Room to Improve

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Overview

Architect Dermot Bannon is back with a brand new series of Room To Improve featuring eight challenging and innovative new design projects: from the most compact conversion to the biggest build of the series to date.

Eight diverse projects – one headstrong architect. Still – there’s always Room To Improve.

This week: Episode 8

Leonard and Caroline live in house once owned by Leonard’s grandparents in the south Dublin suburb of Dundrum – a 1960s three-bed semi that hasn’t changed at all since the couple bought it two years ago.
In place of a maze of tiny rooms and endless doors the clients have an extensive wish list including a redesigned ground floor, new ensuite and full loft conversion – all of which will depend on the budget.
Adding to the challenge is the imminent arrival of Caroline and Leonard’s first baby which means a build deadline that’s very close to a due date.
Dermot plans a completely reconfigured rear extension with a sunken den but – right from the outset – his design plans are thwarted by forthright builder Jamie – a former contestant on The Apprentice who has his own design ideas about how the house should look and who isn’t shy about advancing these ideas.
Kindred spirits, Dermot and Jamie both want things their own way and the architect quickly finds himself struggling to maintain control over the build.
To ease their limited budget and fund the loft conversion, the clients dispense with the services of QS Patricia Power in favour of handling the project management themselves. It’s a risky gambit for these first-timers and presents them with both budgetary and design challenges but it’s a bust up over a misaligned window that finally results in a serious communication rift between the clients and their architect.
Finally, Dermot steps in with a trademark flourish to create a memorable canopied extension, but will it be enough to mend his relationship with the anxious clients?

Episode 7

GP, writer and budding musician Dr Pat Harrold, his wife Marita, a physiotherapist, and their four kids returned to Pat’s home town of Nenagh 10 years ago and they have been looking for a place to call home ever since.
In the last 22 years, they have changed address an incredible 17 times, shifting from Enniskillen, Mayo and Galway to Wales and back. The time has come to find the home to end all houses and as it happens, it’s been in Nenagh all along.
Pat and Marita plan to renovate and extend the 1950s 3-bed bungalow where Pat grew up – a tiny, dark house currently occupied by Pat’s 93-year-old mother Mary. But with three generations of the family to accommodate – each needing their own personal space – architect Dermot Bannon has his work cut out.
Dermot plans a radical reconfiguration of the bungalow, converting the original house into a six-bed dormitory block with an all-new three-part extension block offering living, dining and communal space.
With his clients insisting the house relates ideally to the existing gardens, Dermot also designs a floating wooden deck.
Early on, the budget is under pressure as Pat and Marita ask for a large home gym to be accommodated into their master bedroom, creating havoc with the existing roofline. Meanwhile, a Feng Shui expert is called in to ‘harmonise’ the various elements of the design – an ancient school of Oriental thought Dermot never encountered at college.
Worse still, as the elaborate extension takes shape, Pat’s not even sure he likes what he sees, comparing Dermot’s design to the prow of the Titanic. And, with trouble below deck, can Dermot steer this project past the looming shadows of disharmony and design disaster toward safe harbour

Episode 6

Since they married two years ago, Paul and Sabina Horgan have become the proud parents of baby Mia and the owners of a property on the North Dublin coast: Lismara – a dilapidated 1940s cottage in Portmarnock in an extremely poor condition.
They’re hoping that – despite its rotting floorboards and ‘unorthodox’ foundations – this ‘fixer-upper’ will be their new family home.
Right from the outset, it’s clear that Dermot will have to redesign the cottage from the ground up in order to save it. And so the architect presents his vision of a new extension, an optional garden room and a completely new open-plan layout.
As the build progresses, an expensive litany of remedial work starts eating into the Horgan’s modest budget. The walls are filled with asbestos, the floors are consumed with dry rot, the roof is beyond repair and after 70 years of subsidence, the cottage is on the verse of collapse.
When Dermot suggests retaining full height ceilings to enhance the limited space, the build takes a strange twist as windows and doors are fitted before the new roof goes on. Soon, unforeseen problems with mismatched ceiling heights cause even more setbacks.
With Paul trying to find time to train for a triathlon and the couple desperate to leave the compact simplicity of apartment life, there are decisions to be made on literally everything: from the new den to a bespoke kitchen table made from telegraph poles.
Sometimes, a blank canvas can be more trouble than it’s worth.

