Carol O’Callaghan goes behind the scenes of a new RTÉ Player home interiors programme that transforms a room in just 24 hours.
Doesn’t the expression ‘the good room’ have a tone of days gone by about it? Visions conjure of polished furniture, Victorian lace cloths and antimacassars in a rarely used space, reserved for feast days and high holidays.
Now it’s brought up to date with a new RTÉ programme which turns the expression on its head by taking rooms which have become dumping grounds, due to be sorted but never getting done, and transforming them into more useable spaces.
Just as modern is the format of the programme which, incidentally, doesn’t screen on television but on RTÉ Player, suitably designed for the short attention span of the average internet user, with each episode lasting roughly 12 minutes. So if you haven’t much time, you can watch just one or two at a time.
Fronting The Good Room are two energetic and enthusiastic presenters, Mallow-born Jo Linehan and Dubliner Caroline Foran, who, in their off screen lives, describe themselves as interiors stylists, and blog accordingly.
Having met while working in magazine publishing, they were keen to do something else together. The opportunity came about when Caroline bought a house and noticed so much of the interior product offering in Ireland was high end, so they decided to see what could be done to create a look for less money, and the partnership was born.
But it was while Caroline was working with RTÉ earlier this year that the idea for The Good Room came to life. “They were talking about doing something with Player,” said Caroline, “something with original content that looked like Netflix, so I pitched the programme idea to them.”
After that, everything moved very quickly and in a matter of weeks she and Jo were on set, filming six locations with very different needs, from family homes to single occupancies, with some owner occupied homes and others rentals, and a variety of ages among the occupants, all accomplished in just under three weeks.
“We got around 70 applicants when the call went out on the RTÉ website,” said Jo. “Straight away we got rid of half as they needed structural work and that’s not what we do. A few others got cold feet which helped bring the number down. We ended up with a really good mix which wasn’t Dublin-centric. We wanted a spread around the country and variety in the rooms so we had everything from an attic bedroom to a music room with tons of old scores and posters just sitting on shelves.”
“We wanted people see us having problems but sorting them out,” added Caroline. “And to show what can be done with limited time and budget. We also give styling and decorating tips along the way. We were in and out of each house in just over 24 hours. As we completed each one, it was straight onto the next for three weeks, but we did treat ourselves to a glass of Prosecco in the evenings.”
One of the final six homes chosen, with a room ripe for a makeover in front of the television cameras, belongs to Clodagh Walsh, her husband Anthony and daughters Annabel, aged 4, and Juliette, aged 2, who live in Glanmire, Co Cork.
“Anthony emailed me the link about the programme,” says Clodagh. “What it described was exactly our room. Over time, we had become less and less enamoured with it and just threw things in there like the buggy and golf clubs, and things intended for the attic which never made their way up there. We’d been living in the north side of the house in a big open plan room, and had stopped going into the other room even though it has beautiful views of fields and is south-facing.”
But if you’re ever wondering exactly how much input homeowners have in these programmes, according to Clodagh, she was asked to consider what she liked about the room as it was and what she wanted to keep.
“Had I done it myself, I know I would have tried to hold on to things. It’s interesting for me that I ended up getting rid of everything. I suggested to the girls that I’d like a look that had Parisian chic. But what really appealed to me was the idea that the space would be handed back to me in a way I could only dream of myself. I wanted somewhere that my husband and I could go into in the evenings, a tranquil room.”
Giving Caroline and Jo access to her Pinterest board offered them a flavour of her taste which then informed the mood board they presented to her. This was all they had to go on, never having seen the room in the flesh before they arrived for the makeover and filming. “The girls really took time to understand my personal taste,” said Clodagh, “but they also made suggestions I hadn’t even considered. I had been thinking of pinks but they advised me to go for a more sophisticated green and things like a shag rug.”
After that, Jo and Caroline divided up the labour so one painted while the other shopped, and the family got stuck in, with Clodagh helping out with painting and with input from two little interiors enthusiasts.
“The children were very keen to help but Annabel had chicken pox so I had to check with Jo and Caroline that they weren’t pregnant,” Clodagh laughs. “I have to say I thrived on it all as I love having people around. The disruption is minimal as they were here for just over 24 hours.”
The finished room, according to Clodagh, is minimal and uncluttered but nothing is missing. “Obviously, I saw the whole process up to when it was almost finished, but then I had to go out so I’d have the big reveal afterwards.”
Her first impressions?
“I thought what a gift. At first my eyes were darting everywhere so it was later when the girls and the production team were gone that I looked at the detail.”
The result is a room painted with a light green feature wall, to which a turquoise sofa has been added and a pop of vibrant yellow in a footstool fronting a retro style armchair.
“What really surprised me was that apart from the sofa there are affordable accessories from places like Penneys which look really great.”
For anyone who’d like to participate in a programme like this, “It’s not as scary as you might think,” she says. “There’s a temporary upheaval but it’s not much more than a day. I learned a lot about clutter and getting rid of it. We now have an energising room where I feel like I’m on my holidays. The golf clubs are in the shed, and the buggy is in the porch where they belong. Suitcases are in the attic. Now when I come home from work in the evening and walk past the window, it makes me feel calm.”
Would she do it again? “Well, if they want to come back and do my bathroom, that’s alright with me.”
The Good Room is available on RTÉ Player at rte.ie/player/ie/ from September 7.
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