IF there was ever a couple who seemed tailor-made for The Block, it’s Melbourne pair Julia Treuel and Sasha Wright-Neville.
Julia works as a property stylist, while Sasha, an account executive, boasts she’s a whiz when it comes to managing budgets and allocating resources.
And yet, the couple’s first week on the show has been an especially rough landing as they burned through their budget, presented a room to judges that they freely admitted was ‘rubbish’ and squabbled with each other and their builders.
And then there were the tears. Oh boy, the tears. We spoke to the pair to find out just why The Block had taken such an emotional toll, so early in the game.
You two seem naturals for The Block on paper — yet this first week has been a struggle.
Sasha: It is 10,000 times harder than we thought it would be. I knew it’d be hard work, but it was worse than we’d imagined: physically and emotionally draining. We were so excited to be chosen for the show, and we went in thinking ‘We know how to renovate, we know how to style, we can do this.’ On The Block, that all goes out the window. You are under so much pressure to make decisions really quickly. When it’s your own renovation, you don’t do that — you can think about things. On The Block, you’ve got to make big decisions within minutes. And you’ve got to make multiple big decisions at once. And at the same time, you’re so emotionally and physically tired.
Julia: When we’ve done our own renovations, we were really good friends with our builders and we had a really wonderful, collaborative relationship. For us, the tradies proved to be a big issue. So much of our energy went into trying to understand them and a lot of that communication wasn’t reciprocated back to us.
You hated what you’d done with your pod — and then the judges loved it. Do you second-guess yourself when the judges like something you don’t think is up to scratch?
Julia: We thought we’d done such a rubbish job. We had such a great vision for the space, but because of budget constraints that vision just disappeared. We were devastated, but to receive that feedback — I would say it was one of the best days of my life! All the things that didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to, they actually liked.
Sasha: We’re both perfectionists, and if it’s not done perfectly, it’s not done right. We knew we weren’t showing a perfect room, so it wasn’t good enough for us.
Julia: So clearly The Block wasn’t the right place for us, because as if you can get all that stuff right in 48 hours!
Obviously this first week was a struggle. What was the biggest shock about life on The Block?
Julia: We were really surprised by how present the cameras are — it’s a pretty rude shock. They wake you up until 6am and there’s a camera guy there until midnight.
Sash: We usually like to have our downtime, and there is no downtime whatsoever. Even when you’re asleep, you’re thinking about the next day and the next task.
Julia: We thought we’d get help or assistance if we were flagging or struggling with something, but no — no help. I guess that’s what makes TV, right?
Did the lack of privacy get to you? You’re living in a tiny pod on an apartment building roof with four other couples ...
Sasha: You get over it pretty quickly. You’re so desperate to have a shower and get into bed. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, these people are going to see me in my pyjamas without a bra on?’ Pretty soon I was like, ‘whatever.’
You two seemed to have a solid relationship going into this. Did you argue much on the show?
Julia: I think you’d find fewer times that we got along! For the first four weeks we found the experience really overwhelming, and we didn’t deal with the pressure well. We’re both pretty fiery people and there are a lot of arguments, but it’s all in the heat of the moment.
Sasha: I think if your relationship can survive something like The Block, you’re on pretty solid ground.
Given your experience, did you underestimate the other contestants? You’ve got Andy and Ben happily admitting that they’ve barely renovated in their lives before going on the show.
Julia: We definitely thought we’d have one over on contestants like that, so we were shocked. Everyone’s style is so-so different, so it’s almost hard to compete. We didn’t want to put big crazy installations and things into the apartment, because in our experience in order to appeal to a broad market you’ve got to keep things simple. We were always thinking of the buyer, whereas a lot of the other couples were thinking more of that ‘wow’ piece that would impress the judges that particular week. We were up against that, and it was really tough.
Let’s talk about the crying. Based on this week alone, you may be the teariest contestants we’ve seen on a reality TV show for a while.
Sasha: The crying was all from me this week. I think we had about three hours sleep in two days. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that I could not get that bed in that van. It seemed so simple, but it was my breaking point. From that moment forward, every time the producers asked me something, I’d be crying, because I was already emotional and tired. We start to toughen up and find our feet a bit more as it goes on. The funny thing is, I’m not much of a crier!
Julia: It was a matter of finding our sea legs. I know that when I’m tired, I just cry. I always have!
The Block continues 7pm Sunday on Nine.