Design/life: Ian Hart, builder

What’s your background?

Design/life: Ian Hart, builder

I’d a huge interest in woodwork and I managed to find a four-year apprenticeship in cabinetmaking, which was no mean feat in the mid 80s with high unemployment and emigration.

After I finished my apprenticeship, I got the travel bug and lived and worked in Brussels for eight years.

English-speaking tradesmen were in high demand with the EU office workers, and it was here that I picked up a lot of my knowledge of building, and working with various trades day in day out.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I live in Westmeath, and most of my work is in Dublin, so I’m up at 5.30am, spending 20 minutes or so in the office sending and answering emails.

I’m normally on site at 8am, where I’m still pretty hands on — I could be doing anything from sweeping floors to putting on roofs.

There is also a lot of liaising with clients and architects. Co-ordination of sub-contractors and materials on site is something that’s assessed on a daily basis.

Tell us about a recent project or a favourite project you worked on.

Our last project for Room to Improve comes to mind. It was a 170-year old Coach House in Maynooth, Co Kildare, and I think it’s fair to say I had a love/hate relationship with the house.

It was one of the most troublesome houses I have ever worked on, it just would not stop giving us problems and it tried the patience of myself, Dermot and the home owners.

A series of dodgy renovations over the years meant that this house was eating itself from the inside out — mould, damp and rot had infested the building and it had to be stripped back to the bare four walls.

It took a lot of determination from all involved to get this project back to what it is today — a light, airy home, with some lovely features, ready for 21st century living. The finished product is one of my favourites.

What’s your design or building style?

Being a builder I would not have a lot of say in the build design of any of the homes I work on, that’s usually left to the architects.

I try to keep pace with modern build techniques, while using the most up-to-date material. I would be known to complete homes to a high-class finish. I have a good eye for clean lines and precision.

What or who inspires your work?

I’m an avid fan of TV renovation programmes, especially Grand Designs and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

They tend to deal with the higher end of house building and renovation and I often see clever ideas or use of materials that I sometimes introduce to my projects.

What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?

Flat roofs had a very bad reputation, and rightly so, with a lot of the roofing constructed in the 60s to the 90s. Modern materials have made the flat roof extension a realistic prospect with consumer peace of mind.

I’m a huge fan of fibreglass flat roof systems, mostly because they are seamless, and once fitted correctly with the correct angles for water to run off, these will give you piece of mind for many years to come.

What’s your most treasured possession?

I’m a big child at heart. When I was a young lad, I collected Airfix models that I assembled, and I have a substantial ‘N gauge’ train set and a large collection of Star Wars memorabilia from the 70s, all of which I still have today.

Yes, I’m a bit of an anorak when it comes to those things, which still amazes anybody that knows me. I think it’s fair to say I’d be very, very upset if something happened to them.

What would be a dream project for you to work on?

I would love to get my hands on an old church renovation, I’ve seen some things done to disused churches over the years and they are a thing of beauty once finished.

What’s a building no-no for you

Clashing of styles — building a nice modern, contemporary home, and the clients insisting on putting in a farmhouse kitchen, pine doors, moulded architraves and skirtings into it. Try to keep the design consistent.

Have you any building or design tips for us?

Make sure when you are building that you use the best material you can afford on your build.

There is no point in compromising on the build quality and insulation and then spending €5,000 on curtains. The curtains can be bought when money becomes available down the line and are easily fitted.

Finding out when you move in that your home is cold because you scrimped on insulation is an expensive thing to put right after the fact.

You can follow Ian Hart on Twitter (@HartOfTheHome) and Facebook (Hart of the Home) and on his website

You can also contact Ian at:

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