Friday 24 January 2020

Dermot Bannon opens up - home design tips from the TV architect

James and Mary's house
James and Mary's house
The plans of James and Mary's house.
The kitchen/dining area of James and Mary's house.

Architect and TV star Dermot Bannon answers your home improvement questions.

How to bring a living space into a kitchen/diner?

Dear Dermot,

We are fortunate enough to have a south facing kitchen/dining area in our house. We would like to include a casual seating area in this room also but it is too small to allow this comfortably in its present form.

Our two concerns are :

1 We would like to include the original dining room (which is currently used as a desktop and PlayStation area), rather than extend much outwards if possible. There is a double door leading from this room to our sitting room.

2 While the aspect of the existing patio area is good, it actually is a very breezy area because of the gap between the houses, and we would not mind moving this outdoor area to the rear of the kitchen.

We would really welcome your views on this.

Kind regards James & Mary

Hi James and Mary,

Thank you very much for your email, it was so great to receive a set of plans, it really makes a difference when you are trying to visualise and get your head around a house. No matter how rough the drawing is, it's like gold to an architect!

I am going to assume that there is a central hall through the house from the front door to the door leading to the kitchen. I am also going to assume that the original formal dining room that you mention is the door beside it off the corner of the kitchen. I am presuming that the other living room that you mention is to the front of the house and connected to the original dining room with a set of double doors.

You want, like most Irish people, to have some sort of living space within your kitchen area as you, probably like most other families, spend over 90pc of your time in this room. And the kitchen is severed from the existing living room by the original dining room so it means these two rooms never felt connected. This is a really common problem in most Irish houses, we actually can have enough space and rooms but it's their connectivity to each other which matters. A well-designed and connected house doesn't need that much space!

From the photographs the kitchen area looks quite dark even though it is south-facing, the dining area on the other hand seems lovely and bright. This back wall of the house, where your kitchen units are (to the left hand side of the photo) is really important as it is the wall that separates your house from the garden and this connection should really be maximised. I think the kitchen units along this wall not only kill the link from your house to the garden but also the light into this space.

Casual Living Space

I think that the best place for your casual living space is at the back of the house overlooking the garden and I would put it where the kitchen is located now. If you open up the back of the house, this area will be really bright and a great place to sit and relax. I think another benefit of locating the casual space here is that it is at the opposite end of the house to the existing living room so it means that the two areas can be used independently without noise transfer. The introduction of a little stove in this space would work really well to make it cosy as well as bright and open.

New Kitchen Area

So, where do you put the kitchen? I would move it and locate it in the original dining room. This room is quite wide at nearly 4 metres, so if you extend it by about a metre-and-a-half, it will enlarge it enough to put kitchen units down the outside wall with an island unit in the middle. Extending it out will also widen the access between the two rooms giving a connection back to the dining and casual living space. The island unit will face diagonally back to the dining area and the new casual living space. You could, if you wanted, put a door off the hall into the new kitchen area.

Patio Area

With the whole back area of the house freed up for the living and the dining area, I would open up as much of the back of the house as budget will allow, and this will really bring the great garden you have right into the back of the house. By integrating a sliding door out into the garden from the dining and living space you can now connect to the back of the house and put a patio there rather than the side area where the wind tunnel is.

Dermot's next column will appear on May 21. If you would like him to solve your house problems, email a detailed description to Please include photographs of the building.

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