NO LIMITS: Darren Palmer never thought he would leave Gladstone let alone be a judge on one of the most popular TV shows in Australia.
NO LIMITS: Darren Palmer never thought he would leave Gladstone let alone be a judge on one of the most popular TV shows in Australia. Channel Nine

From Port city to sought-after designer on The Block

When did you move to Gladstone and how long were you here?

I lived in Gladstone from birth until I was 17.

What school did you go to?

I went to Gladstone West primary and to Gladstone State high. I was the Koogari house captain and a prefect in my final year.

Did you play for any sport clubs and which ones?

Even though I was the house captain at high school I wasn't ever much for sport. I was more adept at rousing spirit.

What did you parents do?

Dad worked at the power station and mum did a number of things, mostly working in a café.

How were you interested in design in the first place?

I'm not really sure.

I think my folks' house was always really clean and tidy and they are very house proud so that rubbed off. They had some bold design choices like the apple green laminate top and brown timber-look laminate fronts of the kitchen.

There was a particularly puffy pink/apricot leather sofa that came along some time in the late 80s. The house was always well painted and presented.

What did most of your friends do after finishing school?

Three of my closest friends became electricians. Pretty much everyone took on a trade though there were a few that left and went to university and went on to do corporate work.

How was the decision to study fine arts and design received by your friends and family?

Very well. My Dad always said I should just do what I was passionate about.

I was offered a job straight out of TAFE, I studied in Rockhampton as there was no graphic design in Gladstone at the time, and then I moved straight to Brisbane which at the time felt like a big city.

What is your fondest memory of Gladstone?

All of it really. I am really grateful I lived where I lived when I was growing up. I had lots of family around me, lots of places to explore and we rode our bikes to school and played on the street, climbed trees and a bunch of stuff that we'd be nervous about letting our kids do in the city.

When you were a young, could you imagine you would be judging and designing multi-million dollar homes?

I didn't even think I'd leave Gladstone, or Australia for that matter. I studied French at school but never really paid too much attention because I thought I'd never travel overseas.

It took me until I was 26 to go on my first trip around the world but I've travelled extensively since.

I also married a Frenchie, a Parisian in fact, so I really should have paid attention in French. You never know what life is going to offer you.

I had no idea I'd be living the life I lived even five years ago.

What do you think has defined your success so far?

I think success is definitely shown in the happiness of the people around you and I have a great family full of love and joy. We work hard but family comes first.

There are things that look like financial or career success, like writing two books, working with brands like Audi, even being on the telly, but really it's all work and it's just a matter of not limiting what you think you're capable of because the truth is we're only ever limited by our own self belief.

Who has been the most influential person in your career so far?

There have been several people looking back who have influenced me. My tech drawing teacher at high school was a great support. My English teacher taught me skills that serve me well as an author and writer to this day. My art teachers too.

As an adult there are a few things that helped me to change from being a graphic designer to an interior designer. On my first trip overseas I went to a friend's home in East Hampton outside of New York City and he made his living buying, renovating and selling these Hamptons homes. I was mind blown that that was a job. I thought it would be great and started my mind working.

I returned home to Sydney and watched a friend of mine who was a dancer and when she wasn't dancing she was practising or choreographing or teaching and she just lived and breathed her work. I realised then that that's what passionate people do.

That's when I made the jump from graphic to interiors because I realised I needed to do what I was passionate about and I was fortunate enough to have a good friend who became my mentor right after my first interior job, my own apartment. He taught me the ropes and I owe him a great debt of gratitude for the knowledge that he passed on to me right at the beginning of my career.

If you can alter the design of Gladstone in anyway what would you do?

It's been a while since I've been back but I'm sure there's nothing to improve on.

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