Plate warmers, steam showers and boiling taps: Here is the all-new trophy home wish list for 2018
Walk-in wardrobes, hot plates and built-in barbecues are all part of the new coveted home, writes Niamh Horan
The Trophy home. The ultimate symbol of social status, coveted by many, owned by few. And they are popping up again in Dublin's leafy suburbs for the first time since the heady days of the Celtic Tiger.
In the 1990s, all it took was a conservatory to ensure you were the envy of the street. Middle-class couples would invite neighbours around under the guise of tea and scones when all they really wanted was for friends to get an eye-full of the new sunroom over their best china.
The trend spread faster than 'the good room' of the 1980s until the Tiger roared, then the 'must-have' features became a kitchen island, garden decking and outdoor heating.
Now, in 2018, the new trophy home is all about the spacious walk-in wardrobe.
And that is just to get started.
One of Ireland's most high-profile architects, Hugh Wallace, has shared the top features clients are ogling in glossy magazines and calling on the 'Home of the Year' judge to turn into their reality.
The first announcement the maestro home-maker makes is that "Ikea is gone".
Fresh from filming his new series The Great House Revival, which kicks off on RTE tonight, he says: "We are back to bespoke furniture, to fabulous French furniture, marble tables, and amazing kitchens."
In the past year, among his well-heeled clients he says: "Money is no object when it comes to the bathroom and the kitchen."
The kitchen is the epicentre of guest entertainment and he says: "I have seen kitchen fittings for €100,000 go into homes, and that's even before the [extras]. That is without the ovens or anything - just the fittings."
For these homeowners "it is all about the white marble counter tops, drawers that you push before they silently glide out. Today's look is effortless perfection".
Elsewhere, he says: "There is also no such thing as a 'good room' in a house.
"Every room is a good room. We are using up all space. Life and your home is for living."
In the bathroom he says: "Steam showers are the new Jacuzzi bath."
The feature has all the amenities of a normal shower but it typically boasts an overhead rainfall showerhead, a hand held showerhead, and a button to switch on the steam so that you can unclog your pours and keep warm as you towel off, but Wallace says his clients don't stop there: "I have seen people spend between €15,000 and €25,000 on overhauling their bathrooms."
"A lot of cash is going into upgrades and improving current homes rather than upping sticks and moving, with the way the market has gone. The other thing that is happening is that people are much more aware of the orientation of their homes," he says.
"They are watching where the sunlight comes in and falls, that is the main priority when redesigning because they weren't aware of the importance of this during the last boom. So an awful lot of people are opening up walls, bringing natural light into as many rooms as possible and bringing natural light into the bathroom, where women do their make up.
"They want big windows, sliding doors and they want that 'inside outside' feel.
"They want to be able to have air in their house. They want to be able to slide the French doors open to bring the dining room table outside."
Families are also getting smaller and it's affecting bedrooms: "Walk-in wardrobes are very, very popular because people aren't having kids any more or they are having smaller families than their parents' generation, so they are turning extra bedrooms into walk-in wardrobes.
"I have been in homes where they wanted one for him and one for her. They are realising they don't need all of these additional bedrooms in case guests come to stay over. For today's home owner, one guest room is enough."
As for the garden, "There's no more 'rolling out the barbecue'. These days it is all about the built-in barbecue with fridges so you can keep your beer and wine and meat chilled as you cook. Everything is built in. People are appreciating that extra step up.
"They also realise they don't go out as much any more. Home is the new place to entertain and to enjoy.
"People want to spend time there with their families and they don't want to be wheeling out and sticking on the old barbecue."
Back in the kitchen he says "two ovens are becoming popular", for families , while "the warming plate is the most important add on". The Aga is also back as the best thing ever. They are the best money you'll ever spend. As is the 'boiling tap', which is coming in, in place of the traditional kettle.
Wallace was speaking at the launch of a new hospitality brand - Irish Original Hotels - which is a collection of 60 independently-owned hotels promising guests "holidays with a story".
The celebrity architect pointed out that well-off middle-class families are also opting for luxury apartment living with all the frills, in line with their neighbours on the continent: "Cars are gone, people in the city don't need them as much. If you told someone 10 years ago that there would be a bicycle jam on the canal they wouldn't have believed you but that's the way it's going.
"So some middle-class people are being offered the opportunity to move into luxury apartments with high ceilings, lots of space, a 24-hour concierge service, dining room and club house, but the problem we have is that we are not dealing with the vast majority of us who need to buy an apartment that is also a liveable home. Many are still living in dog boxes."
He said Ireland's penchant for the fantasy of property "is all gone mad again".
But is all this just the beginning again of the boom time bloodsport of 'Keeping Up with the Joneses'?
Wallace agrees to a point: "I think we are keeping up with the Joneses but not in an ostentatious way," he says.
"We are definitely putting our money into fabulous finishes and longevity."
As the old saying goes - before you start keeping up with the Joneses, you better make sure the Joneses aren't keeping up with you.