Home of the Year judges say this restored house is 'hard to beat'

‘What a terrific home to be going through to the final,’ says architect Hugh Wallace of the lovingly restored Dublin home
Home of the Year judges say this restored house is 'hard to beat'

Kevin Desmond outside his restored Dublin home.

Don't we all love a zesty helping of brutal honesty served with our vicarious kitchen snoop? Architect and Home of the Year judge Amanda Bone has been sharpening our appetites with her no-holds-barred opinions on everything from clutter to wicker garden furniture lately.

But tonight, all three judges ooze positivity about the fifth finalist chosen in the 2021 RTÉ One series. 

“What a terrific home to be going through to the final,” says judge and architect Hugh Wallace of the lovingly restored 19th-century Dublin home. “I think this will be a difficult home to beat.” 

And Amanda admits that although normally she would "run out screaming" from elements in this interior style it also "blew her mind".

Kevin Desmond says when he bought the property in 2019 it was “in very bad condition”. 

“But that’s what appealed to me because I have a passion for the restoration of very old houses,” he adds.

It needed extensive work so Kevin along with his partner Joe undertook the major revamp.

They restored the property throughout, paying particular attention to features of an 1830s house. 

It was very important to them to protect the integrity of the property and ensure it remained sympathetic to its era.

“We restored both the façade and the layout and the back of the house as it would have been when it was built almost 200 years ago,” says Kevin.

The sash windows were replaced, the roof was re-done, all fireplaces restored, all internal doors restored including original locks and all the timber floors repaired.

When Kevin bought the house, the front brickwork had a render applied in the ’50s and required a substantial restoration. 

They also exposed the stone to the back and all the garden walls with lime mortar.

Kevin is a keen gardener and his favourite spot is in the garden. “It’s like an oasis in the city centre,” he adds.

“We’ve lived here just over a year but we absolutely adore the house and we’re very happy to show it to people are we are today with Home of the Year.” 

The houses “would have been very prim and proper and desirable when they were built in the middle of the 19th century”, says architect Hugh Wallace as the judges approach it.

Interior designer Suzie McAdam admires the brick tones. 

“They’ve done an incredible restoration but going by the shocking pink on the door there’s some boldness and bravery inside!” she says.

A fanlight ensures natural light fills the elegant hallway, which showcases the artwork and original floorboards.

But Amanda is not easily won over. “For me, it’s all just a little bit too much, too heavy, too cluttered, heavy chandeliers, bits and bobs,” she says.

As they enter the living space, she has a change of heart.

“This is a beautiful room, with a fantastic collection of artwork but unlike the hall, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic; it works and I think it's because of the light coming in,” she says.

Hugh is enraptured by the main bedroom, which he says would originally have been the dining room. “I think this is a treat of a room,” he says.

Suzie admires the glamour and good taste, as does Amanda.

On paper, it would be the complete opposite of what I'd find relaxing — in fact, I'd run out screaming — but for some reason, the whole thing works

“I actually feel like I’m in a hotel room in Paris," she says. "On paper, all the fabrics, the furniture, the bits and pieces, would be the complete opposite of what I would find relaxing — in fact, I’d run out screaming — but for some reason, in reality, the whole thing works and it’s an absolutely beautiful bedroom.” 

As for the garden? We hold our breath remembering the spat in the lawn last week.

But no, all is zen.

Amanda gazes around. “Now this looks gorgeous and the owner’s favourite spot and, you know, I can completely see why.” 

The theatrical bathroom is also a hit with all three judges.

“To have space in your home for a large bathroom is a great luxury. It’s completely over the top but it does look like the homeowner had great fun fitting it out,” says Amanda.

The kitchen meets with Suzie and Hugh’s approval. 

“When I was upstairs you get a real sense of the owners’ respect for the house and I would have hated to have walked downstairs and to have seen anything but this," says Hugh.

Amanda concludes: “When I walked into the hall it was just so cluttered, there were just so many things; however, as we moved through the house the front living room felt so sophisticated.

It was the bedroom that really blew my mind

“But it was the bedroom that really blew my mind; it had everything I don’t like — it was just overfull overstuffed, over-everything but it brought me back to living in Paris in my 20s.” 

The judges give the home a score of 26.

SUBURBAN HAVEN 

France is also on the judges’ minds when they visit the second home tonight.

Artist Isobel Henihan grew up on the road where she and her husband Ian Kenny built their Dublin family home that reflects their love of art and nature.

“You really could be in the middle of France but in fact, you’re in suburban Dublin,” says Hugh.

From 2011 to 2013 Isobel Ian built their house in the garden of Isobel’s family home. They had many constraints as it is in a protected area.

Isobel’s dad is a retired architect who designed their home and Isobel decorated it herself. Their home reflects their love of nature and art, with plants, artwork and murals featuring prominently.

“We’re surrounded by nature here, we often feel like it’s a bit of a haven here in a built-up area,” says Isobel.

With three young children, the space needs to be calm and both practical and easy to maintain.

Isobel painted all of the murals on the walls in the bedrooms and bathroom where she created a terrazzo effect. 

Her artwork can be seen throughout the house. 

Their style has evolved with their growing family and a need to create a calm environment in a compact home. 

Isobel says loves how adaptable it is and in the summer the two courtyard gardens off the living area are like bonus rooms.

The judges give it a score of 22.

CURATED AND COMFORTABLE 

Mark O’Neill’s two-bedroom apartment in Dublin is not a typical standard “box”, because it has some angles in its design. It looked a bit tired when Mark bought it in 2018 as it had been rented for a few years.

Its big windows and view overlooking trees and a small river sold it to Mark. He had wanted a new kitchen, bathroom and floors, but had to settle for painting — going on to paint walls, doors, the kitchen (units and appliances), some of the floors, the window frames, and parts of the bathroom, including the shower frame. 

It took a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it for the beautiful aesthetic he has created.

“I would have put a lot of blood sweat and tears into bringing it up to a nicer spec,” says Mark.

The balcony is his favourite spot. 

“It’s a very nice space to just sit down and chill out,” says Mark.

An art director, he carefully selected pieces of furniture and art, and says his friends describe his place as “curated but comfortable”.

“I think this shows how you can take an apartment and create something special,” says Hugh.

The sound of the river and the view of trees out the large windows make it unique for a city apartment.

Amanda says: “It’s a sophisticated soul that lives here; it’s my kindred spirit.” The judges give it a score of 25.

  • Home of the Year airs on Tuesday nights on RTÉ One at 8.30pm or catch up on RTÉ Player at www.rte.ie

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