Sunday 20 October 2019

Hugh Wallace: 'I'm dyslexic... People who can read are so lucky'

Hugh Wallace (62) is an architect, director of Douglas Wallace, and judge on RTE's Home of The Year. From Dundrum, he lives in Ranelagh, with his partner, Martin. Here, he outlines his day, why he mostly eschews alcohol, and why he finds reading difficult


I love my sobriety, so these days I enjoy the mornings. I love waking up and seeing sunlight. In fact, I even love waking up on a Sunday, when it's piddling rain and a horrible day. I think, 'Great, we can get the papers and settle in.' I send Martin out for coffee and croissants.

We're together for 32 years, and it's a civil partnership. I met him on the staircase in The George pub; where love stories begin!

We both get up at 7am. Martin has a salon in Ranelagh, and we live about 250 metres away from it. We used to live here 20 years ago, and we moved back to the area a year ago.

We've moved house four times, and I love the excitement of it. I never bring any furniture, apart from the bed. You start again. Along the way, your taste changes, just like you change. I have gone from a crisp, modern style to a more comfortable look.

For breakfast, I just have coffee. I don't eat before noon, and I don't eat after 8pm. I'm trying to lose some weight. If it's a nice day, the door is open.

I have to tell you that I'm very lazy. I drive to Camden Street. Isn't that appalling? I'm going to start walking to work soon. I've got the shoes, so that will help. But I haven't started yet.

Two days a week, I go to a gym. I've got a personal trainer, Rob, who looks like Monster from The Muppets. If I didn't have a personal trainer, I wouldn't go to the gym. Sometimes I wake and think, 'Will I phone him and say I can't go?' But I can't do that, because he will charge me. That's the discipline. When I do it, I'm set up for the day.

I like listening to the news on RTE Radio 1. At the moment, you've got Brexit, which is like a pantomime. It's just sheer theatre, and I love it. They are saying 'the Right Honourable lady' and they're probably thinking, 'you cow'. They are so pompous. I love politics.

We're very lucky to live in Ireland because we have democracy and a liberal society. Irish people are very empathetic. We engage with people who come here. I think we've become a very liberal society, and we're starting to talk about things that are very important. You get that on the news.

I have a bit of Diana Ross on in the car, as I drive in. I just love her voice. She's so sexy. I like that kind of music - 1970s and 1980s. It was such an exciting period socially. It was like somebody had lit a fuse under Ireland.

My day starts in the office. I'm an architect, and I mainly deal with clients - private clients or corporate clients. It's about exploring possibilities with them, teasing out their house or hotel or office, and what it is going to be like.

There are four directors in Douglas Wallace. We're a small company now - only 20 of us. Our office is in the reception of our old office. It shrunk that much. We deal with our clients directly, and I love that.

I'm very lucky with my life. I could be down the country standing in a field, and I also get on a plane to Oman for one week in a month. The company got the opportunity to develop half-a-million square feet of development. It's wonderful to watch six years of work come to fruition.

I adore going into people's houses for Home of the Year. You are outside and you think, 'I wonder what's going on in there?' and then the door opens and you go, 'Oh my god'. It could be good or bad. A lot of the houses in Home of the Year are very modest in terms of the money that was spent on the house. Yet through up-cycling, they have created these palaces. If it's done with creativity, it's fantastic.

Their personality is in their bits and pieces. A good architect and interior designer will allow clients to express themselves. It's about matching their lives to their house. I really enjoy my work.

At weekends, I prepare meals for the week. I love cooking, and I find it very therapeutic, especially all that chopping. I love doing one-pot wonders. I make them up, because sometimes during the week, you come home a bit knackered, and you want nice food. These days, I have the odd glass of wine, but I respect it. I'm afraid of it. Back when I was a big drinker, I'd never notice the moon.

Martin loves my cooking. He is a 'meat and two veg' man from Thurles. Every so often, he'll moan that he'd like bacon and cabbage, because his mother used to do the best bacon and cabbage. I just love roasts and having people around for dinner over the weekend. Then we play cards. We go the cinema a lot, and we're spoilt with The Stella nearby. I love ballet, and I recently saw Swan Lake.

I'm dyslexic, so I find reading very difficult. I think people who can read are so lucky. The only time I read is when I go on holidays. Often I go into The Company of Books, a brilliant bookshop in Ranelagh, and I tell Gwen, the owner, what I like and she chooses great books for me.

I don't read in bed at night. Instead, somebody reads to us. There's a great app called Calm - they have all these actors with sexy voices, and they read half-hour stories. You become really engrossed in them. That thing that was driving you mad during the day, you can't take it with you. You are listening to this other world. There was a lovely one by an astronaut who tells his story about looking down at Earth. That's how I drift off.


In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

Hugh Wallace is on 'Home of the Year', RTE One, Tuesdays, 8.30pm

Hugh Wallace is one of the speakers at house 2019 - Ireland's premier interior design event, taking place in the RDS from May 24-26. For tickets and more information, see

Sunday Independent

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