If you’ve been tuning into Channel 9’s 2019 season of The Block – The Oslo, you will know that Jesse + Mel took out Outdoor Living Week and we can proudly say that they couldn’t have done it without our man Joel Barnett of Instyle Gardens leading the way + taking them to first place! Joel has followed The Block for 6-7 years and has always wanted to enter as a contestant, but little did he know that his Easter break was about to be a dream come true when he received the phone call!
WHAT IS INSTYLE GARDENS?
InStyle Gardens in a landscape construction company based in Grovedale but servicing the entire Greater Geelong region. We’re one of only about 10 landscaping companies in Geelong who have their Domestic Building registration (DB-L) in Structural Landscaping which means we’re allowed to construct landscapes over $10,000 and can build anything within the landscape construction field, such as decks, pergolas, retaining walls etc.
HOW DID INSTYLE GARDENS COME ABOUT.. + to life?
I started as an apprentice with InStyle Gardens in 2006 after working for another company as an apprentice for 15 months. I was qualified in 2008 and in November 2009 I bought the business name off of my boss and have run it as my own since then. It’ll be 10 years since I took over on the 9th of November this year.
HOW LONG HAS INSTYLE GARDENS BEEN UP + RUNNING FOR?
The business had been running for a couple of years before I started, it started in 2004 and has always been a similar size business. When I started there was one qualified landscaper [the boss] and three apprentices. We currently have two qualified and three apprentices [one third year and two first years, one being a mature age apprentice].
IF YOU HAD TO PICK ONE THING.. what do YOU love about your job?
I love the variety in landscaping. Our role encompasses every construction trade there is just about. We build decks, pergolas, retaining walls, paving, pool paving, timber feature walls/screens, dry stone walling, irrigation, garden lighting, painting, soft landscaping [soil, mulch, plants], real and fake turf, steel work, concreting. It’s quite amazing when you sit back and think of all the things we can do as landscapers. Not all landscapers do it all, but I like to have well rounded staff who can do anything, so I get my staff paving straight away, and it’s quite satisfying seeing their skills develop.
IS YOUR JOB EXCITING.. or do you just get around in the garden all day?
Definitely exciting! Not all jobs, but most of them. Almost four years ago I changed the trajectory of how I wanted the business to run. Back then I would just accept any job, had no plan of what work I wanted to be doing but then I decided I wanted to work on the high-end projects for top designers. So, I started doing anything I could think of to get our name out there, including entering a competition at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show where a garden we designed and built came second in 2017 and third in 2016. We’ve also exhibited at the Pool and Spa show and built other gardens designed by other landscapers at the Garden Show. In the past 18 months the work has paid off and the top designers from Melbourne are getting us to build their creations. I get super excited when they send me their plans because there’s such a massive difference in the quality of a top designer, versus your average Joe who does designs.
CORRECT US IF WE’RE WRONG.. but did we see you running around this season of The Block?
You sure did, and running is quite an appropriate word! It was mayhem. I’ve been a Block fan for 6-7 years and have always wanted to go on as a contestant, so when we were asked to go on as part of the Landscaping team for Jesse and Mel in House 5 this year, I couldn’t have said yes quicker! The request to go on came at 10pm on the Wednesday before Easter, and they wanted us to start Easter Monday/Tuesday. So, we had one business days’ notice. Luckily it was just a 5x5m courtyard, which coincidentally is the size of the first 5 gardens we’d built at the Flower and Garden Show, so I was comfortable that we’d have enough time to build it in the time frame available after seeing the design.
What I didn’t realise was there was scaffolding in the courtyard which didn’t come down until 1.30pm on the Friday, and the reveal was 9am Sunday with only 10 hours’ worth of noisy power tools allowed [you can use the quieter tools anytime]. We found out the scaffold wouldn’t be down until Friday on the Wednesday, so I spent Thursday [Anzac Day] at our shed in Grovedale, building the framework for our courtyard design, and then disassembling it and taking it up to The Block and building it like a flat pack.
The help we had from Jesse and Mel, and their builder was invaluable, they’re without a doubt the hardest working contestants on the show. I’ve never met anyone who works as hard as Jesse. After the first Friday on site, where we worked from 7am until 11pm, I was exhausted and sore the next day, and he’d been doing that for 9 weeks straight!
Thanks to the design being a beautiful, but simple one, we managed to not only finish on time, but scored two 10’s and a 9.5 to take the win in our first ever room on the block!
I’m a big proponent of a great design being the key to the win, but someone must build it, so I was quite ecstatic with our teams work.
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE.. What’s planned for InStyle Gardens?
The future still revolves around getting work for top designers and creating beautiful landscapes that they design. I’m gradually starting to make plans so that I can spend less time on the tools, so I’m wanting to create a list of procedures that our staff will be able to follow to ensure everything is done exactly as I would want, without me being there – I just need to make the time to start!
I’ve also considered long term possibly getting into pool construction or design, but I’d like to really nail the construction side of things before adding anything else to our repertoire.
HOW DO I GET IN CONTACT.. find out more + check out your amazing work?
We’ve got a website at instylegardens.com.au which has some photos of past projects and Garden Show designs we’ve built but Instagram is where you’ll be able to see the current projects we’re on and how they come together, as well as past projects.
I absolutely love the Instagram community and post on their regularly. The person who recommended us for the Block is a pool builder from Melbourne who I’ve spoken with on the phone a few times about the pool and landscape industry, but I’ve never met him in person, and Instagram is where we first started communicating after following each other.