Changing Rooms is returning to our television screens after a 20-year break and a Novocastrian designer and “rapid renovator” is one of the stars of the show.
You might recognise her – or her mile-a-minute voice. Dr Naomi Findlay loves a chat. And a laugh. The mother of four runs Newcastle business Silk Home Staging & Styling with her husband Andrew, helping property owners “pretty up” their homes before they go to market.
She grew up in Teralba, attended Booragul High School (now Lake Macquarie High) and worked as a radiation therapist before completing a PhD and becoming a full-time lecturer at the University of Newcastle. This smart cookie had a creative itch that needed to be scratched, though, so she completed an online diploma in design – and the rest is history.
“I’ve never looked back. Never,” she tells Weekender.
Findlay is the creator and host of The Reno Show, a digital renovation television series helping people to renovate and buy property. She is also the Founder of NaomiFindlay.com and the International Institute of Home Staging; the author of Ignite Your Property Mojo and Selling Your Property for More Money, and in 2018 created and launched the successful Rapid Reno Mate smartphone app. It helps users to manage their renovation budgets, timelines and trades all in one hub.
The original Changing Rooms made its television debut in 1995 with host Suzie Wilks. Natalie Bassingthwaighte will host the reboot. The quirky renovation show sees two teams, often married couples who are friends, get a limited budget and the help of an interior decorator and tradie to make over a room in their friends’ house.
“Our new show will capture the essence and appeal of the original format and re-energise it, with strong storylines and more kitchen and bathroom reveals, which are proven favourites with Australian viewers,” Network Ten’s chief content officer Beverley McGarvey says.
“Changing Rooms proved that renovation could be more than informative: it could also be full of fun, big characters and tension.”
There are a lot of renovating shows but I’ll give you a tip – they’re nothing like what you guys are going to see.Dr Naomi Findlay
Findlay recalls watching the original series as a teen and says a friend gave her “a nudge” and encouraged her to audition for a designer role on the show.
“She said ‘Naomi, it’s what you do day in and day out – it’s what you live and what you breathe’. So I applied and I was lucky enough to be accepted,” she says.
“There have been lots of TV opportunities for me over the years but I have always been so principle-driven about the renovation and design industry that it needed to be the right show, you know?
“It needed to be real renovations and real budgets and real people and real transformations.
“Changing Rooms was insanely authentic and congruent so it was a no-brainer for me to accept the role. And gosh, it was honestly one of the best six-week periods of my life, and that is a really big call at 43.”
She describes the show as “outrageously hands-on”, which is just the way she likes to operate.
“It’s like no other renovation show I’ve ever seen before, or makeover show, in that I’m literally doing everything. Of course I use licensed tradies for things that you need licensed trades for, like building, electrical, plumbing and tiling, those kinds of things, but the rest of it is hands-on.
“There wasn’t a day that I was not covered in paint or wallpaper glue or concrete cement. But that’s the world that I’ve come from; I am a designer but I’m a very hands-on renovator as well, so I felt very comfortable in that environment.”
The other designers are Tim Leveson, Jane Thomson and Chris Carroll. Each Changing Rooms home transformation is screened over two nights with two teams and two designers racing to finish three rooms in five days with a budget of $20,000.
So, did Findlay dramatically run around the construction sites to emphasise the ticking of the clock? In a word, no.
“I’m a busty lass and I don’t do running. I choose not to run and especially not on camera,” she replies, laughing.
“To to be honest with you, we were so under the pump to get the projects over the line that more often than not I forgot the cameras are there. Maybe I should have been more cautious about how I looked in front of the camera ... we’ll soon see, I suppose.”
She says the show is collaborative rather than competitive. It’s about changing lives.
“These people would never have been able to achieve the transformations on their own and that, for me, was one of the big bonuses of the show – opening people’s eyes to what real people can do with real budgets. None of it is made up. We don’t get piles of free stuff, it’s all real money, real budgets, paying real tradies, and paying for real products.”
Findlay also keeps it real when it comes to her own design philosophy.
“For me, design is nothing without function. I love pretty stuff but for me the ability of a space to function and flow and connect, to nurture a positive way of living and connect the people within it; that is really at my forefront. I am really earthy and authentic in my design.”
Filming finished late last year and Findlay was able to enjoy the summer break with her family, camping and relaxing and generally doing as little as possible. She’s back at work now, though, and extremely excited about the Changing Rooms premiere next week.
She admits, laughing, that it had been difficult to keep her involvement in the show a secret from family and friends.
“It was really hard to keep it quiet because I talk a lot. I had lots of people in my circles going ‘Where are you? What are you up to?’ and I was like ‘I’m just off doing some bits and pieces’. I said that a lot over the six weeks of filming.
“You know what? With everyone coming up to me and talking about the show, I’ve noticed over the past couple of days I am starting to relive that excitement, which is pretty cool. It was a laugh and a hoot, I tell you.
“There are a lot of renovating shows but I’ll give you a tip – they’re nothing like what you guys are going to see.”