The Dharma Door Jumbo Tassel Wall Hanging recently made its first television appearance. Eagle-eyed viewers of the The Block 2019 spotted the mainstay of our collection during Deb and Andy Saunder's epic dining and living room reveal. The couple – who quickly garnered a following for their comedic and harmonious approach to life and work – positioned the bold, textured wall hanging on a large, white wall in the heart of their St Kilda apartment. It formed a fitting part of the joint kitchen, living and dining room space by adding natural tone and texture to the light, bright space.
These same design elements form the basis of Deb's decorative choices at home, as well as at The Shed Luxe - the gifts and homewares store she runs with her sisters in Taree on the NSW Mid North Coast. It is in both of these locations that Deb enjoys other items from The Dharma Door collection. So we recently took some time to learn a little more about her life away from The Block as well as her approach to creating the soothing spaces that earned her so much praise throughout the show's season.
Australian TV audiences were introduced to you and your husband Andy this August as your commenced work on the 2019 season of The Block. What drew you to the challenge and what have been the highlights of the experience thus far?
I’ve always loved watching the Block and a few years ago I asked Andy if he would like to go on it with me. He said no. Last year, when I spotted the casting call for the 2019 series, I asked Andy again: he said no! A while later he came to me and asked if I still wanted to do The Block. I responded by telling him I thought the applications had closed. He googled it and said “there’s still 40 minutes to go,” like that was a good thing! We quickly filmed a clip, filled out the application and sent it off with just minutes to spare. We were then called in to the auditioning process and made it through.
The highlights would have to be the confidence gained from participating. You have to be ready for absolutely anything on The Block. It is very different to what I thought it would be and a thousand times harder than it looks on TV. You are put right outside of your comfort zone over and over again and you have to think on your feet.
Design decisions are made at lightning speed whilst you have producers, sound and camera people and tradies everywhere. You are pulled in every direction. You can’t be shy, precious or afraid to speak up. It’s sink or swim. You can absolutely love it and hate it all in the same moment.
We have also done lots of radio, live TV interviews and public speaking after The Block. This has been great for me as it was not something I had done before and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge.
You are the proud co-owner of The Shed Luxe - a fashion and homewares store you run with your sisters on the mid north coast - as well as a serial renovator. How do you describe your style?
I love our little store and it’s so lovely to run it with my sisters. The style I love is natural with soft palettes and beautiful raw timbers. It has to have a sense of peace and luxury. I love layers and textures. The Dharma Door is a favourite of mine because it’s beautifully textured and natural, so fits in with what I love.
What drew you to working with interiors and what are the common elements that run through all of these ventures?
It is my passion. From when I was tiny, I used to love to rearrange my bedroom and was often painting furniture and walls and changing door handles. My parents encouraged my creativity, even when my ideas were a bit out there.
I think the common element that connects all of my ventures is beautiful light-filled and balanced spaces that are soothing to be in. I love neutral earthy palettes that can be changed by adding a splash of colour. I’ve always felt there is beauty in simplicity and love taking cues from nature for colour and texture.
Share a little about The Shed Luxe. How do you describe the store to others?
It’s a meeting place. Our customers are beautiful and the vibe is great. People come for a shop and usually stay for a chat - sometimes a cuppa. We have a range of natural, handmade products and sell everything from furniture to candles, soap, homewares, children’s toys and adults and children’s clothing.
We have carefully researched and sourced all of our products, so our range is very unique to us. We have wonderful suppliers who are creative, clever and thoughtful and many use sustainable practices. People say they can smell the beautiful candles and soaps and hear the laughter from our store before they even enter. It’s a fun place.
Items from The Dharma Door collection are available at The Shed Luxe. You have also chosen The Dharma Door wall hangings to decorate both your home and your living room at The Block. Can you tell us what it is that you appreciate about each item?
I absolutely love that The Dharma Door works with artisans around the world to produce fair trade, handmade and really beautiful, timeless pieces.
The Jumbo Tassel Wall Hanging I chose for our Block living room worked so well with the indigenous artwork by Miimi and Jiinda. The ceilings in our Block house were really high and the wall in the dining and living area was very long so I needed something large that didn’t overpower the space.
The Jumbo Tassel was the perfect choice. I have the Tala Wall Hanging in my own house; it’s layers of palm leaves look right at home in our little pool shed, giving it a tropical but natural look.
Why do you think they work so well alongside other selections? Why do they work well in interiors generally?
They work well in my Block house because they complimented my other selections. We have a natural, textural palette and everything was carefully chosen to work together. The wall hangings subtly pick up some of the colours in the artwork and it all ties together with everything from the furnishings to the floors for a very cohesive look.
They could work in many spaces because they are versatile but also the selection is great. There is something in a size, colour and shape that will suit just about any room. I also hang your bags decoratively on my walls at home as I love how they look and they are in easy reach for when I pop out shopping.
Tell us a little more about the living room on The Block, where The Dharma Door Jumbo Tassel wall hanging featured in the stunning living space you created. What were your intentions for the space?
We were the middle house in a row of five terraces. The first time we saw the space that would become our kitchen, living and dining room it had dirt floors and walls that were falling down. It was very, very dark.
To visualise what that space would become was very difficult but I knew it had to be soft, light-filled and open to overcome the issue of darkness. We created an 11 metre void above our kitchen that let light in through six skylights. We chose light coloured raw oak floorboards and kept our walls and furnishings light.
We added texture and colour through cushions, furniture, artwork and the Jumbo Tassel Wall Hanging. We love what we created and people are amazed at how light-filled the space is. We are also amazed that we created those spaces under such pressure and in the crazy Block time frames!
The kitchen is often described as the heart of the home. And family and culture are obviously at the heart of everything you do. How does this influence your approach to design and decoration? What are your secrets for creating a happy, nourishing home?
The kitchen is one of our favourite places to be when we are at home. We have four kids and we share lots of laughter and stories, cook and eat together in our kitchen. Family is the most important thing to us and we are very proud of our indigenous heritage. It influences our design and decoration in that we create spaces to share, to create memories and to be lived in.
In our home we want to foster a sense of belonging, love and to be able to use our space however we wish to. We need things to work and stand up to the wear and tear of being a large busy family so choosing good quality fixtures and fittings is at the top of our list.
Finally, if you could offer one piece of decorating or designing advice to others, what would it be?
Keep your spaces cohesive by considering some of the smaller details that once your home is finished will make a big impact overall. For example in our block house we wanted to use gold taps so we kept a close eye on all of the metal we used throughout the house from door handles, handles on cabinets, door stops, hinges and tap ware. We kept them all in the same gold. This allows your eye to flow - it looks seamless and not busy.
The Block images courtesy of Channel Nine
Deb's home photographed by James Cause
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