Home truths on hard sells
Shaynna Blaze. Picture: Supplied

In the seven years that Selling Houses Australia has been airing on the LifeStyle Channel, 70 houses worth $40 million have been sold, 10,000 litres of paint used, 4000 hours put into landscaping and renovation, and two million cushions fluffed up.

OK, host Andrew Winter exaggerates about the cushions as he introduces the first of two new specials, Inside Selling Houses Australia, but they have become the signature touch of SHA's interior designer Shaynna Blaze.

She laughs when questioned about them during a pause between finishing work on her other major TV commitment - judging on a new series of Nine's The Block - and starting work on the next series of SHA: "I think it is a lovely joke myself."

But she goes on to explain that she uses cushions because they can be bought cheaply and stand out rather than because it is her style to "go over the top" with them.

"With a lot of the makeovers, the budget was ridiculously tiny but you put these impact cushions in and you think, 'Oh my goodness that makes a massive difference'."

Winter even has a select few in his own house at Sanctuary Cove, a ritzy gated community on the Gold Coast. The cameras follow Winter into his home as he plays host to Blaze and the show's landscape gardener Charlie Albone during the specials when they look back on some of the homes they helped sell and some that did not.

But do not expect anything out of place. The Winter house is display-home perfect although the garden could use some of Albone's help.

Winter brought the concept for Selling Houses with him when he moved from the UK to Queensland in 2005 but when LifeStyle launched the Australian version it was expanded to include a designer for both indoors and outdoors. It has been one of LifeStyle's most successful shows and introduced both Blaze and Albone to TV audiences.

The specials look back on some of the more problematic houses the team have tackled, including the one at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast where it took three days - the time usually allocated to the makeover - just to empty the house.

Blaze said homeowners were provided with a skip before the makeovers began and told to throw out what they did not want, but the task was too big for some. "We have had a lot of houses where the owners are in the situation they are for a reason - they can't let everything go," she said.

"I remember one in the series we just did where they had three days to get rid of everything and they said they had been working solidly for two days but they were literally running in circles. They did nothing because they were so overwhelmed by the process of what could happen.

"Sometimes a problem is so big it is better to put your head in the sand than deal with it."

That is where Winter comes in and does his first on-camera walkthrough of the house with the owners. He delivers a lot of home truths and is often very blunt in his criticisms. This process has led to a few people bailing out.

"We have had some people drop out as we have turned up to start work and it has not gone to TV," Blaze said. "Once we looked at the house and we were about to start the next week and the husband literally ran away.

"We have had a lot of meltdowns during the makeovers and it is not nice. Some people walk out and do not come back. They do understand it is for their own good but it does not mean they have to accept it.

"The first day they are excited and grateful, the second day they have had a sleep or they haven't slept at all and they realise, 'Wow this is full on, I don't know if I can handle this', and they get really tense. It is almost like a mourning process. The third day they are exhausted, they have been through the wringer and they are trying to get to the end of the line and we are carrying them, saying come on we can get there."

And they do. A few houses have stretched out to four days but Blaze says the majority really are made over on time.

The West Australian

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