The follow-up to Dermot Bannon’s ‘Incredible Homes’ is less flaky than the original series as we learn a bit more about the people who live in these spectacular properties, writes Carol O’Callaghan.
Ireland's favourite architect, Dermot Bannon, has hung up his hard hat and high-visibility vest, dispensing with efforts to persuade Room to Improve participants that an open plan extension out the back is the way to go, and indulged us in the rarefied, interior lives of others.
Jetting off to Australia, Sweden and England, series two of Incredible Homes is a more robust follow-up to a flaky series one which left us feeling we only got to see inside some of the properties because they were for sale.
Remember the New York penthouse apartment staged like a show house, and the timber-fronted mansion on The Hamptons which suggested squishy sofas and luxury beach living from outside, but turned out to be virtually empty of furniture and devoid of life? Incredible houses, yes. Homes, no.
Series two began in Sydney and Melbourne, where Dermot treated us to a nosy parker around spectacular properties, high on location value, and actually lived in.
Cue a cavernous Melbourne rectangle of concrete floors and walls bereft of paint, with barely a chair to suit the minimal design, but a view never to tire of seeing.
It certainly works in the land down under, where climate informs much of the house’s makeup, although it’s unlikely to transpose to misty West Cork.
Just when it seems a tad remote for us viewers still huddling round the fire of an evening, Dermot gets warm and fuzzy with a reference to back home, dropping in on ex-pat, Colm O’Neil, co-owner of a watering hole in Sydney called The Doss House.
Dermot explores unusual buildings in Melbourne, including a floating pavilion with copper cladding, and a property that incorporates the surrounding landscape into its rooms | Dermot Bannon's Incredible Homes - Sunday 9:30pm on @RTEOne | @DermotBannon pic.twitter.com/PQeJ4qcKpf— RTÉ (@rte) February 16, 2019
After a tour of the whisky vault, built in stone with the labour of convicts, they Skype Colm’s mammy back in Waterford and, suddenly, Australia doesn’t seem so far away.
But in the midst of all this architectural virtue, we bear an uncomfortable witness to Dermot’s less well-developed talents, like surfing. By episode three, we’re hiding behind a cushion from his quivering, off-key sing-along to Abba while driving through tundra-like conditions of northern Sweden.
His destination is a timber loggers’ lodge, updated with every comfort, followed by eyrie-like tree houses in which to get away from city stress. It’s a long way from an Irish seaside caravan. From there, it’s off to the comparatively temperate climate of Stockholm, to the Royal Palace, and then the contrast of a house built into a precipitous rock overlooking the sea, finishing with a house in the woods, and a city apartment block.
It’s a bit jam-packed in this episode, but there’s a point. Dermot dispenses with his personal jolly japes to impress on us how we might learn from the Swedes’ ability to embrace winter regardless of accommodation and location, much as we are likely to embrace a lesser-spotted hot summer if we’re lucky enough to make it two in a row.
Onward to London for the finale including the hitherto missing house for sale, in Mayfair, inevitably, and on the market for almost €38m.
This is all about the bling, with the club room and swimming pool made from the London fashion of digging out the basement to include another floor.
We’re firmly with Dermot in eyebrow-raising at the developer spending €32,000 on Jo Malone candles, and as impressed as he is by two boilers in case one breaks down.
Such a lacquered interior, however, sets a contrasting tone to the calm of a contemporary riverbank house, west of London.
Dermot, you kept the best ‘til last.
All slows to a gentle pace as we hear how the owners took their time to get it right for their retirement. Thirteen years, in fact.
Architect Amin Taha is responsible for the result, and it’s hard to find fault. The same goes for Taha’s own house, an historic vicarage in Cornwall, where granite walls, open fireplaces and exposed beams form the framework for modern architectural components.
To borrow one of Dermot’s superlatives, it’s breath-taking.
Later, he introduces us to his digs for the night, a contemporary, single-roomed summer house, minimally designed but high on comfort, where he treats his production crew to a home-cooked barbecue in the garden as it’s the last day of filming. This is Cornwall in the sunshine but it could just be Australia. Let’s hope he can cook better than surf.