What’s the gap between reality, and reality television when building or renovating?
Our TV screens are flooded with reality programs about homes – building homes, designing homes, buying homes, renovating homes, moving homes, selling homes. All making it look very easy and do-able for anyone.
It completely bugs me. Shouting-at-the-TV kind of frustration. Not pretty (hence I don’t watch a lot of it).
This is because building, buying, selling and renovating can be challenging – particularly when added to already busy and full lives. Construction sites are messy, it’s a big investment that inevitably brings stress, and decisions and choices need to be made in a timely manner to keep things progressing. The magic of TV does show some of this experience, but condenses it into a half-hour timeslot across a few weeks of viewing – a sprint. More often than not, it’s more like a marathon, and so requires some endurance, patience, tenacity and a good sense of humour to thrive in it.
One of these programs, Channel 7’s “House Rules”, is a little different. I’ll be honest – I don’t mind this one. For two reasons:
– the first being that every contestant is a winner. Even if they don’t win the series, they still walk away with a considerably renovated home.
– the second is that contestants have to work to a brief set by the owners, and then are judged on their delivery of that brief. Yes, they’re also judged on the quality of their workmanship, the aesthetics of their concept, and how well-designed their outcome is. However, their work is also assessed against the original brief, and the integrity of their interpretation is scored.
What is a brief?
Well, literally, it’s a set of instructions.
However, in the world of architecture and building, it is much more than that.
- It is the communication platform from which the project is launched.
- It sets the vision for the project – both broadly and in detail
- It provides a check-and-balance point throughout the project’s progress.
- It is an incredibly important communication tool and as such, it should always be written out, understood and agreed upon by all involved in creating and building the project.
So many times I’ve seen things go wrong because the brief didn’t properly capture what the client actually wanted. It wasn’t clearly articulated at that point, and has then caused problems later.
Or alternatively, the brief has been fine, but the delivery of it does not capitalise on the opportunities, and misses the boat in providing an outcome truly capturing what the brief required.
When this brief is clearly determined at the outset of the project, understood by all involved and then delivered on – well, that’s when true magic happens!
Briefs can change, flex and flow – it’s just important that they’re used as an effective communication tool by all to keep on track with the vision that is to be achieved for the project.
The judgement – “House Rules” Style
In “House Rules”, the brief was always simplified to 5 points.
In one challenge, all contestants were involved in the renovation of a stranger’s unit. Maddie and Lloyd, the Queensland couple, were charged with Maria’s unit. An Italian lady, her ‘style’ request was expressed as a “modern, rustic Italian styled home”.
If you wish to refresh your memory, watch Maddie and Lloyd’s rundown on their work here:
What I found was interesting was the following:
- They never really got a handle (or really tried to) on what “modern, rustic Italian-styled home” meant from the owner’s point of view;
- The owner was ecstatic with the renovations, and very complimentary of the result;
- The judges criticised their design and scored them poorly because they had not delivered on the brief.
At first I was surprised, and then I was full of admiration. What the judges had done (and given me a very good reminder of) was this: The client was happy because she’s ended up with a newly renovated unit – compared to what she had, it was a massive improvement. But the judges knew what was missing – THE UNREALISED POTENTIAL.
Near enough is good enough
There is a gap that can occur in the design process between “that’ll be good enough” and “that’s the most well-designed outcome”. This is where unrealised potential lies. And if “good enough” is dramatically better than the recipient’s original position, then they’ll still be happy. Ecstatic even.
I think this is at the core of the epidemic we currently face with the way Australian homes are built. The “that’ll be good enough” approach.
What if “the most well-designed outcome” had been the result instead? What if those charged with delivering on the brief did their darnedest to make it happen?
What if they used their experience and expertise to interpret the inherent meaning and significance in the brief – and how it was going to help people live in their new home – and realised it to its greatest capacity? That is – fully realised the potential?
Maddie and Lloyd interpreted “modern, rustic, Italian-styled” as some terracotta paint, some artificial fruit, some recycled furniture, a vertical herb garden and a large crucifix. Understanding that they were working to a budget, and under a very tight timeframe, these things are all fairly two-dimensional elements – applied and not inherently part of the interior space, and its feeling and quality.
What if, instead, they had thought about the colours and materials of Italian countryside?
The word “rustic” actually refers to something being simply made, or of the country. The natural pale stones. The solid timbers. The textures and tactility of organic materials. This could then be counterpointed with much cleaner lines of modern, contemporary design. Google “modern, rustic, Italian-styled” images and you’ll see there’s not much in the way of terracotta, crucifixes or plastic fruit.
Yes, Maria was happy. But how was she to know what was possible? And why should she miss out on what’s in between what she got, and what was possible? After all, it’s her home. Where she lives – EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
So tell me, is the home you’re creating actually realising the full potential of your brief?
Or is near enough, good enough?
Don’t you deserve better than that?