'The apartments we build aren't for families. They're dog boxes' - Home of the Year judge Hugh Wallace
Architect and TV presenter Hugh Wallace talks about bungalow bliss, alcohol and the joy of a good mattress
This weekend, Hugh will appear on stage at house 2019 in the RDS in discussion with Celebrity Home of the Year winner, David Norris; tickets on house-event.ie
Home of the Year judge Hugh Wallace, who will be speaking at this weekend's house 2019 event in Dublin's RDS, has some things to say about architecture and design in Ireland right now, and he has some clever interior design tricks to share:
When I was four I knew I was going to be an architect. I wanted to be a marine architect because I drew boats all my life. And then I got into Bolton Street, which was difficult because I was dyslexic.
Your eye-line is about seven metres when you walk up and down the street - and nobody looks up. And the buildings are marvellous when you look up.
The mistake most often made in Irish architecture? It's not understanding the orientation of a house and ending up putting rooms in the wrong places. Ending up not understanding light. Ending up with dark rooms.
Funnily enough, you're better with a north-facing garden because you capture the sun from the west. Run from an east-facing garden.
If you do have open plan, you have to have an escape room. Not a good room. You have to have a getaway room.
One of the problems with modern architecture is it tells you everything immediately. Therefore, once you've seen it and absorbed it, that's it. You're not going to go and look at it again and say, "I got something different out of it." I think buildings need to do that. They need to have a complication.
Bungalow Bliss [Jack Fitzsimon's book published in 1971] was essential. People couldn't afford architects, so you bought your Bungalow Bliss for ten shillings and you sent away and you got your plans. And everybody sort of criticises these, but I'd have to say 'Bungalow Bliss' from the 70s and 80s are as relevant to our social history as a thatch cottage. Our bungalows, in 50 years' time, are going to be listed buildings.
Irish people don't like apartment living because the apartments we build aren't for families. They're dog boxes, and unfortunately the new regulations are now about building dog boxes. So, that to me is a problem.
I think there are some amazing houses [in Ireland], and there are now architectural buildings that are fab. There really are. But, unfortunately, they're the exception to the rule. Dún Laoghaire Library is fab. However, so much of our architecture today will not stand the test of time.
Rugs are great, because they settle a room and the furniture.
You can do amazing things with colour - so long as you understand where your light's coming from.
If the house was burning? I'd take the bed and the mattress. It's a king coil, and I have to get a step ladder to get into it. Wonderful.
Every five years, feck everything out.
We've moved house three times and I've never brought one stick of anything with me. Nothing. I sell them with the house, you get a better price, or at least you get the price you ask for.
I was very lucky when I stopped drinking, because I was actually able to recreate myself. That's the truth. I wouldn't have done the job in Oman [where Hugh has just completed a project of half a million square feet of offices, shops, restaurants] - it's my pride and joy - because they wouldn't tolerate drinking.
I was a happy alcoholic. I wasn't a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But I'm not justifying it.
I'll tell you where the curse is, and it's not spoken about, is it's not about the alcoholic. It's the poor people who he has decimated. The children, the parents, the partner, the auntie. They are the ones who no-one speaks about. And that leaves an effect. A lasting, lifetime effect.
I stopped seven years ago. I do drink now because I respect it… I have a bunch of rules around it. I have much better fun now. My health is better. I was 23 stone. I lost six stone.
I'm in a very lucky profession because I think you mature and become better with age. If you look at the work of great architects, it's usually when they're older.
You can only use so much money in your life, but unfortunately a few people want to have gargantuan proportions of it. When you look back to the 50s and 60s, there were wealthy people. But they weren't obscenely wealthy to the same extent.
The middle class is just getting eradicated. I love people who talk about the working class. A train driver on overtime earns more than I do, so am I working class?
What have I learned? I've always enjoyed myself and I've learned to keep doing that.
This weekend, at House 2019, I'll be talking about how the orientation of your house should dictate its redesign, how to bid at auctions - which now are treasure troves of furniture from the turn of the 20th century. There are also huge opportunities of literally borrowing everything in the house – literally going around the skips, second hand shops, going into auctions, and creating the most beautiful homes.
Architect Hugh Wallace appears on the Trend Talks Stage at house 2019, 24 May, 3-4pm (in discussion with Celebrity Home of the Year winner, David Norris); and on the Inspiration stage, 25 May, 1.30-2.30pm; and 26 May from 12noon-1pm; tickets on house-event.ie