Room to Improve
Presented by architect Dermot Bannon, Room to Improve is about changing how we live through design and adaptation in simple ways without spending vast amounts of money.
Each week involves the reconfiguration of an existing home to better suit the needs of the family living there. Some homes require extensions, others don’t.
02 – 08 Dec: Episode 1 – Mullingar
The first in the series will see Catherine Bennett and her youngest daughter Sarah Jane keen to downsize from their huge 13-bedroomed house in Mullingar. They’re planning to move down the road, where they also own a 3-bed bungalow that’s been uninhabited for the last nine years.
The bungalow where Catherine and her late husband Tom once planned to retire is completely derelict, boarded up and in an advanced state of disrepair.
Given the very different and quite specific needs of mother and daughter, Dermot suggests demolishing the old place to make way for an all-new build. Despite fond memories of the place where Tom grew up, Catherine and Sarah Jane agree.
With a totally cleared site to work with, Dermot gets a rare opportunity to design from the ground-up, but it quickly becomes apparent that this build will be even more challenging than usual. With a host of independent contractors hired, builder Poraig Gibbons and his crew have to fight their corner from the get-go.
As the build runs foul of building regulations, the budget creeps up, much to the disgust of Catherine . a canny deal-maker and online shopper who, along with hiring multiple contractors, has been carefully sourcing fittings and finishes from eBay, hoping to control the cost of the build.
With just 20 weeks to create an ideal home for two women with spectacularly contrasting expectations, the pressure on Dermot, quantity surveyor Patricia Power and the long suffering construction crew never seems to let up.
Episode 2 – Clane
When Dublin born EILIN O CARROLL her South African husband DAVID PANSEGROUW and returned from the UK to live in Ireland, they couldn’t have picked a better time.
With property prices bottomed out, they bought the austere Firmount House near Clane, complete with an adjoining, long-abandoned 1930s property called the Doctor’s House, which they want to refurbish and move into with their 3-year-old identical twin sons.
With the unrelenting pressure of a tiny budget, a totally unrealistic schedule and two headstrong clients who want to manage the entire project themselves while holding down full time jobs, this is Dermot’s most challenging and frustrating build to date.
What’s more, with the odds stacked against him, Eilín and David in full control and quantity surveyor Patricia Power excluded from the project, the architect is all on his own.
Even before Dermot can create a set of working drawings, independent contractors Johnny and Liam are put to work, basing the entire project on a rough drawing sketched by Dermot during his first site visit.
As the completion deadline looms, the old building throws up a series of obstacles, the plucky contractors attempt to wrestle floor to ceiling windows and an indoor barbecue room into the crumbling 80 year-old house.
As if that’s not enough, Eilín presents Dermot with a request for the single most unlikely architectural feature he’s ever been asked to design: a tubular indoor slide.
Episode 3 – Brittas
Architect Dermot Bannon is back with a new series of Ireland’s favourite home improvement show, Room To Improve.
Episode 3 of the new series sees Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan share a former hunting lodge, built in the early 20th century in Brittas, West County Dublin. Partners for 30 years and married for the last nine, the couple have fallen out of love with the wooden house they refer to as ‘the shanty’.
The challenge for architect Dermot Bannon will be to rehabilitate the dilapidated lodge and link it to an adjacent mews building. But with a limited budget, nowhere near enough to complete the plan Dermot initially devises, and two famously single-minded clients to deal with, compromise is the order of the day.
With battle lines drawn, conflict begins on day one, with Dermot presenting a long list of omissions and retentions required to meet the constraints of the budget, then insisting on the retention of a high picture window, even though a large supporting beam will bisect it.
As the build gets underway, demolition work exposes a wooden structure so flimsy and frail that builder Peter Finn fears the place might collapse before he and his crew can save it. In order to reinforce the building, specially made oak beams will have to be imported from Germany.
In order to maintain the integrity of his design, Dermot will require all the diplomacy and sales skills at his disposal but, despite his optimism, there’s no arguing with Katherine and Ann Louise.
It seems the architect has finally met his match. Twice.
Episode 4 – Westport
Peter Jordan and Anne Kerrigan along with their two young daughters have long since outgrown the tiny cottage in Killawalla outside Westport which Peter bought as a single man four years ago.
Desperate for more space, the couple engage Dermot, who much to Anne’s consternation, suggests a separate extension finished in agricultural cladding to match the local rural landscape. Even as construction gets underway, Dermot’s vision of the ‘shed’ something Anne fears will end up looking like a farm building, remains almost impossible to sell to his clients.
As an old lean-to structure is cleared, a miscalculation involving the slope of the site leaves the new extension nearly a meter below the original cottage, adding thousands of Euro in remediation costs to an already tight budget.
And the unforeseen costs of this 18-week build don’t end there. An extensively damaged roof and a unilateral decision by the builders to add an unsightly ridge to Dermot’s carefully designed extension bring further delays and architectural headaches to this scenic corner of Mayo, none of which makes an extended stay at the in-laws any easier (or shorter) for Anne, Peter and the girls.
Episode 5 – Firhouse
New Yorker Ursula and accountant Jimmy from Ennis met in New York many moons ago, traveled the world and eventually settled in an impressively colossal house in Firhouse, Dublin. On the surface, this house is indeed impressive, but when it comes down to actually living in the space the family cannot seem to make use of its entirety and so are desperate to see changes for it to maximise its spacious potential. With their family ever expanding and both parents busy they ask Dermot to come on board to help turn their huge house into their dream home.
Ursula and Jimmy had been saving their pennies with the prospect of selling up and buying elsewhere but with such love for their location, garden and size of their home they are tied and determined to utilise what they already have. Desperate to make use of such an ambitious space, the couple engage Dermot to take over the whole house and start using ‘unused’ rooms.
The original house has three bedrooms, a small family bathroom and a box/study room upstairs. Downstairs, there is a long narrow kitchen, large living area with built in bar area! To the side of the house there is a two storey extension that houses a sun-room, a large snooker room, a double bedroom and a shower room with yet another bedroom, living room and kitchenette upstairs. And so Dermot is enlisted to recreate their 15 strong roomed abode with a few suggestions and desires along the way.
The brief Dermot has to work from is simple but definite, Ursula wants to be able to cook, play and do homework all in one space with the kitchen more open plan with inclusion of the living area. Although Ursula is the boss, the unused living room may have to stay if Jimmy gets his way! He confesses that he is not particularly practically minded but would be holding on to the purse strings in case Ursula and Dermot go mad!
Episode 6 – Stillorgan
Clare Heenan and Rory Kelly live in a compact 1950s bungalow in the south Dublin suburb of Stillorgan. Long time renters, the couple struggled for years to afford this house. It’s their first home but -with a series of small, disjointed rooms and a damp extension – it’s far from ideal…
The young couple have an extensive ‘wish list’ and – despite a limited budget of 90,000 euro, they are determined to make the most of it. They love to entertain and – along with some much needed space and reorganisation of the house’s cramped layout – former chef Rory has his heart set on a bespoke kitchen to match his culinary aspirations.
After a series of re-adjustments to match the budget, architect Dermot Bannon proposes an angled extension to the rear of the bungalow and takes his new clients to meet chef Paolo Tullio for a masterclass in kitchen design and the efficient use of space.
The architect’s entire vision for the finish of Rory’s kitchen hinges on an idea inspired by an unassuming but prized possession Dermot picked up on a visit to Finland when he was still at college – a laminated plywood eggcup…