The foolproof recipe for a successful home makeover show requires one part host, one part interior designer and one part guru for all things garden. Landscaper Charlie Albone is the latter in this equation. His expertise in the outdoor arena are unparalleled, and contrary to what a lot of us think when it comes to these shows, Charlie actually does the hard work. I caught up with him to discuss all things Selling Houses Australia, being a dad and life outside of the show.
We Aussies know you as the expert landscape designer on Selling Houses Australia. What was happening before TV? I was running my landscape design and installation business, Inspired Exteriors, in Sydney. I moved over here from England 12 Years ago now and have been working in the landscape industry since age 17.
How did you get the gig on Selling Houses Australia and was it hard getting accustomed to working on TV? I was sent an e-mail from the Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers (AILDM) saying there was an opportunity to work on a show and I should send a show reel to the production company. I got a friend who wanted to be an actor (as all my other mates would have taken the piss too much) to film me as I talked through a garden I had just completed. I sent that in and was lucky enough to get the job.
The hardest thing to get used to (apart from having a camera in your face when you are working and sweating) is the limited plant palette you can work with on TV; you see, everything has to have a wow factor on screen and some plants just aren’t available in big sizes.
What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about the show? People really don’t think I do the work – and I do it in only three days! When I got the gig in TV I thought to myself ‘Brilliant I’ll never have to lift a shovel again’. Sadly I’ve never worked so hard in my whole life!
Have you ever had a home owner unimpressed with your work and how did you handle it? I get it all the time! The thing with SHA is that the homeowners often can’t see what’s wrong with their house and they think its fine. When I come in and change it all up it definitely ruffles some feathers. I remember one lady from West Ryde hated what I did to her garden (and she let me know), but it doesn’t bother me cause she sold the house and made LOTS AND LOTS of money!
You and Shaynna love to give Andrew a hard time about always bailing when there’s work to be done! Does he ever get his hands dirty? Nope – Never! Well actually, he helped out when I couldn’t make it to Darwin but apart from that, no!
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to people who want to give some curb appeal or wow factor to a home exterior but are on a limited budget? Make sure the front door is in good condition and its location obvious. Highlight this with potted plants or a new path. If you paint the façade of the house this can help to make the whole property look cared for and in good condition.
What about landscaping are you passionate about and do you still get a buzz from transforming a space? I love landscaping, always have and always will. Landscaping allows me to be creative, have the satisfaction of creating something with my hands all whilst being outside and in touch with nature. I love plants, watching them grow and bringing life and interest to people’s personal spaces.
Selling Houses Australia has a certified cult following. How do you feel about it and your contribution to its success? Cult following sounds like we might be on A Current Affair, being chased down the street by a reporter asking us why we keep selling peoples houses! If that’s what you mean, then no comment (runs to car and sits there, windows up, ignoring reporter who repeatedly knocks on window).
SHA is of course just one part of your career. Tell me about your role in Inspired Exteriors. At TAFE I worked for a real slave driver; he didn’t like us talking at work or even having the radio on! As soon as I left TAFE I decided to start a business where the work ethic was if I’m not enjoying it then I’m not doing it. I work as the head designer and yes, I’ve had days I haven’t enjoyed, but I’m lucky that I love what I do and I get to create really interesting personal gardens for clients that love gardening and design.
Viewers of the show will know you’ve become a dad recently. How has that been for you? I love being a dad – it’s amazing! I live on acreage and I’m thinking of ways I can create the world’s best playground for Leo! I’m currently at the point where there’s going to be a huge tree house with a moat!
What’s on the horizon for you, SHA and your business? I’ve just finished a special two-part show for the LifeStyle Channel documenting the Australian contingent as they travelled to The Chelsea Flower Show, which was amazing, fun and a great experience; it will be out in Spring and fingers crossed we do another series of Selling Houses. I’ll continue designing with my business, Inspired Exteriors, and hopefully get to create some show gardens this year to try and inspire people to get creative with their own gardens.