Episode 5

Sally-Ann, her husband Trevor, and their four children live in Sally-Ann’s childhood home – a huge, distinctive 1970s architect-designed home outside Mullingar in Westmeath that they’ve dreamed of rennovating for years.
With his clients in full control of the self build, architect Dermot Bannon finds himself under more pressure to deliver than ever before.
Right from the start, Dermot and Sally-Ann are at odds, design-wise. He wants to revise the room layout, she wants to retain it. He wants to add a full height window to the master bedroom, she’s horrified at the prospect of visitors seeing under her bed! And that’s just for starters.
In the end it takes a year of revision and renegotiation before the build gets underway, but not before Dermot invites the orginal architect Jim Feehily to view the place one last time.
Determined to reconfigure and extend the classic house without losing any of its unique 1970s character, Dermot’s ongoing struggle to give his clients the wow factor is stymied as the 300K budget is eaten up by more mundane necessities like insulation.
With the fate of a rare architectural gem at stake and two demanding clients to answer to, Dermot Bannon faces his most delicate balancing act yet.
Can he convince his clients to blend 70s chic with modern design? Can he deliver the wow factor his clients are insisting on? Or has the architect finally met his match?

Episode 4

This week, Dermot wants to create a wheelchair friendly house in Malahide that’s also a welcoming family home. Special Needs teacher Ann and her husband Barry live in a 1970s semi-d in Malahide, north Dublin, that’s too small, too cramped and a lot less welcoming than they’d like it to be. Having already considered and rejected the idea of moving they’re determined to remodel the place, but with the needs of the other love of their lives – 12 year old Michael – to consider, this will be no ordinary build.

Right now, Michael – wheelchair bound and visiting regularly for respite breaks from residential accommodation – considers Ann and Barry’s house his home from home. ut the facilities are far from ideal. From a makeshift bedroom in the living room, he struggles to navigate the narrow corridors, tiny rooms and outdated kitchen, and, though there’s a sizeable rear garden, wheelchair access is limited.

Dermot faces a uniquely demanding design challenge. It’s unlike anything he’s done before and he knows the end result can be nothing less than perfect. Working with extremely limited space to strict guidelines explained by an occupational therapist, Dermot struggles to maintain the integrity and balance of his design. In aiming to design a home, not a hospital, Dermot travels to Cork to take advice from adult wheelchair users who’ve designed their own living spaces. Dermot takes inspiration from the space-saving ergonomics of ship design to create units and foldaway features for Michael’s new en-suite bedroom, but, turning to the living room diner, he also has to factor the needs of Ann and Barry into the design equation.

To provide access to a sensory garden Dermot plans a new terrace to give Michael the freedom and indpendence he needs but Barry and the landscape designer are less than impressed with the architect’s proposed ‘reflection pool’ – which they’d much rather replace with planting.

Can he deliver the very thing the budget seems incapable of supporting – a wheelchair freindly house that’s also a welcoming family home?

Episode 3

Struggling with a tight schedule, a limited budget and the traditionalist taste of his clients, can Dermot balance their love of classic farmhouse design with his own vision of clean urban functionality?

