DIARY OF A DEMENTED HOME WORKER - At last, a peek inside a different home

February 28th, 2021 6:25 PM

By Emma Connolly

David O’Brien’s modern farmhouse in Ballygarvan has won a coveted spot in the Home of the Year final.

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It’s Week 50 and as I’m so bored with my own house I’m lapping up the new series of RTÉ’s Home of the Year - while also wondering where they’ve put all their ‘dodgy’ stuff

• I’M both relieved and a bit annoyed that RTÉ managed to film a new series of Home of the Year in between lockdowns. Personally, after spending so much time in my house over the past 12 months, I’d very much like to bulldoze it and start again, especially after seeing so many great ideas, just two episodes in (my house is black, but more due to the Covid mood than the stylish exterior of  David O’Brien’s, pictured). It did hit me, though, that we’ve possibly started taking the whole notion of having the ‘perfect home’ a bit too seriously. And no, that’s not the green-eyed monster talking. But I suppose, given that we can’t go anywhere, it is nice to get a 30-minute snoop around other people’s homes, even if they’ve been curated to within an inch of their lives.

• Anyway, after watching this week’s episode (where I coveted judge Suzie’s wardrobe as much as the homes), and as I was doing my nightly rounds and switching things off, I was trying to look at things with fresh eyes.  We’ve been in our house around four years now, but if you visited (you’re very welcome when restrictions lift), you might think we were only in the door. I have to admit that there are still a lot of naked bulbs, undressed windows and echoey corridors to be dealt with. There are a few reasons for that: I’ve commitment issues and find it really difficult to make a choice, also there’s just too much choice, our kitty ran dry, and I ran out of steam. I remember when we moved in, plonking things here and there with the intention of coming back later to move them. They’re still there.

• I’ve only lived in a few houses during my lifetime. Once during college I lived in a flat (it was definitely a flat and not an apartment) over a butcher’s shop (and a Chinese. We went through a lot of scented candles that year). When the butcher’s shutters went up in the morning you knew you had to get a wriggle on for lectures, except you mainly just rolled over and tried to ignore the brutal chopping sounds. We used to see Jimmy from Fair City a lot in the local shop so it kind of made up for it. I lived in another house that was so cold in the winter you couldn’t take your coat off inside, the cooking oil would freeze solid in the kitchen and getting into the shower was a serious ‘mind over matter’ ordeal. It snowed one year and we didn’t have water for over 10 days. I actually booked a cheap, last-minute sun holiday just to escape the misery. Those were the days. 

• Our house now is so hot, you wake up some mornings seriously dehydrated (nothing to do with the wine the night before, cheeky!). When we were building, lots of people advised us not to skimp on the insulation, as it’s not something you can’t easily double back on. So of course we ramped it up big time, forgetting that we lived in temperate West Cork, and not freezing Alaska. Keep that in mind. Another tiny bit of advice, too, for anyone still at ground level, is to remember that lots of glazing means lots of sunlight. It’s hard to host an elegant dinner while squinting (or sweating) as I’ve discovered, so have the sunglasses ready or be prepared for the (significant) expense of blinds.

• I wonder did we always take our interiors so seriously? I suppose we did in a way. Growing up the height of style was having the bedroom bedspread, curtains, lampshade and cushions all made from the same fabric. It certainly made quite the impact. My sister once went a step further and framed pieces of the curtain fabric and hung them on the wall as well. We thought we deserved to be in the next Laura Ashley catalogue. Bathrooms were also most interesting places with the knitted toilet roll lady, the peach/mint green baths, and … carpet. We were also mad for framing photos in our house. I still need to frame my wedding pictures, but growing up every occasion was captured by a cluster of framed snaps in different rooms, recording all gappy smiles and later dodgy perms, and moody teen faces. The original gallery wall, I suppose?

• The really sought-after space to have when I was a teen was the conservatory – hotter than hell in the summer, and baltic in the winter. I mean who wouldn’t want a room like that? The home office is the current big thing. I’m most envious of anyone who has got a proper dedicated office space. When we were building I had a notion that part of the playroom would be ‘The Office.’ Yeah. All those nasty toys that I swore would never be in my home, wangled their way in and sort of took over. We do have the ceiling height to do a mezzanine and I have this fantasy of installing an office there. My husband has this notion of putting in an outside balcony on part of the flat roof. Maybe, once we sort all the light fittings.

• Home décor is all a matter of taste really, and budget of course. I’ve often wondered if you have bad taste, do you even realise it? Probably not, so it doesn’t matter. Anyway Home of the Year judge Hugh Wallace said in an interview that in his eyes a home is a place where you don’t feel the need to use a coaster. Now I’ll admit to suffering from coaster anxiety, and hovering over visitors who aren’t familiar with my ‘coaster rule’, but I get his sentiment. There has to be place in the cupboard for the dodgy ‘I love you mammy’ mugs, tacky holiday fridge magnets and a knitted toilet roll lady or two. Besides, in a week where we found out we’re in Level 5 for another stretch, where everyone felt a bit flat (flatter than the last time we felt flat), all any of us really want is to throw open the doors and welcome in our friends and family. Or better still, go to their houses so you don’t risk getting cup ring stains on your coffee table!

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