In case you missed it, Sydney couple Steph and Gian won The Block. With flying colours. The pair sold their Japandi-style home to entrepreneur Adrian Portelli for $5 million, walking away with a record-breaking profit of $1.65 million plus $100,000 in prize money. It’s a reality the couple still haven’t fully processed. “I think you could tell from our faces were like, ‘Wait, what?’” says Gian, adding, “In a split second, Adrian Portelli literally changed our lives.”
The couple’s home was the first to go under the hammer. If you’re a longtime Block fan, you’ll know auction order is everything, and going first is a risky move. In 2021, Ronnie and Georgia’s house was auctioned off first and received a dismal result. Same story for Mitch and Mark’s Oslo townhouse in 2019. Despite this, Steph and Gian were brave, and went first anyway. “We just wanted to set everyone up in the best way we could,” says Steph. “But at the end of the day, all we could control was our own journey. And I think you saw that the whole way with us, we were always very focussed.”
Home Beautiful sat down with the couple to discuss all the emotions of auction night, the record-breaking home they built, their advice for future Block contestants, what they’re going to do with all that prize money and their exciting plans for the future.
Steph and Gian’s auction went well, but not everyone walked away with record-breaking results. Eliza and Liberty, who came second, made a profit of $1.05 million. Kyle and Leslie, in third place, made $130,000. Next were Kristy and Brett, who earned $65,000. Leah and Ash’s house passed in.
So what was it like to be so successful in a room where the auction results were so varied? “It was gut-wrenching for us,” says Steph. “It just doesn’t feel right being able to celebrate without your peers. It was a very, very difficult situation to be in.”
“When the other auctions happened the way they did, we were a bit numb, because in our minds, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go,” says Gian.
It wasn’t until Steph and Gian’s family and close friends (who had made the trek to Hampton East to watch the auction) began celebrating that the reality started to sink in. “They were over the moon,” says Gian. “Our family brought things back to basics and were just like ‘You’ve just won The Block and you’ve broken a record!’ They really helped us understand how special it was.”
One of the most incredible aspects of The Block is that contestants can look back and see their entire journey – blood, sweat and tears – in built form. When Steph walks through their Japandi-style home now, she says “It’s just calming.”
It’s a far cry from the pair’s first few weeks on The Block, which saw them come last in the house decider challenge and make the difficult decision to let go of not one, but two different builders. “We went through the hard times early,” recalls Gian. “In the beginning, we didn’t back our gut, we didn’t put communication first and that saw us come off very poor on the judging for the first two weeks.”
But it was those initial hiccups that eventually led Steph and Gian to find their groove on The Block, and the pair went on to win five room reveals – more than any other couple this year.
‘Japandi’ style became their signature.
Steph, an architect, is most proud of the way the house makes her feel as she walks through it. “The way the kitchen, living and dining zone spills out and interacts with the outside is really beautiful. The connections between each of the zones and how they flow is the thing that I find most powerful,” she says.
What it’s really like being on The Block
It’s no secret that being a contestant on The Block is tough. There’s drama, there’s deadlines, there’s so much work and life outside The Block doesn’t stop, either. So what kept Steph and Gian going through all of those hard times? “For us, it was always having each others’ backs,” says Gian. “We just kept reminding ourselves of why we had come on the show. For us, The Block was an opportunity to really build the best home we possibly could. Tunnel vision is what got us through.”
From the moment the couple found out they were going to be contestants on the show they began formulating their game plan, says Steph. “We said to ourselves ‘we need to do the best job we possibly can here so our agents can authentically advocate for our home.’”
The prize money
What are Steph and Gian going to do with their winnings? Gian says they initially thought about paying off the mortgage on their Sydney home. But they’re planning to sell it soon, so there goes that idea. “The money we’re walking away with is exponentially more than we could have ever imagined,” he says.
It’s safe to say that they’re still working out the details, but two things are certain: they’ll focus their energy on launching a homewares brand, Japandi Estate, and eventually they’ll renovate another house.
But first, they need a break. “We’re taking some time away,” says Steph. “We want to go away and sit in the sun. But we also want to go to Japan and Scandinavia next year, of course.”
Their advice for wannabe Block contestants
See yourself as a contestant on The Block? Steph and Gian say go for it. “Don’t think twice,” laughs Gian, “but expect the unexpected. There’s no toolkit that can ever equip or prepare someone for The Block. Like Ash is a builder, Steph is an architect – The Block can never prepare these types of people.”
Steph says future contestants should focus on the bigger picture. “Really, really think about the importance of your auctioneer, the importance of your real estate agent early on. Then, focus on delivering the best home. Not room, right? Home.”