Larry and Elaine live in a typical 1980s rural bungalow in the middle of a large dairy farm at Baltinglass in south Wicklow. Larry runs the farm with his father while Elaine, originally from Coolock, commutes daily to work at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
The couple long for a warm, spacious and welcoming farmhouse but the bungalow is dark, poorly laid out and totally out of sync with its glorious rural surroundings.
No fan of the so-called ‘Bungalow Bliss’ designs of the 1980s, Dermot initially suggests demolishing what he considers ‘an eyesore’ and starting from scratch. But with his clients’ 160 grand budget ruling this out, he gets to work, gleefully remodelling the dysfunctional off-the-shelf house.
From the outset, certain aspects of Dermot’s plan to give the bungalow a modern urban flavour fall foul of the clients. A proposed ‘outdoor room’ bounded by a terrace wall extending from the side of the house becomes an ongoing battle of wills. With every spare euro channelled into other more practical features, there’s nothing left for what the clients see as an unnecessary and thoroughly unfarmlike folly.
Struggling to maintain control as the build proceeds faster than anyone expected, the architect increasingly finds himself sidelined from the decision-making process.
Struggling with a tight schedule, a limited budget and the traditionalist taste of his clients, can Dermot balance their love of classic farmhouse design with his own vision of clean urban functionality?
Will he ever manage to turn Bungalow Blight into Bungalow Bliss?

Episode 2

Jean Robinson and Daithi Elliffe have bought themselves what they hope will be an ideal family home in a unique location – a listed 19th century former schoolhouse at Kilternan with spectacular views of the Dublin mountains, but all is not as it appears.
Virtually disused for the last 30 years, the interior is dank and dilapidated, poorly lit with rotting floors and a cavernous internal space where the old schoolroom used to be. What they want is for Dermot to deliver a comfortable and bright family home with a modern layout and twice the space – no small ask, given the constraints of the protected structure, even with a generous €360,000.
And so begins what will turn out to be the most protracted and frustrating project in the history of the series. Jean and Daithi want to be in before Christmas, but as delays and hidden costs start to mount up, the initial five month schedule proves an insurmountable obstacle for contractor Simon Chamberlayne and his crew.
To preserve the integrity of the schoolhouse Dermot designs a glorious two-storey, cedar-clad extension joined to the old building by a glass atrium and stairwell but drainage problems and last-minute revisions to the design delay fabrication and add thousands of euro in unforeseen costs. Before long, work grinds to a halt and the site is closed for weeks.
Meanwhile, the budget continues to rise with the addition of a bespoke staircase and a €15,000 state of the art renewable heating system.
As if things weren’t complex enough, Jean’s background in construction leads to her hiring multiple subcontractors, throwing the project management into chaos and pushing the main contractor’s patience to the limit.
Will the build finish on time? No. On budget? Certainly not.
But the end result speaks for itself. The old schoolhouse undergoes a breathtaking transformation – a stunning home that combines 19th century heritage with 21st century architecture.

Episode 1

In the ten years since they first met, Avril and Andrew Wilson-Rankin have been dreaming of owning their own home. Now they’ve bought a property in Dun Laoghaire south county Dublin but it’s as far from being a home, or even a house, as you could imagine.
Andrew and Avril’s dream home is a 2 storey disused commercial lockup on a side street, hemmed in by public pavement on one side and double yellow lines on the other. It’s dark, dusty and – for now – completely uninhabitable. To save the money needed for the renovation, the couple have moved into a tiny seomra at the bottom of Andrew’s parents’ garden in Clonskeagh with about as much space as the average henhouse!

Avril’s vision of an urban dwelling complete with exposed brickwork, an internal bridge and mezzanine leaves Dermot struggling to unify his client’s eclectic taste and faced with his most demanding design yet. With €260,000 in the budget, Dermot pulls out all the stops to create a blueprint for a glorious urban conversion with a completely new internal layout, a mezzanine level, and an entire new floor with a garden overlooking the bay and butterfly roof. At least that’s the plan. But the logistical challenge of working on such a restricted site quickly put the budget and schedule under huge pressure. Dermot’s young clients are hoping to be ‘in before Christmas’ but with major delays and serious design crises including a dispute over the shape of the new stairwell, their chances get slimmer with each passing day.
For once, it’s not the strained budget or slipping schedule that’s foremost on Dermot’s mind – it’s whether this hugely complex build can be completed at all.