Home of the Year: House with the wow factor gets a perfect 10 from Amanda Bone

See inside Aoife and Gareth Tolerton’s modernist County Down property that is the third residence through to the 2022 final 
Home of the Year: House with the wow factor gets a perfect 10 from Amanda Bone

Aoife and Gareth Tolerton's favourite spot in their County Down home. Pictures: Joe McCallion

An upside-down home in Co Down tops the charts for architect Amanda Bone this week.

The modernist house, owned by Aoife and Gareth Tolerton, is the third property through to the final of RTÉ One’s Home of the Year.

Amanda awards it a perfect 10 and she and her fellow judges, architect Hugh Wallace and interior designer Sara Cosgrove, give it a combined score of 28.

Aoife and Gareth built the residence in 2017.

“Open-plan is essential for our family and clutter is kept to a bare minimum,” says Aoife.

The couple live there with their children. As an upside-down configuration, the bedrooms are on the ground floor and the living areas are on the upper floor.

The layout maximises the views and makes the most of the flow of light throughout the space.

Aoife, an artist and graphic designer, masterminded the modern, minimalist look. ”I tried to soften the clean lines by using quite a lot of wood,” she says.

The “shape and orientation” were Gareth’s input, he adds.

“The terraces are located at the eastern and southern sides so we can have sunshine outside from morning till night,” says Gareth.

As Aoife notes: “Rain or shine, the views are immense.” 

And all of this is “quite calming”, says Gareth.

Their favourite spot? The freestanding bath in the ensuite. “The bathroom was actually designed around the bath,” says Gareth.

“The judges can be quite critical but at the end of the day we like it so it doesn’t really matter.” 

He need not worry. All three judges adore it — from the moment Hugh approaches what he describes as the “big architectural statement”, through to his delighted dive into their bathtub. 

Amanda loves the panoramic vistas.  "This is beautiful — the views, I’m just speechless,” she says.

Hugh isn’t. 

Pointing at all the wooden finishes, he exclaims. “From the outside I’ve got architecture, architecture, architecture: I come in here, and I’m, yeehaw! I’m expecting a Texan hat!” 

Again turning her eyes to the County Down countryside, Amanda sighs: “Well I feel like I’m in heaven. I just feel like I want to reach out and grab it.” 

The open-plan living area and family relaxation room also get the judges’ seal of approval.

“The sofa is a real design classic,” says Sara.

“This home has serious wow factor.” 

Máire and Denis Hennessey-O'Connor, Tipperary 

Another perfect 10 is on its way across the rolling Tipperary countryside from Hugh Wallace to a reimagined 1800s farm cottage that he deems an “inspirational and delightful family home”.

The cottage, owned by Máire and Denis Hennessey-O'Connor, has been in Denis’s family for generations.

Denis says: “I actually proposed to Máire in the cottage.” 

They live there with their children and renovated the property over a two-year period, retaining as many original features as possible.

Máire, an interior decorator, designed the interiors to be a balanced mix of traditional and modern. 

“We kept the original build and then we added a kitchen, living and play area for the kids,” she says.

All three judges are impressed overall with the feel of the space.

“I just feel the life that’s been lived in this home,” says Sara.

Hugh adds: “It’s a working farm, for me it’s perfect.” Amanda relaxes in the family’s favourite spot, by the original hearth.

“Effortless comfort,” muses Sara.

The judges give it a score of 26.


Gail Hawthorne and Graham Watson, Dublin 

Gail Hawthorne and her husband Graham live in a 1920s end-of-terrace house in north Dublin city with their children.

When they bought their home, it required a full renovation and new heating, plumbing and electrics. 

They added a unique triangular extension to the side of the property, designed by their architect, which houses the open-plan kitchen and dining area and has large sliding doors and discreet skylights that flood the area with natural light.

Gail and Graham have taken an eclectic approach to their interiors and have furnished the property with vintage finds.

“I wouldn’t be a minimalist at all,” says Gail.

“When we moved in the bathroom literally just had a bath in it — there was no sink, no loo — so, we just took the bath into the bedroom and we thought we’d just leave it here so you can just lie in the bath with the fire lit and just hop into bed,” she says.

“I think the style of our home is just a patchwork of us, really — full of music, art and people.” 

Amanda proclaims she feels as if she’s “wandered into a West of Ireland cottage”.

Hugh adds: “There’s a lot going on, even for me.” 

But’s it’s a home that’s “full of happiness and full of memories”, says Sara. 

“The items didn’t just come out of a catalogue.” 

Amanda and Hugh are impressed by the new extension housing the kitchen dining area, and its architectural design with raised ceiling.

The judges award it a score of 22.

  • Home of the Year is on RTÉ One on Tuesdays at 8.30pm and on RTÉ Player

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