Southpoint Teaser Masthead

Five minutes with Darren Palmer

Sarah Nolen

You may know Darren Palmer as a judge from the TV series The Block. But he’s also one very talented interior designer. An interior designer herself, Sarah Nolen chats with Darren about his new book, Easy Luxury, and discovers some styling secrets herself.

Sarah: You talk about architectural interest in a home…“If you’re standing in your home, I’m sure you won’t necessarily realise you are suffering from lack of architectural interest.”

I’m sure you’ve come across clients that despite the great ideas and new way of living you’re showing them could be achieved, that they still simply cannot see past their immediate surroundings of their home to be able envision the further potential.  What do you do with this type of client?

Darren: I don’t have this problem anymore. My clients know that there’s something wrong. And they know that I’ll know better than them. But at the beginning and even now you still need to earn the trust of someone. You need to show evidence-based design solutions. If it’s just a hypothesis or just an opinion it can be rebutted. But if you go to someone and say, ‘look this is the problem, this is the evidence of the problem and this is what the solution will look and feel like, and does this solution look better than your solution in your mind?’, they will generally trust you.

People do have idea of what they think a solution is but that’s why they hire people like you or I because we don’t think the way they do. We see things in another way and will almost always find a solution that they would have never thought of.

Sarah: One of the biggest misconceptions that I personally continue to hear is that if you have dark floors or dark walls it will enclose the space. I think if done correctly it can have quite the opposite effect.

You go on to explain that instead we now have the opportunity to create something sensual and moody. And my favourite quote in the book is “Let’s just play it safe and do something that won’t offend. Well, that’s a good safe response and will garner you a good safe result. Amazing results, wow factor and true luxury appeal do not sit within the safe spectrum”.

In your experience what sells better at the time of a home resale—sensual & moody or an all-white colour scheme?

Darren:  There’s a reason why all project homes have an all-white colour scheme. I’ve just done a development in Melbourne and there is a lot of white in that. Because there is no particular client in mind so you can’t read somebody’s personality and deliver what’s right for them. That’s why project homes and developments play the safe card because you can’t predict the market so you need to be broader.

This is definitely not the case if you’re doing your own home and I think it is pure madness if you do your home with the view that in five years you’re going to sell it and you’re worried about what that person is going to want. You’ll never know what they’re going to want, there’s no point compromising on your personal experience in your home just because someone might pay an extra $10,000.

That said when doing your place you need to think about the things that will sell. That means looking at styles that are appropriate to the style of home you’re in and the existing architecture and period of your home. Doing things that are moderate and consistent with what people are responding to in the market. That’s really important and that doesn’t mean that everything has to be white and sterile. That would hopefully work against you; people fall in love with houses that have character in them. They don’t fall in love with places that are sterile and cold.

Sarah: A good example would be what we see on The Block. You never see all white. It’s all about textures, and layering, using moody colours to create emotions and attachment. And obviously they sell every time. 

Darren:  We bang on about that too and the reason why is because The Block is an auction show and if you have one person at an auction who has made a critical decision based on numbers then your auction result will be the most moderate version that they could possibly manage. If, however you have three emotionally involved buyers who definitely want to own that house as their home, then you have a fight on your hands.

You’ll have a heated auction where people get emotionally invested and their heart takes over, that’s when they spend more money than they should. Which is what you want as a seller.

Sarah: What is your attitude when you take on a new interior project for a client—do you have a dollar amount calculating in your head or do you put that aside? Is your attitude the same for someone who only has $50,000 to spend to that of someone who has $500,000 to spend?

Darren:  Because I am so time poor now, I don’t and can’t take on the $50,000 jobs. What I need to do now is spend my time in the things that have the biggest impact on my work and on my finances. As you get to play with a little more budget you get to do some more interesting things in terms of finishes and inclusions. That’s where I’m at now but it hasn’t always been like that. I have had all sorts of different projects on varying budget levels. From one lounge room design, styling something for sale or doing a couple of bathrooms. And when I approach them I always approach them exactly the same.

It’s about understanding the clients’ wants and needs; it’s about how the space is to function and then drill down to the aesthetics and mood.

Sarah: Easy Luxury covers just about everything to do with interiors. What prompted you to share all of your secrets, which I’m sure would have taken years in the making to accumulate?

Darren:  I want to help people. I want them to understand that design isn’t just for people that are wealthy. Just because they can’t afford me to design the interior of their house doesn’t mean they can’t have information on how to approach it. As I say it’s only my time that won’t allow me to do some things I used to be able to do.

There is still a desire for people to engage me for design, I get asked about it all of the time. And so I thought, well how do I help? What do I do so I can inform people and inspire them? Give them the foundations so that they can interpret what design means to them so they can then do something that is perfect and appropriate for the way they live. That is the desire behind the book and I think I achieved it.

Sarah: Well Darren, you’ve created a brilliant book filled with information that only people in the industry would know about. It’s really like a step-by-step guide that anyone could pick up and they’re ready to renovate.

Darren:  That was my intention; I just wanted people to be able to feel like they have confidence to create things their own way and to understand why things work. I see the same mistakes time and time again, people are either too afraid to make a bold decision because they think they’re going to make a mistake or they simply don’t know what to do and they get paralysed with choice. Or on the other hand they buy things that they like and they shove them all in their house and nothing works with each other because they bought a whole bunch of different things. Individually the pieces are nice but together they are awful.

And so I wanted to inform people of what the principles are, let them know processes that work. Then give them the information so that anyone who can afford a $39.99 book can make their house look as beautiful as they can on the budget that they’ve got.

Want to meet Darren?

Darren will host an exclusive home inspiration event at the Southern Innovations showroom in Fyshwick on Thursday 19 March, where guests can get up close and personal with him AND have the chance to win $2,000 worth of free products for their bathroom, kitchen or laundry!

This event is free, but it is a ticketed event and places are strictly limited. Register online at

Darren will be answering a selection of readers’ questions at the event – for a chance to get a tailored response to YOUR decorating dilemma, simply leave a comment below or drop us a line at [email protected]!

the essentials

What:            An exclusive home renovation event with Darren Palmer
When:           6pm, Thursday 19 March 2015
Where:          Southern Innovations’ showroom, 21 Lyell Street, Fyshwick
How much: Free

Sarah Nolen

Growing up in Canberra, interior designer with BIRDBLACK Design, Sarah enjoys nothing more than having people put their trust in her to transform their homes from drab cluttered boxes into beautiful masterpieces. She is a true believer in what you get is what you pay for. Constantly on the lookout for new trends and innovations she could never get bored with what she does. Find her at More about the Author

CC Home Stories Leaderboard