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How The Block’s Deb and Andy surprised this rugby legend with a home makeover in four hours

This year has affected us all in different ways. For the captain of the Women’s Sevens rugby team, Shannon Parry, that meant supporting her team through cancelled tournaments like the Olympics and Sydney Sevens, and dealing with the knock-on effect to motivation and performance—all while being separated from her family in Queensland.

A selfless and giving individual, Shannon’s the type who dreamed of growing up to be a role model to others. And it’s safe to say that after trailblazing in women’s rugby—most notably leading her team to win Australia’s first ever Gold Medal in Rugby at the Rio Olympics—she’s achieved that goal. Shannon is considered one of the most respected players in the game.

Women’s Sevens Captain, Shannon Parry.
Photo Credit: @shan_parry

As someone who spends her days helping people feel at home—in themselves and as a part of a team—it’s only right that Shannon’s own home be a space to recharge and return to self. But the apartment she shares with player Rhiannon Byers isn’t exactly a sanctuary.

Here at Koala, we believe comfort is a state of mind—something that permeates beyond the homes we live in. So when teammate Dominique Du Toit nominated Shannon for a complete transformation of her apartment, we couldn’t help but take things a little further.

“It’s a little dark and a little dated,” Dom politely explains.

Wanting to keep things a surprise, we had just four hours for the whole refresh, so enlisted design duo and former Block stars, the excellent Andy and Deb, to help kick things into gear.

Design Duo, Deb and Andy.
Photo Credit: @andyanddeb

Not only are Andy and Deb used to working under a time crunch, but their own daughter, Leilanie, loves playing Women’s Rugby, so they understand the stress and missed opportunities athletes have been dealing with this year due to the pandemic. 

“This was an opportunity to help Shannon, who has always selflessly helped others. As the captain of the team, she looks after everyone else so we wanted to look after her, too,” they explain.

Armed with Koala furniture, it was no sweat for these two talented pros. 


Surprise Home Makeover with The Block’s Deb and Andy

Here are Andy and Deb’s tips on how they transformed the apartment.

#1 Map out the space (and how you’ll get to it)

Any good surprise (or makeover) needs a solid plan.

“The first thing we look at is room layout,” says Deb. “You need to consider how the space is used and by how many people. Then you can organise your furniture to suit.” 

This includes making sure there is enough room for your main activities, such as lounging, dining and (now more than ever) working comfortably from home. 

But it also means measuring access to your home via stairwells and elevators (take note, apartment dwellers) — “bulky furniture can be challenging to move when working on the top floor and negotiating narrow staircases,” explains Andy and Deb.

A clever way to avoid this stress altogether is by using flat-pack, no-tool assembly pieces that can easily pass by those tight corners and save oodles of time.

In fact, this is a big part of why Andy and Deb blitzed this four-hour challenge on Shannon’s top floor apartment.

“We thought getting it done would be harder, to be completely honest,” says Andy. “We are pretty used to working under pressure after tackling the biggest Block ever so we were ready for the challenge… but the furniture was easy to manoeuvre, assemble and place.”

#2 Know who you’re designing for and why 

Now you can start focusing on decor elements that help create an aesthetic. Think colours, soft furnishings and styling. For Shannon’s home, Andy and Deb’s main focus was to “lighten and brighten the apartment and use furniture that was sturdy, functional and that looked good, too.” 

The pair also wanted to inject some of Shannon’s personality into her apartment, which they did by using colour (which she loves), framing meaningful photographs, displaying her Olympic gold medal and incorporating artwork and plants.

But knowing who you’re designing for also involves considering how they live their life, including the demands they might deal with day-to-day. For a professional athlete for example, sleep is the foundation for high performance.

“Athletes need to sleep soundly, so the choices here were really important,” explains Deb. “We were very considered in our choices of bedding and mattresses, replacing both Shannon and Rhiannon’s beds, mattresses and bedding with Koala products.”

The award-winning Koala mattress has a unique, breathable design blending comfort and support that equals deep, restful snoozing. 

#3 Maximise space with multifunctional items

A home refresh is an opportunity to incorporate items that look good and serve more than one purpose. An absolute no-brainer for smaller spaces or apartments, a great example of a multifunctional piece is a space-conscious design with storage. 

“We swapped Shannon’s old, large desk over and made it into their dining table, replacing it with the streamlined Koala desk. This freed up some space and instantly created a more balanced, spacious look. Plus, we love how the desk has built-in hooks to hang headphones and other items.”

#4 Make clever design choices in smaller homes

Andy and Deb use the Koala bookshelf as storage in both Shannon’s living room and bedroom. Another award-winner, this piece comes in different heights and widths so you can utilise what you’ve got—and capitalising on vertical space in smaller homes is always a smart move.

Choosing neutral colours for specific items is also a big tick. Andy and Deb selected neutral tones for furniture and investment items like the couch, saving bolder colours for the artwork and soft furnishings. This bodes well for the longevity of your furniture, as a neutral palette will suit many homes and serves as a base for endless design themes, allowing you the freedom to change up the styling in the future.

Another clever trick to create the illusion of spaciousness is to hide away unnecessary visual clutter, while being discerning about what you do want to display. This means finding furniture that hides unsightly cables, cords and plugs (like this TV unit or beside table). Then you can carefully group plants, curios and meaningful items to showcase your personality on shelves. More tips on that here

A comfortable and happy habitat makes life a little easier

Of course, Shannon and Rhiannon were over the moon with their new digs. “This is amazing, this is the works!,” Shannon exclaims.

Andy and Deb know that the players have what it takes to make it through any rough trot, as it takes a certain level of mental and physical strength to perform at this level of Women’s Rugby.  

“They will support each other and they have what it takes to keep pushing through challenging times,” the couple explain. “With all that said though, it’s so nice for them to come home each day to a house that is comfortable, functional and beautiful.”

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