Tuesday 18 December 2018

'I learned why people go mad for Dermot Bannon and his magical notebook' - A newcomer's guide to Room To Improve

Credit: RTE
Credit: RTE

Chris Wasser

I have never watched Room to Improve before. I understand if you need a moment to process this information.

I knew it had something to do with houses. I’d seen Dermot Bannon, the Irish rock star of the home improvement world, on the Late Late. I’d heard the word ‘budget’ is used a lot. But I’d never sat through an episode of Room to Improve. I decided to change that last night. Yes, indeed, last night, I decided to find out what it is that makes people go mad for the Bannon and his magical notebook. I learned a lot. I learned too much, probably…

Dermot Bannon is good with words and stuff…

Dermot, who travels to people’s houses, listens to their plans and then politely crushes their dreams, was on his way to meet Cliona and Micheal who’d just moved back to Dublin (Killester) after being in London for 12 years. They wanted to make their house look deadly (all of the people on Room to Improve want to make their houses look deadly). They’d half their deadly dream house complete, and they needed Dermot to improve the other half. “I don’t like doing things by half,” said Dermot, en route to Killester. Which is his way of making a joke. I’m going to have to get used to this, aren’t I?

Credit: RTE
Credit: RTE

Dermot loves to keep us on our toes…

“This house looks very…done,” said Dermot after taking a tour of Cliona and Michael’s house (which did, in fact, look “very done”). But of course it’s not “very done”. If it was, we wouldn’t have a show to be getting on with. Next!

Dermot asks funny questions…

“These are really unusual!” says Dermot, examining a set wooden shelves. “What’s it made out of?” he wonders. Cliona tells Dermot that they’re made of ‘wood’. Because they’re wooden shelves. Next!

Dermot loved everything about Cliona and Michael’s house…

The stairs. The sliding doors. The wooden shelves that are made of wood. Honestly, the bloke LOVED everything. So, um, we’re not entirely sure why he was there in the first place. Maybe he doesn’t have a show to be getting on with.

Dermot has a name for every space in people’s houses…

“What do you call this space?” asks Dermot as he enters the back of Cliona and Micheal’s half-finished house. Micheal tells us it’s the back room. Nice one, Micheal. Well played.

Micheal and Cliona’s house is a Tardis…

Sorry, I’ve broken the rhythm with this point. But the house was huge, like. And it looked very done to me.

Dermot doesn’t like it when his clients tell him their budget…

Micheal and Cliona had €150,000 to work with when finishing their deadly dream house, and Dermot wasn’t impressed. He waved his pen in the air. “This isn’t a wand, you know that?” Later, he tells us what he does and doesn’t want to do when finishing Michael and Cliona’s home. This…this isn’t going to be where Dermot lives, is it? Is it?

Dermot Bannon is very good at forgetting these aren’t his houses…

Cliona told us she’d probably go for the wallpaper that Dermot didn’t want. BECAUSE IT’S HER HOUSE, DERMOT.

Dermot is very good at reminding people how small their budget is…

“How do you make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?” he asked. Dunno, Dermot. But you’re here, like. This isn’t the X Factor. Stop being the baddie and get back to making the deadly dream house a reality (I’m getting into this now).

Dermot made a bet with the builders…

Jaysus. The builders said they’d do the job – making Micheal and Cliona’s house deadly, basically – in just eight weeks. I think Dermot put a fiver on them going over time. Oh my goodness. That sort of carry-on is problematic, lads.

Room to Improve doesn’t cut any corners…

It featured a segment where Micheal argued with the builders about spending too much of his money. It featured a segment where Dermot and Cliona and Micheal went shopping for a 60-year-old brick that didn’t even exist 60 years ago (don’t ask). It eventually featured Dermot and his builder friend sharing a bottle of beer and laughing about all the stress they’d endured throughout the making of Micheal and Cliona’s deadly dream gaff. I can see why people dig this show now. IT SHOWS US EVERYTHING. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, for sure.

Dermot is very good at putting ideas in people’s heads…

And – here’s the fabulous part - making them believe that they came up with them. Don’t believe me? Go back and watch Dermot convincing Micheal that he should reconsider the decking out the back. Seriously, watch it.

But Room to Improve is difficult to watch…

We are, after all, talking about a show where a nice man named Dermot comes into your home, listens to you list off all the ways you’d love it to be better and then tells you all the ways those dreams are impossible, but that – and here’s the best bit – he’ll happily take your money, hire a team and try to prove everyone (including himself) wrong while you go and live with your sister for eight weeks. Two words, lads: me nerves.

But everything always works out in the end…

Micheal and Cliona’s gaff turned out deadly and, as we mentioned, everyone came over for beers and laughs. And, they only went €30,000 over budget (which, apparently, is nothing on home improvement shows). What a world. What a show. What a man Mr Dermot Bannon is. See you next week, Dermot.

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