Friday 18 January 2019

'That’s a misconception' - Home of the Year judge Patrick Bradley on the mistakes people make in Irish homes

Architect Patrick Bradley, middle, with fellow Home of the Year judges Deirdre Whelan and Hugh Wallace.
Architect Patrick Bradley, middle, with fellow Home of the Year judges Deirdre Whelan and Hugh Wallace.
Wow factor: Home of the Year judges Deirdre Whelan, Patrick Bradley and Hugh Wallace. Photo: Ruth Medjber
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Home of the Year architect Patrick Bradley is no stranger to TV. And he’s an expert is house design.

The architect’s famous shipping container home changed the landscape of Irish home design when it featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs.

Bradley built his home, Grillagh Water House, with four shipping containers when he realised he wouldn't be able to meet his budget with conventional construction materials.

Bradley is passionate about design and functionality, which he says don't have to come at a high price.

Firstly, he says, hiring an architect doesn't have to mean extra expense.

“That’s a misconception," he tells

"A lot of people say that they can’t afford architects, but architects will bring good quality and design for likely less money. People think that by not getting an architect involved, you’ll save money but in the long run, getting an architect involved will save you money. We’ll consider energy and sustainability and functionality. You’ll save a ridiculous amount of money in the long run. It actually adds to your home.”

“In terms of any project, you sit down with a client and see what they’re aspirations are. Even a simple thing like the swing of a door, people don’t realise that those are what make houses work, it’s the simple things that we create that make a difference.”

“There’s the misconception that people think putting a nice chair there and nice wallpaper there, it can make your home look nice. It might look nice but it mightn’t work where it is and you won’t be happy.”

Many design mistakes have been made for decades in Irish homes, Bradley says.

“We all come from times past with the thatched cottage and they were very romantic, and it was from a poor time as well. But when we jumped out of that, the bungalow started. People wanted more space and bigger houses.”

He added: “People are just designing and building houses, and not even thinking about how they live, and the design and orientation of the houses. I’m still seeing the predesign houses - large houses where people think they’re happy but they’re not happy."

“These large houses are sitting here, there and everywhere, and people think they need the big house but there’s no purpose, no emotion, no comfort, and often they’re cold.”

“The best houses in the world, the most well-laid and well-designed, are actually often the cheapest to build,” he added.

“What I have seen over the last few years is people are starting to think about the idea of design, that they don’t need the big house: ‘I can make it comfortable, make it mine and it’ll work.’ There’s a lot more thinking going on.”

"If you had a small room or apartment, it can be created as something completely individual that works.”

Bradley says trying to fix design mistakes retrospectively can often prove impossible.

“It seems to happen a lot that people don’t get an architect involved, the right consultant involved.”

“We’re seeing it time and time again. People will come back and say will you help us out there, it’s not working. But in some cases it might already be too late.”

Large windows really are key if a home is to function well, he says.

“People always laugh at architects when they talk about large windows, but if you think about when you stand in the shade and how you feel, and you think about how you’re in the sun and how you feel – a large window brings a view and people are happy when they see the sun. The purpose of that glass is to bring emotion and happiness into the home with the sun.”

“All we’re really doing as architects, if you break it down, is creating shelters, but from that then on you add personality and functionality to it. And when all that comes together it can create emotion and something that’s really out there, and it can change how you live.”

Though Bradley has seen his  fair share of design mistakes, he also offers that the future of Irish design is bright. As a Home of the Year judge, he has seen very impressive Irish homes.

 “I was quite impressed with them. There’s a massive diversity in terms of the different homes out there. It’s really uplifting to see that there’s so much personality out there and people with different interests. People are really starting to think in terms of design and how it you get the quality of the design right, that it can change your life.”

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