeuvred into place. “I looked away,” says Morley.
The bathroom has been designed to reflect a luxurious Roman bathhouse, with chunky terrazzo tiles and an infinity mirror effect that, frankly, I could do without.
A fancy-looking pizza oven will be a selling point in a house in Leichhardt in inner Sydney.Credit:Binge/Foxtel
“The concepts around the bathroom were really around this idea of how the Romans pioneered bathing as a luxury experience,” says Morley. “So again, it all comes back to the Italian story. That’s the only way we can design. You have to have a reason to do things, not just do it because it’s pretty. That’s just soul-destroying for me.”
Out in the small backyard, Milne takes over. “What wasn’t working was this big long bench seat all the way along the back,” he says. “It’s not really suitable for having friends over, because you’re all sitting next to each other, side by side. You could have 15 people, but you’re not really interacting. So we turned this into a garden bed.”
Burnishing the backyard’s Italian credentials, is a large and very fancy-looking pizza oven. Hang on, isn’t that a classic seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time gimmick?
“It’s a novelty when you first put in a pizza oven,” Milne agrees. “You use it lots and lots and then sort of forget about it a little bit.”
Both Morley and Milne run their own businesses – Morley is a principal at an architecture firm in Melbourne, while Milne has a landscape design business in regional Victoria – so why would they want to sign up to the fraught world of reality TV?
“It’s about design education as well and sharing knowledge,” says Morley. “And people want that. And showing how a design collaboration can be really strong.”
Milne agrees: “I think that’s the key. There’s a lot of shows that talk about design or renovation, but I don’t think they go that extra step and actually unpack why you’re making that decision. And Rosie’s really good at that, ‘This is what I want to do and this is why I’m doing it.’”
And for those wanting to sell their houses, is it really a six-pillow minimum?
“I’m not saying that’s a rule,” says Morley, laughing. “I’m assessing the whole space and how someone’s going to utilise it. There’s maybe some general conventions around how you would style a bed for sale versus the reality of sleeping in it, but I still think there’s something to be said about making a bedroom feel full of calm and luxury. It sounds silly, but then you get into these spaces and you just want to be swaddled.”
Selling in the City is on Binge from October 19.
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