Career

Starting again at 39 - where The Block winner Amy Moore found the courage to reinvent herself

And her hometown of Gisborne is backing her all the way.

By Rachael Russell
Three of the walls are painted palest pink. The fourth, behind a distressed yellow desk, is wallpapered in a busy orange retro pattern.
In anyone else's hands, this kind of colour combination would likely have been a disaster (if we'd thought to attempt it at all), but this is the office of Amy & Co, the new interior-design business of The Block NZ winner Amy Moore.
For those of you who didn't devote four evenings a week to Three's hit home-renovation show – Amy, 39, and her plumber partner Stu Watts, 46, were the runaway winners this year.
Despite the voiceover repeatedly telling us they were the oldest couple to ever compete on The Block, as if this was some kind of handicap, the couple headed home to Gisborne with $169,500 and the satisfaction of scoring several 'perfect 10s' throughout the competition.
But that win is just the beginning for Amy. After nearly 20 years as a beauty therapist, competing on the reality TV show has given her the impetus to pursue her dream career. Her family and friends have long told her she had design talent, but winning gave Amy the final affirmation she needed.
"We never went on there to win money or to be famous… Oh, Stu did," jokes Amy when NEXT catches up with her in her sunny hometown. "I went on there to prove to myself whether or not I was good enough to do what I wanted to do. I've wanted to work in interior design for the past 10 years; I just never had the confidence.
"I always thought if you were going to start a business like this you needed to present a piece of paper that said, 'I've studied at university for five years to be this person,' not 'I've just decided that I'm going to be it, so give me your money!' That made me apprehensive because I didn't know how I was going to be received. But The Block is the best publicity you can get; if you're there to show people what you can do."
For the parents of a three-child blended family, filming the show was especially brutal for Amy and Stu: three months away from family and friends, dossing down in a sleeping bag in a construction site in the middle of winter, was about as comfortable as it looked.
Plus, the couple weathered more than their share of publicity storms – on Amy's kitchen bench is a magazine cover line labelling her the 'bad girl' of The Block after a rule-breaking incident on the show.
"At least it wasn't 'mean girl'," she reasons.
After all, to survive on reality TV, you need to have some perspective. "The Block was hard, but it is not the hardest thing a person will ever go through." Having the maturity to understand that was part of their winning formula.
A maple sits in a cosy corner of Amy's lounge.
Launching a design business off the back of the publicity from the show was always the master plan.
"I thought, 'If I don't do it now I'm never going to do it.' It was the perfect opportunity to jump in."
Although they were officially 'Team Yellow' in the competition, Amy and Stu, who runs his own plumbing company, rebranded themselves 'Team Gizzy' or 'Gizzy Hard' (a slogan on their t-shirts from Blitz surf shop in Gisborne); and their advocacy for their hometown became part of their charm.
A day spent driving around the city with the couple makes it clear they've achieved a kind of celebrity status here, albeit a laid-back, Gizzy-style one. Amy is approached by strangers who say they only watched because of her, she is waved at on the street and even flagged down by the town's deputy mayor and a city councillor as we're finishing lunch.
The deputy, Rehette Stoltz, suggests she'll soon be needing some design advice. The councillor, Amber Dunn, who wrote a glowing online piece about Amy and Stu's efforts to showcase Gisborne to the rest of the country, jokes that she's embarrassed to invite Amy over now because she doesn't feel her style is up to scratch.
The Airbnb studio comes complete with a plywood kitchenette.
Amy's home, on the beachfront at Gisborne surf spot Wainui, is an excellent showcase of her design talents.
The original bach was completely refurbished in 2016, to modernise it and add a studio she rents out as an Airbnb. From the outside, the house looks fairly minimalist: dark stained wood and floor-to-ceiling glass facing a vista of golden beach and gently rolling surf.
But, inside is a carefully curated collection of retro art and knick-knacks, cosy blankets and repurposed furniture. And, although she still seems a little hesitant to talk herself up, the words flow freely when you get Amy on the subject of interiors.
"I do love second-hand shopping and I love mixing old with new," she says. "I like lots of colour and plants and warm tones – you won't find a lot of blue in my home. There's a lot going on, but I don't think it feels cluttered."
