Is it better than The Block?

01:09, Aug 25 2014
TAFE students Tegan Roberts (left) and Rochelle Gibbs in the kitchen of the Petersham cottage they renovated with two other interior design students.

Four interior design students from Sydney have completed a renovation that makes The Block look like child's play.

With a budget of $AUS60,000 and 14 weeks, their assignment was to transform a rundown cottage in Petersham into a home that could be placed on the rental market.

The property didn't offer a strong start. With cracked walls, no kitchen, an outside toilet and cold fluorescent lighting the students had a monumental task.

The rundown property (pictured before renovation) had been used by TAFE as a support centre for students.

The property was bought by the Department of Education in 1984 for $67,000 and had been used as a support centre for students.

With those services brought into the main campus there was an opportunity to turn the cottage into a money spinner and, at the same time, give Sydney TAFE students a hands-on experience at transforming a property.

"I am really quite passionate about property so [the experience] has given me a lot of confidence to buy and re-do and re-sell," said Rochelle Gibbs, a 21-year-old student from the Designe Centre Enmore.


Fellow student Tegan Findlay, 30, owns a property but has been putting off renovating for years.

"A good thing about the course is you learn the skills to be able to really visualise so many different things for a place," she said.

The team of four, including Georgie Frew and Nicole Vella, were picked for the assignment based on the sympathetic proposal they gave to their interior design teacher Annalisa Capurro.

"We drew a lot of inspiration from really researching the history of the local area," said Ms Gibbs.

The materials, colour palettes and tiling are a nod to the Portuguese community who settled in Petersham after World War II. 

One of the most difficult aspects of the project was the budget. Despite having modest financial backing, the students managed to come in under budget, spending only $55,000.

"The most expensive parts were definitely, like, the groundwork, so things like plumbing," said Ms Gibbs.

"You sort of felt like you were on The Block."

The difference being, in the current series of The Block - The Block Glasshouse - contestants have a budget of $100,000 and, according to host Scott Cam, there are "over 100 guys on site every day".

The four interior design students had the occasional helping hand from other TAFE students who specialised in painting, decorating and tiling, as well as a project manager. Where necessary they hired contractors. 

Students undertaking an associate diploma in property valuations at Ultimo TAFE were brought in to value the completed three-bedroom, two-bathroom home.

Their teacher, Rod de la Harpe, said the property would be worth between $950,000 and $1.1 million.

In May this year a fully renovated cottage a few doors along sold for $1.08 million.

But TAFE has no plans to sell the property. The house at 85 Margaret Street has hit the rental market with a weekly rent of $750.

But Ms Capurro said the most valuable aspect of the project was not the rental return.

"It has been a fantastic experience," she said.

"Most of the stuff that students do is hypothetical, this is real life."

Sydney Morning Herald