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‘I feel like I’m waking up in a wellness retreat’ – Dermot Bannon takes on two projects in this week’s Room to Improve

Hilary and husband Paul Fairbrother were renting a two-bedroom apartment and needed a bigger space for their growing family

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Dermot Bannon MUST CREDIT RUTH MARIA

Dermot Bannon MUST CREDIT RUTH MARIA

The property has a stunning outlook. Photo: Ruth Maria Murphy

The property has a stunning outlook. Photo: Ruth Maria Murphy

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Dermot Bannon MUST CREDIT RUTH MARIA

It seems there really is no place like home when it comes to the family featured on tomorrow night’s Room to Improve.

Hilary and husband Paul Fairbrother were renting a two-bedroom apartment in Dublin’s Castleknock with their two young children Finn (3) and Evie (20 months) and needed a bigger space for their growing family.

Never one to shirk from a challenge, this time around will see presenter Dermot Bannon taking on not one but two housing projects on a stunning four-acre site beside Blessington Lakes that had been Hilary’s family home since 1982.

“After we had our second baby, we were still in the apartment and so tight on space. It didn’t even have a garden. We really needed to move to a bigger space,” said Hilary.

“My parents’ house in Blessington was quite run down and needed a huge amount of work so they were talking about possibly down-sizing and selling. But I just couldn’t bear the thought it would be sold. I just thought, if you lost a site like that from your family, you’d never get anything back like it again.

“That was when we started exploring about myself and Paul possibly moving down and doing that co-living situation, that we’d be there to support them. There are quite large gardens and my parents are getting to the stage where they just can’t manage the upkeep of the gardens.”

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Eventually Dermot came up with a plan to renovate her parents’ house for the Fairbrothers while also building them a new house just 40 metres away on the same site.

That would allow parents Hugh and Carmel O’Neill maintain their independence while also giving them any support, if needed.

For both projects, they had a total budget of €556,000 – which Hilary said would barely have bought them one house in their old area of Castleknock.

She said the experience was “really positive” and despite Dermot throwing in a “few curveballs” during filming, they managed to stick to their budget.

Construction work started around April, shortly before Hilary ”got a lovely surprise” by finding she was pregnant with her third baby Mia, who was born two weeks ago.

For the first house, Bannon wanted to do an energy upgrade and a substantial renovation to make the most of the stunning views overlooking Blessington Lakes.

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The new build on Hilary’s parents’ home, sited on the old stables, is still in its early stages and will be featured in a future episode.

The Fairbrothers moved into the finished house just before Christmas and Hilary “loves it so much”.

“I can’t put into words how much. I feel like I’m waking up in a wellness retreat every day,” she said.

“Just looking out at the scenery every day is incredible, I think it’s such a beautiful family home. I absolutely love it.”

She also loves the fact that she and her family have ended up back in her childhood home and she’s keeping that connection to the Wicklow site for another generation.

“It’s strange because myself and my brother were three and one when we moved to this house, which is the same ages as Evie and Finn so it’s almost like coming full circle again.

“It’s so nice just being back here. I still have loads of friends in the area and Finn is going to the little preschool that I went to,” she said.

“It’s such a gorgeous place to raise children, surrounded by nature and the forest. They love running around the garden, running wild. It’s lovely.”


Room to Improve airs tomorrow at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.


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