The wall unit in the dining room is full of whimsical knick-knacks and plants.
Her love of charity shops means any road trip involves stopping at all the regional towns to see what treasures she can find (this revelation prompts a mild bout of swearing from Stu, whose beloved 1969 Holden Monaro has borne the brunt of some of these trips).
When visiting her brother in Auckland, Amy will insist on taking a different route there and back to maximise her chances of a find. Family and friends regularly keep a look out for vintage glass, which she uses to make the candles she sells at local markets, or text her pictures of items they've found in far-flung towns they think she'll like.
"I like quirky artwork and stuff that isn't mass-produced. And I like to change things around and freshen it up. I don't just go out and buy things for the sake of going shopping. If I buy something, it's always for a place and I already know where I'm going to put it."
A Gisborne-made Mossi pillow is placed on the bed in the Airbnb.
There are elements from Amy's winning The Block house repeated in her own, including the large custom-made light fitting over the kitchen bench from a local metal fabricator, and the upcycled dining room table made from old beehive wood, from Gisborne company Beebox Honey. Neither were big hits with the judges on the show, but Amy's confidence in her decisions allowed her to shrug off the little criticism she received.
Her talent – as she established week after week at the room reveals in the brand-new townhouse in Auckland's Hobsonville Point – is her ability to visualise the end result of a room and then set out to bring that vision to life.
"I've always been a really visual person. I would make a plan in my head of what the space was going to look like, and generally by the end of the week it came out exactly as it was in my head. I'm confident in that sense because the visions are so vivid, and I can rearrange furniture in my head and change colours in my head. That's a huge advantage in a job like this; you can trust the vision and know it's going to be fine. That makes me sound like some weird kind of psychic… I can also see dead people," she jokes.
A creek by the house leads down to Wainui beach.
The sense of community in Gisborne inspired the name of the new business, which – fittingly – has its offices within local homeware shop Koˉ Store, owned by Amy's friend Anna Holdsworth.
"It's Amy & Co because I know that along the way I'll be getting lots of help from everyone, including Stu," Amy says.
"He's helping me do a job tomorrow where I'm refurnishing someone's home. I need someone who can back a trailer and help me carry stuff. I can't back a trailer; I'm going to have to learn."
Amy acknowledges that launching a business in the town she's lived most her life has its downsides.
"It can be hard in Gisborne because people are probably reluctant to pay you for something, when it could be 'Come for coffee and I'll show you my lounge.' That doesn't pay my bills. So I will need to be a little bit firm, because I would just go for coffee and do it, but I can't, I've got a family to feed and this is what I want to do as my job. But people who have watched the shows will know whether or not they like what I do, and if they do, they'll be happy to pay."
From the outside, Amy's home looks sleek and modern, but inside is a treasure trove of second-hand finds and retro pieces.
Displayed on a cabinet in Amy's dining room is one item that sticks out amidst the vintage finds – a statue of a golden hammer, the People's Choice Award for winning the fan vote.
They attracted some hard-core fans. Naturally, there were detractors, too. Stu happily admits to reading all the online comments people made
and can rattle off the names of the particularly vociferous haters.
Amy says she tried not to read any comments. Nevertheless, she picks up her phone to find an example of the kind of stories written online and comes across a piece, by artist Evie Kemp, she's never read before.
It praises the four teams from The Block for their efforts to do something different but points out that only one team – Amy and Stu – really belonged there and asks that next year Three has: 'A whole cast of Amy & Stus' "I can't believe I've never seen this before," says Amy. "Who is Evie Kemp? I love her."
Another confidence boost from The Block, proving that three months of hard graft and orchestrated tension can get you more than a pay packet; it can be a whole new path.
Next year's contestants are rumoured to be renovating an old fire station in the Auckland suburb of Kingsland, and Amy would clearly like to have a go at that herself.
"That would be so cool; you'd take a whole different approach…"
No doubt she's got the colour palette all mapped out in her head already.

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