Meet Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, the internationally renowned interior design experts spicing up the second season of Reno Rumble.
The Channel Nine series, which returned for its second season this week, sees six couples renovating two houses every week for their chance to win $100,000.
Eight struggling home-owners were chosen to receive the renovations this year; among them are families who have endured tragedy and some who have dedicated themselves to bettering the lives of others.
This year, Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan will bring their brutally honest opinions to the show, judging the contestants’ work. We spoke to the pair about the series, what they expect from the contestants, and their love of design.
What are you expecting from the contestants?
Colin: We’re expecting honesty and looking for something we haven’t seen before. As a designer you have to include their [the clients’] lives. It’s not about ripping everything out and starting again, it’s about sifting through and re-inventing. You really have to take on board who people are; look at their experiences, the things they have at home, and their style of property, the space they live in and create something from there.
It is a competition show and someone wants to win but the contestants are renovating two homes a week that are the homes of very deserving people, people who have been through terrible things in life, and a new house would really make a huge difference. It’s surprising that the contestants can actually put the competition to one side, because you become so involved in the story of the people who live in the houses — you’re not in a studio painting blank boxes. Everyone takes it seriously and that makes the show so much better. It’s not about carpets and curtains, it’s genuinely a show about hearts and minds and we’re all about decor that makes your heart beat.
Styling is not about having the latest colours or outdoing your neighbours, it’s all about being true to yourself and being honest and giving yourself something that is totally you.
It’s no secret you love to voice your opinions. How would you describe your judging style?
Justin: They call us the “say anything Scots” because we have no qualms whatsoever about delivering our verdict as we see fit. However, we are very realistic and practical. We don’t just say “this is crap”, we give advice and solutions on how things could be done better.
We draw our honest appraisal from our 20 years on television, having transformed many homes and been responsible for the design of squillions of homes across various countries, we tell it like it is and we’re not afraid to open our mouths and explain. We’re practical, though.
If people think we scare, it’s because we care. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s tough love.
Colin: Reno Rumble is different to other reno shows, where the judges come in and give the critique to the host and let the host give it to the contestants. We actually wanted to be with the contestants and be like their mentors. We want them to be able to answer back and say “I don’t agree” or “this is why I’ve done this”. This way you get more information and more out of the program.
What will you be looking for, style-wise?
Colin: We will be looking for them to fulfil the brief. You’re in someone’s home so you have to appreciate who that person is and ask them what they want before you add any design.
We’re also looking for efficiency — a good design in a home should be like the iPod of design, everything should be at your finger tips and be able to function in that space. Then after that you can add the beauty to the practical.
We all work hard and we’ve all got stresses in life and your home doesn’t have to be perfectly styled or clinical-like, it just has to be personal and beautiful to you and something you’re proud of.
What are some of your top styling tips?
Justin: Just look around your home and be really honest about the things you like and the things you no longer like. From this, make a collection of the components you really want to keep in your home and get rid of everything else, whether you swap it with friends or sell it online. You want to make sure everything in your home is something you can use and love.
The next stage is understanding the direction you want to go in. Look at the elements of the style, architecture or street style that you like and use them in limited applications, because if you go overboard with a particular styling direction it will just suffocate your look.
Colin: It is good to remove the things you don’t like any more. We all move into our first homes and you get your grandmother’s sofa because you need something to sit on, but you don’t need to sit on it for 10 years.
A big one is do some research. Knowledge is power so watch shows, get magazines, look online and find rooms you like and ask who you want to be.
If you’re on a budget it could be as simple as changing the orientation of the room. Swap the room over using things you already have and create different shapes and space. Imagine taking a home selfie — when you take a selfie you take it so you’re well lit, your jaw looks good, your eyes are shining. Go around to each wall in your house and imagine if you were taking a picture for Instagram and ask what it’s going to look like. It’s also got to be functional.
What are the biggest no no’s of styling?
Justin: Don’t go over budget, you have to work within a budget. If you go overboard you’ll completely suffocate.
We’ve always said that good home design is a result of good shopping. Build a list so you know what you are going to get. Places like auction sites, thrift stores, op shops, all of those aspects are great in saving money, too.
What got you hooked on interior design?
Colin: When Justin and I first looked at properties we wanted to have a bigger house in a better part of town, but we couldn’t afford it so we bought small, we bought tired and transformed it and made a profit. Our background as print journalists — where we would interview some of the biggest designers in the world and some of the people who really set the biggest styles on the planet — really got us thinking.
We have huge aspirations but we know how to bring it in on budget at the same time.
What does your home look like?
Colin: We’re Glaswegian, first and foremost, and we have an amazing house in Glasgow built in 1835 and it’s over 5 floors. It was offices in the ’50s and ’60s and was very run down and we restored it. You really have to listen to the architecture and we’ve put in a lot of the old Glaswegian features, but our furniture and lighting is ultra modern — so you embrace the past, but at the same time create your future.
If you’re a home owner you have to ask yourself certain questions like, “What style of house do we have?” and “When and what time do we use each room?” Then you will know whether you need to add more light or make it cosier and so on.
In Australia, light is so important. It’s weird, though, you go to some of the older homes and they have really small windows. The weather hasn’t changed; there’s sunshine and blue skies, so why haven’t they embraced that? Anything you an do to connect with the outside is a good thing.
Being up with the latest trends and styles, do you feel like you have to update your own home regularly to keep with the times?
Justin: No, because what we do is create seasonally adjustable backdrops. We tend to steer away from dramatic and overt power statements like wall paper and bright colours. We go for clean neutral backdrops which we can then easily insert and add new season attire and changes, like textual paint, layers and rugs.
Colin: It’s like fashion; you wouldn’t clear out your wardrobe every time you go to a catwalk show, you’d be aware of new trends, colours and styles and then you may pick a few things from that.
That’s the great thing about your own home, is that it shouldn’t be static. If your aware of the fashions and keep up with the times and change things as they appeal to you, it keeps your interest level up there and it’ll be personal to you.
What popular interior design trends have you noticed in Australia?
Colin: Things that were grungy in the past are now hipster. It’s that relaxed hipster vibe that you get in cafes and restaurants where it’s all about quality and not being overly fancy. It’s quite a nice way to be. It’s about creativity and not about expense. Why not look to commercial spaces for inspiration in the home?
Reno Rumble is on tonight at 7:30pm on Channel Nine.