It goes without saying that proud Gisbornites ("Gizzy hard!") Amy Moore and Stu Watts – winners of this year's The Block NZ– will be spending Christmas in their favourite place: their personal slice of heaven right across from the beach in their home city.
After a massive year – which included spending 12 gruelling weeks away from home as they competed on the TV show to transform a brand new townhouse in Hobsonville, Auckland, into a dream home – the couple are looking forward to some downtime and bringing their family together to celebrate Christmas.
"We are not traditionally super-Christmassy but we love to get together for food and drinks and enjoy the company of anyone and everyone," says Amy. "For us, Christmas is about the kids. We just have our fingers crossed that it'll be a cracking Gizzy summer's day."
On 25 December, you'll find the blended family (Amy has a daughter, Nina, 13, and Stu has two children, Flynn, 13, and Zoe, 11) chilling out with family, friends and no shortage of food. "There's always a ham," says Amy. "My Dad usually does pork on the Weber and there are salads and lots of sweets, including Mum's famous brandy and chocolate ice cream."
On The Block, Amy's styling prowess stood out from day one, but she takes a more laidback approach when it comes to decorating for the festive season. "I love Christmas lights and am a big fan of the things the kids make to hang on the tree, but that's about as far as it goes – a few fairy lights and sometimes a little tree decorated haphazardly with homemade decorations is about the extent of it," she says.
At some point during their relaxed celebrations, you can bet Amy and Stu will raise a glass of bubbles (actually, make that a beer for Stu) to toast the year that's been – and their win on The Block which saw them scoop $169,500 and a new car.
"It was such a cool experience. Being on The Block was a total rollercoaster of emotions with the highest highs and the lowest lows. It has definitely strengthened our relationship and made us appreciate the amazing city we both come from even more than we already did," Amy says.
The pair had separate reasons for entering the reality show: Amy wanted to put her love for interior design and styling into practice and "Stu just wanted to be on telly and be famous!".
They struggled a bit with the social media trolls – "I honestly think some people thought we were just characters on a TV show and not real people with the ability to read. That was really hard, for me especially," says Amy, but they found the experience brought them closer. "It reinforced our strengths as a team. We both worked to our individual strengths, which I think was the key. We have both done a bit of reno and DIY but never together."
The home the couple share was taken through a major renovation by Amy before she and Stu moved in together. It had been a small, two-bedroom 1970s bach belonging to Amy's family, occupying the back of a large section overlooking the beach – "Potential plus," says Amy.
She redesigned it with the help of a local architect, keeping the existing roofline but changing pretty much everything else, and got stuck into the makeover in the middle of last year. Turning it from a beach shack into a four-bedroom home with a self-contained studio downstairs (which they rent out on Airbnb) and a brand-new double garage entailed an almost complete rebuild.
"Following the reno, Stu and I thought it was a good time to combine forces and families and start the journey of living together as a blended family. We have never looked back," she says.
To reflect their seaside environment, Amy used plenty of natural materials in the build – such as plywood and wooden floors – as well as concrete, which she softened by adding textured accessories in muted, earthy colours: yellow, burnt orange, emerald. Cane and wicker are particular favourites and feature in lightshades, stools, chairs, planters and outdoor furniture.
Amy says there's no easy way to describe her decor style. "It's a little unique. Maybe old-meets-new, a bit of boho, urban jungle and lots of warmth. I'm not a fan of cold colours and spaces. I love nice linen, my bits of taxidermy, and our quirky collection of cushions."
When you visit their amazing home, it's easy to see why the couple love living in Gisborne. They're making the most of all the city offers, with the kids swimming and surfing all summer long while Amy and Stu watch from the deck of their low-slung house which sits right on Wainui Beach.
"One thing that was a must when we rebuilt was a toilet in our garage for sandy, wet children to use," Amy laughs.
The couple relish being in their own space and having a home that makes entertaining easy. "We have a pretty much open-door policy and live in a community where it's still okay for kids to ride their bikes around and play cricket on the beach until dark," she says.
Unlike The Block, where value is added to a home for a quick sale, there are no plans to sell this beachside beauty. "We'll be staying for ever," Amy says emphatically. But there is change in the wind: their TV success has encouraged Amy to look at new ways to enrich her work life.
After 20 years as a beauty therapist, she's hung up her wax strips and started an interior design and styling business in Gisborne, renting office space in her friend's homeware shop, kō.
"I feel like I have so much more to give," Amy says. "I'm excited to be able to turn my Block experience and passion for design into a business and can't wait to help others with their interior projects."
Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Florence Charvin.
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