Home of the Year judge Patrick Bradley: Good design saves you money in the long run

Carol O’Callaghan talks design, television and architecture with new ‘Home of the Year’ judge Patrick Bradley.

Home of the Year judge Patrick Bradley: Good design saves you money in the long run

Carol O’Callaghan talks design, television and architecture with new ‘Home of the Year’ judge Patrick Bradley.

How many of you did a double take when the latest season of Home of the Year started on RTE 1?

The new judge looked familiar and yet, we couldn’t quite place him, could we? Then the penny dropped — it was architect Patrick Bradley, whom we last saw on Grand Designs.

Remember the shipping container house which had Kevin McCloud swooning? That was Grillagh Water House, designed by Bradley and constructed from shipping containers on his family farm near Maghera in Co Derry, after budget issues meant he couldn’t build in the traditional way.

Architect Patrick Bradley, the new judge on Home Of The Year and Celebrity Home of the Year.
Architect Patrick Bradley, the new judge on Home Of The Year and Celebrity Home of the Year.

“I was laughed up and down the country when I built it,” he says with cheeriness and self-deprecation. “Even Grand Designs came over and asked if I was real.”

The project pushed him firmly into the design spotlight and stimulated an inundation of emails asking him to design houses all around the world; his website crashed and his phone and email couldn’t cope.

“I got 60 commissions worldwide,” he says, though his heart is firmly planted in Ireland, where he studied architecture at Belfast’s Queen’s University, later working for a conservation architecture firm, where he developed a love of old buildings. In fact, he maintains that what people really love is old buildings and 21st-century architecture.

Later, he set up his own firm in his father’s garage and did a bit of everything — houses and shops — while also working on the farm and acquiring a reputation for doing unusual things and designing a house around the owner.

“If we buy a jumper or jeans, we try them on,” he says. “A house must be a fit for the owner and the site.”

Finalist: An 18th century mill in West Cork has been converted into a house and is now lived in by Gary Owens.
Finalist: An 18th century mill in West Cork has been converted into a house and is now lived in by Gary Owens.

So, when Home of the Year came calling to ask if he’d be interested in doing television he was intrigued, and agreed.

“Most of the houses on the show were amazing and individual to the owner,” he says. “But, really, any home can be amazing with good design. It saves you money in the long run when a house is designed to suit your life and your site. I like to get a good emotional bond with the client and then you can really create something different.”

Over the eight-week series, his jumper-and-jeans metaphor played out as his guiding principle when assessing the homes presented, whether it was the self-designed edifice of an architect, or a cosy put-together cottage filled with years of collecting.

Joining seasoned judges Hugh Wallace and Deirdre Whelan, he cut his presenting teeth as the expert architect for Celebrity Home of the Year, a one-off programme screened in January, and where Senator David Norris’s Dublin city centre Georgian home triumphed.

It eased him into the latest full series, which featured 21 homes around the country, ranging from city-centre apartments to rural new builds and much else in between, and which concluded this week.

Finalist: The contemporary, split-level home of Margaret and Mark Conway in south-west Cork.
Finalist: The contemporary, split-level home of Margaret and Mark Conway in south-west Cork.

It was, according to Patrick, “...like an education for me. Every day was a new learning day. I’ve seen so many new places in Ireland and there’s so much creativity.”

Surprisingly, what we saw in the all too brief half-hour duration of each episode is more or less what the judges got too.

“We see nothing about the houses beforehand, so we go in with three criteria to score them on: Functionality, creativity and individuality,” he says.

While he cites most of the selection as being amazing, he says he doesn’t believe in replicas, so the rural faux Georgian house was not top of his list, but it meant the little contemporary copper house built on a tiny triangular shaped piece of ground in Dublin was a favourite.

“It gave me goose pimples when I arrived,” he explains.

“Such a small, constrained house with amazing detailing.”

It’s in contrast to the winner chosen on Tuesday night’s final, which turned out to be an 18th-century cottage in Co Wicklow.

“I have to admit we fought it out between the three of us, but it’s deserving and I think people will like it,” he says.

“In the last five to six years, media and social media have upped people’s ideas about homes. We’ve gone through a period of people building huge houses with spaces which have no function.

“I think we have a cracking winner.”

Winning home

Anyone who took to Twitter and Facebook last year to complain that the winner of Home of the Year 2017 was the wrong decision, and snatched first place from the characterful railway cottage, will welcome this year’s winner.

It’s owned by artist Patrick Walshe and his wife Ros, creative director of Avoca, and comprises an 18th century cottage and outbuildings in Co Wicklow, making it the antithesis of the streamlined modern home with carefully curated interiors typical of the competing homes.

Strong colour is the leitmotif, in a context which embodies the whole stress-free Avoca lifestyle.

It could easily descend into clutter in other hands but Ros has succeeded in combining vintage, design pieces, acquired heirlooms, and even a bit of Ikea for an eclectic but homely outcome.

- The picture above features the kitchen of the winning Home of the Year 2018, owned by Patrick and Ros Walshe.

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