The Block Judge Neale Whitaker’s Best Renovating Tips

Neale Whitaker
Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team


Nov 17, 2016

What tips do you have for home improvement beginners who want to do some work on their homes?

Plan, budget then plan again! Never underestimate the importance of careful planning and realistic budgeting. Always budget for more than you think you will need. Also have a realistic game plan. Are you renovating to live in the property or are you renovating for resale? In both cases keep an eye on the long-term benefits of the renovation you’re planning. Knocking those two bedrooms into one might seem like a great idea now but it could potentially knock hundreds of thousands of dollars off the the resale value of your home.

What’s the most amazing transformation you’ve seen on The Block and why?

The transformation of the Art Deco office building in the current series, without a doubt. The heritage building has been sensitively and imaginatively restored inside and out. It’s brought new life to a shell that had stood derelict for decades.

They say that kitchens sell houses – so what are your tips for styling a killer kitchen that really raises the value of your property?

For me it’s less about the styling and more about the planning and functionality of a kitchen.These are the aspects that are expensive to change and will be ultimately more appealing to a buyer than styling.

Kitchens are increasingly the hub of the home, so they need to be spacious and well-equipped with plenty of natural light.

Concealed appliances are still the best way to go and butler’s pantries are now very much on the kitchen bucket list. Don’t be tempted by fashion fads – kitchens are long-term investments.

Summer is just around the corner – what tips do you have for crafting the perfect outdoor area?

Just keep it relaxed, comfortable – and safe. There is an amazing choice of outdoor furniture now but the top priority is shade. We have an enviable climate in Australia for enjoying outdoor living but we also have the most dangerous climate in terms of UV exposure.

Many inner city Aussies have little outdoor space – how can you make the most of a small yard or balcony?

Think of a vertical garden in addition to pots and planters. There are plenty of affordable, low-maintenance options around now.

Hanging Wall Garden

What’s the most beautiful home you’ve ever visited and why?

That’s a difficult one to answer as I see so many beautiful homes and I appreciate so many different aesthetics. The architect Vincenzo de Cotiis’s amazing contemporary home in an old Milanese palazzo (featured in Vogue Living July/August 2016)  would be right up there, but also the famous Jim Thompson house in Bangkok, which is now a museum. I’m a great fan of traditional colonial architecture and this is a perfect example. I fell in love with it many years ago.

What’s the most interesting way to incorporate technology into interior design?

I’m not a technology expert and I’m personally quite lo-fi, so not the best person to ask! There is an increasing demand for smart homes with state-of-the-art technology that is now readily available. Technology can play an important part in home security but other than that my personal needs only stretch to good wifi and a great sound system. I’ll leave the rest to the nerds!

What are the 3 key things one should focus on when renovating a home?

Planning, budget and realistic objectives. Why bother to install an expensive entertainer’s kitchen if you only ever plan to use the microwave? Think seriously about how you plan to live in the space and what potential value the renovations might add long term. Avoid over-capitalising and make comparisons with other similar properties in your neighbourhood. What’s the potential resale ceiling?

Neale Whitaker interview picture with hipages

What are the most valuable things that you have learnt from your time as judge of The Block and your time as an editor of iconic brands?

Those two roles are very different yet somehow related. As a judge on The Block I am constantly in awe of the contestants’ creativity, resourcefulness and ability to achieve under incredible pressure. The Block is a unique concept that sits outside day-to-day reality, but I guess it has taught me the value of careful planning, budgeting and understanding your market.

As a magazine editor, I have learnt that the key is to remain relevant. It’s imperative to move with the times. Embrace the changes and benefits of technology and anticipate the changing needs of your audience.

What was relevant in 2006 is no longer relevant today and will have changed again by 2026. The constant is that people will always want to be inspired, informed and entertained.

What’s your favourite room in a house and why?

Any room that has books, art, photographs and memories. Because that’s where the heart is.

London-born Neale Whitaker may be best known as the stylish judge on Nine’s Logie-winning smash series ‘The Block’, but he also boasts a hugely successful international publishing career. Neale was the former editor of some of the biggest food and style magazines in the world and author of the book The Accidental Foodie. After  8 years as editor-in-chief of Belle magazine Neale emerged in 2014 as the new editor-in-chief for NewsLifeMedia’s Vogue Living and is a columnist for Stellar Magazine which features in in the Sunday Telegraph (NSW), Sunday Herald Sun (VIC) and Sunday Mail (QLD). His extensive knowledge and experience in the lifestyle and food industries have made him a very respected and popular media personality on both sides of the globe. In 2016, Neale will again be sharing his unique insights with more teams of renovators in his 10th series of ‘The Block’.

The Carousel thanks Hi Pages Home Improvement for this article.


By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team


Robyn Foyster is the owner and publisher of the lifestyle websites, and She is the only person to edit and publish Australia's three biggest flagship magazines - The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and New Idea. Robyn was Group Publisher of Bauer Media's most successful and prestigious magazines including Woman's Day, Good Health, Grazia and ran Hearst in Australia including Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan and madison. Voted one of B&T's 30 Most Powerful Women In Media at the Women in Media Awards Robyn was a keynote speaker at Pause 2021, Cebit & J&J Women In Leadership. Robyn was also the winner of the prestigious Magazine Publisher Association’s Editor of the Year award.



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