Architect Amanda Bone and I sit down to talk over Zoom.
We are working from our respective home offices, Amanda in the bungalow in her native Bray, Co Wicklow, that she redesigned herself.
I throw a look over my shoulder in case an animal-print fur cushion hoves into view to create a cameo role for itself.
And we burst out laughing.
Amanda is thejudge fans of the hit RTÉ One show have come to know and love as the straight-talking queen of minimalism.
I tell her I wanted to impress her.
Amanda gets this a lot from fans of the ratings winner. “I do, and it’s actually great fun. I swim, and somebody waved at me, like, four lanes over and got into the lane with me and we must have talked about her kitchen for about 45 minutes,” she says.
Her love-it-or-hate-it approach to architecture and interior design chimes with me. “I can’t lie, I’m so honest,” she admits.
When the ninth series screens from February 14, Amanda will explore residences across the land in her third stint as a judge, alongside longtime judge and fellow architect Hugh Wallace and interior designer Sara Cosgrove.
“It’s just a blast,” says Amanda.
A longtime fan prior to joining the production, she enjoys the contrast filming offers to her day-to-day work — wicker furniture and all.
Because the banter famously included Hugh Wallace asking her if she wanted “a spoon of sugar” when she declared her abhorrence on camera of a certain type of outdoor furniture in one episode. “I was actually bawling laughing; there were tears streaming down my face laughing,” she says.
“They totally wind me up behind the scenes.
Was Amanda always partial to a clean, uncluttered aesthetic? “Yes. I was fortunate to grow up in a Victorian property with very high ceilings, very generous rooms.
"As I grew older I started studying architecture and when I was exposed to minimalist interiors my interest grew,” she says.
“Also, I am a very claustrophobic person; I cannot deal with a messy space — I get very stressed, it has a really strong impact on how I feel.
"But it also comes down to the scale and the proportion of the rooms and their ceiling height. Sometimes I don’t notice the clutter if the space itself is well-designed.”
As for her onscreen confessions about that garden seating and table, Amanda is gleefully self-deprecating. “Actually, the homeowners were great sports, we’re pals on social media. And, I have a photo of myself in my parents’ house sitting outside — not only is there wicker furniture but wicker blinds, wicker everywhere, it’s like me in a mass of wicker, and I hadn’t even noticed.”
Over the years Amanda has lived in Dublin, Paris, New York and northern Spain. “And then five years ago this week, I moved back to Bray,” she says.
“I now live three minutes from the sea. I think when you grow up by the sea you don’t forget that freedom and openness.”
It was her passion for sea swimming that partly drew her back to Co Wicklow, where she lives with her partner, who is also an architect.
She had owned her bungalow and rented it out, then over a period of two years, redesigned it. “I ended up only keeping two walls,” she says.
“It’s a modest house, built in the 1990s.”
Amanda owns her own company, Amanda Bone Architects, which specialises in designing homes, as well as the conservation and refurbishment of protected structures, and commercial work. (She also teaches at the Dublin School of Architecture, Technological University Dublin.)
For her own home, Amanda increased the energy rating from E to B1 and working with John Ryan, of BuildXJR, added an extension.
“The orientation is southwest and east facing and there is a view of Bray Head,” adds Amanda.
She reconfigured the layout, which opens up to the garden — a connection she relishes. The extension features a second living room, now functioning as a home office, which can be closed off by recessed glazed sliding doors.
Amanda adores art (both painting and drawing herself, and collecting arwork) and reading and uses white walls and ceilings as well as flush storage to create a sense of spaciousness and a backdrop for her collection of books and contemporary paintings and sculptures.
“When it came to filling out my CAO form, architecture with the only thing I wanted to put on it," she says.
What is Amanda's key advice? “Good design encompasses everything,” she says.
“Make the most of what you have and understand the type of home that you have and how to deal with its limitations.
“When I’m asked if there’s anything in my home that would surprise anyone, I have to say no.
"I’ve never had the luxury myself of living in overly generous-sized homes. Anything I ever bring into my home is considered — there isn’t a place or space in my home for anything that isn’t.”
- starts on RTÉ One this Tuesday, February 14, at 8.30pm