MEET: BUYING BLIND'S MARSHAL KEEN

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We were slightly addicted to the renovation show, Buying Blind, where six Aussie couples handed over their life savings to interior designer Shaynna Blaze; buyers agent Rich Harvey and builder, Marshal Keen, who found, purchased and renovated properties the couples had never seen. We caught up with Gold Coaster-turned-Bondi local Marshal to chat about his reality television debut, his favourite building trends and his love of concrete.

Congratulations on your work on Buying Blind! How did you find the experience?

The Buying Blind experience has been an amazing opportunity. It was something that came out of the blue and was an experience I am incredibly grateful for. Being a builder, its not often there are oppportunities beyond the day-to-day grind of working on site and the forever growing paper work pile! Buying Blind allowed me to work closely with the clients/buyers, Rich and Shaynna, and get a better understanding of their day-to-day duties, issues and problem solving and I think it made me far more empathetic to all the parties involved in the buying/designing/building process and the obvious massive change of scenery - while being followed by camera and producers!

You are based at Bondi, and have worked on some incredible projects. What has been the most inspiring project so far?

Living in Bondi has been a massive shift in the style of building work I carry out. There are so many inspiring projects I have worked on throughout my career, its difficult to pick a single one, and also difficult to focus just on Bondi. One of my projects on the Gold Coast is currently on the market and, looking at the images that were recently sent to me, there’s a massive sense of pride knowing my team built such a beautiful home. The very contrast to that would be some of the work I did for an offshore oil and gas company where I built a prototype mould for a concrete mattress designed to stabilise an underwater gas pipeline. This made the pipeline more environmentally stable whilst also increasing productivity and power to a third world country. Then there’s a recently completed apartment renovation for fashion blogger Carmen Hamilton and Tim Hill, who are friends of mine and every time I visit their place, I’m reminded of how a beautiful and simple yet well-detailed renovation can turn out.

And the most challenging job?

Probably working on the show while still managing the projects I was working on! Luckily, the team pulled together and did a fantastic job.

Do you have a signature style?

I used to believe I had a signature style, but I think the work environment has changed this since moving to Sydney. I love working with raw materials such as concrete, recycled hardwood and steel and I love a design where the structure becomes the finish; working in Sydney this style has morphed into maximising space with clever use of materials. If I can combine these elements together, I’m a very happy camper!

What are your thoughts in incorporating architectural concrete pieces into a home?

Concrete is one of my favourite materials to work with and I believe - if it is done the right way - it is a timeless, architectural detail. The pieces you guys do are some of my favourites; they are well proportioned and beautifully finished! You guys are the best in the business.

Thank you so much! What are you inspired by?

I try to draw my inspiration from the surrounding environment whether it is built or landscape. Frank Lloyd Wright was the master of this, and when you look at his projects some 100 years after they were built, they are still current both in design and how they blend with their surroundings. The building needs to fit the space, and the simplest of designs always beat the overdone.

Can you describe your own home? Any treasured pieces?

I currently live in a terrace in Paddington and it is a beautiful, old home that has so much potential. It is old, but furnished and has a modern feel. The great thing about the old terraces is they are like a blank canvas as the old Baltic pine floorboards become more beautiful the older and more beaten up they become. My favourite room of the house is the master bedroom where I built a custom bed; its furnished with a beautiful piece of Art by Astrid Mulder and a gloss, jet black Gerry Lopez surfboard. The remainder of the house is modest, but I love my art and two new pieces by Gold Coast Artist, Loui Jover.

Is there anyone you’d love to work with in the future?

There’s something new to learn every day so to single any individual out is tough as there are so many amazing trades and designers. I’m grateful to work with anyone I can learn from.

Proudest achievement in your career so far?

Working on Buying Blind and being recognised as an industry expert. It is really nice to know that all of the years of hard work, sweat and tears provide progression to a platform beyond my normal building world.

Are there any building styles/trends you would steer clear of?

I’m pretty open to most styles but there was a Cape Cod-style home we looked at for one of the families on Buying Blind. It was a big house that needed a lot of work but there was no way that Shaynna and I could have done anything with the bones. We couldn’t make it look different so it was a stern ‘No’ for poor Rich on this one and probably the only time I haven’t been really optimistic and seen scope to transform a home!

Check out Marshal's work here

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