Thursday 25 April 2019

'I'm always amazed why people feel they need it' - Home of the Year judge on her pet peeve

Deirdre Whelan is a judge on Home of the Year. Photo: RTE
Deirdre Whelan is a judge on Home of the Year. Photo: RTE

Interior designer and Home of the Year judge Deirdre Whelan says watching Dermot Bannon’s Room to Improve reminds her of work.

The Danish born presenter who has practiced in Ireland for 20 years, says Bannon's show, which is a huge ratings hit, can sometimes be stressful to watch.

As Ireland's love affair with Bannon continues, with some 722,000 people tuning in to watch Bannon overhaul Daniel and Majella O’Donnell’s home last month, Whelan describes Home of the Year as an easier viewing experience.

“Room to Improve for me, when I watch it, it’s like I’m going through the process of a job, and I think, ‘this is getting stressful now, the quantity surveyor is telling me how much I have'... It reminds me of what we do; it feels like a job.”

“Whereas, Home of the Year is pure observation. There’s none of that. It’s walking through someone’s home and explaining to people what makes the home special and giving people tips without the stress of making the changes.”

“You know with Room to Improve, at the end of every episode, that it’s going to end up OK. Otherwise they wouldn’t have put it on the telly. But you’re watching it thinking, ‘oh my god, how come they’re not able to control the budget?' and you can see the stresses on people’s faces.”

She added: “People underestimate the stress levels that are involved; it’s invasive having someone come into your home and plan all the changes. It’s quite stressful.”

“[Home of the Year is] just very easy watching; it’s family friendly, and it’s not challenging. If you miss five minutes of it you can catch up, and everyone likes to have a good look inside someone’s home.”

Whelan says as a judge on Home of the Year, she is often blown away by how creative people can be when it comes to making a home. And big budgets don’t always make the most exciting homes, she says.

“Some people are just incredibly creative or just very brave. I go to certain homes and I think just how fantastic, and brilliantly clever what they’ve done is.”

“Sometimes it is very budget driven. Some people have more than others but just the creativity is wonderful.”

“Sometimes you go to a home and they’ve loads of money, but they can still get it absolutely wrong, but then you go to homes where they have very little but they’re just so imaginative and creative at salvaging things, and how they might use a room, or the materials they use to create a kitchen. It’s not something you can teach, they just have an interest and an ability to make something very special out of something.”

“Sometimes you can be disappointed that the house might look special on the outside but you don’t find that it was followed through. Some people get a house designed and they don’t understand the architecture that they have and how to live in the space and that’s disappointing.”

This series, the fourth in Ireland for Home of the Year, has a mix new and old home projects, Whelan says.

“I like things very contemporary and pure, but I can really appreciate things that are quite decadent."

“We have a good mix of new builds, in the contemporary style or more traditional as well. Then we’ve something very old and restored as well. There’s a fantastic mix there for everyone to enjoy. I know some people don’t like things that are very minimal, and there are others that aren’t as minimal.”

Whelan says one of her pet peeves when it comes to how us Irish design our homes, is extensions are the typical solution for a house that's not working.

One of her Irish relatives, saved huge money by rejigging the walls and living spaces in their home, and eschewing an extension, she says.

“I’m always amazed that people feel the need for an extension when very often you just need to reorganise the inside of your house. You might not need an extension. Often it can mean an extension at the back of the house when the front of the house is not used anymore."

She says it's also vital that a living space harmonises with the garden.

"[You can] up a window to make the connection with the garden. There is something lovely about enjoying the garden and the inside of the house and being connected to the garden."

"Think about what you have, and very often just by picking out a room and moving a wall, and thinking about how you live in a house and what you can work with, very often you can make it work if you just rejig."

"You save a fortune and then you can still have a garden, you don’t have the extra heating bill and the extra building cost."

She added: "Very often people need to think about what they have and how to use it better."

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