Why would you pay for a spare room you never use?

Eve Kelliher gets the inside track from leading interior designer Deirdre Whelan.

Why would you pay for a spare room you never use?

Eve Kelliher gets the inside track from leading interior designer Deirdre Whelan.

These days not even the humblest of garden sheds can hope to escape the beady eye of homeowners casting about for opportunities to expand their accommodation — or indeed cash in on the boom in Airbnb.

So it’s a bit refreshing to hear one of Ireland’s leading interior designers suggest how thinking in more compact terms when moving house can also boost your bank balance and enhance your lifestyle. “Why would you pay a mortgage for a big spare room for someone to stay in only occasionally?” says Deirdre Whelan.

Hosting friends and family is all well and good, but gently pointing them towards a wonderful B&B down the road or steering them to the couch means you don’t have to shell out for additional quarters you don’t need or can ill afford.

Or you can reassign a spare room as a study or any functional space you will use regularly, suggests Deirdre.

Such practical nuggets sparkle throughout a conversation with the award-winning interior designer, who is well known to television viewers as one of the judges on RTÉ’s Home of the Year.

Whether downsizing or expanding your horizons, drawing up a succinct wish-list will pay rich dividends, she adds. “When choosing your home I always say list what you are happy with in your current home and what it is lacking,” says Deirdre.

Basically, what works and what doesn’t work. You might have a north-facing garden and really want a south-facing one, or maybe you would like a better connection between your indoor and outdoor space. Or you might have too many rooms in your existing house and want to opt for an open-plan design

Being aware of precisely what changes you can make to an existing building is also crucial. “For instance, you might be thinking of buying an old house, in which case check that it is possible to make any changes you wish to make before you commit to buying,” advises Deirdre.

Getting a glimpse of what lies behind other people’s front doors is the key attraction of the TV ratings winner Home of the Year, and “Secrets to Steal from Other People’s Houses” is the enticingly titled presentation Deirdre and her fellow judge, Peter Crowley, will give at the permanent tsb Ideal Home Show.

They will be among a number of faces well known in the interiors and gardening industries who will be giving advice during the eagerly anticipated event, which runs at the RDS, Dublin, from April 12-14.

Deirdre was born in the Netherlands and moved to Ireland in her teens. She pursued her studies in Ireland through DIT. After qualifying, she spent a number of years in London where she worked on high-end residential and small country hotel projects.

In the ’90s she and her architect husband won a competition in Japan to design a house, which later got built in a town called Gifu.

She returned to Dublin where she worked for KMD Architecture on fitouts for then Barings Bank, IIB Bank and the Eircom headquarters, before venturing out on her own for almost 20 years.

During that time she developed her own projects as well as working as an independent designer for various practices. “Projects varied greatly from office fitouts for IT and software companies, such as S3 (now part of Accenture), Visio (now part of Microsoft), and pharmaceutical projects such as Grifols and Abbott,” says Deirdre. “Hotel projects varied from the Gibson to the Marker.” Privately, she was responsible for the original Unicorn Restaurant and Foodstore, Bang Café, Residence, a private members’ club on St Stephen’s Green, and Il Segreto Restaurant.

Over those years Deirdre also established a close working relationship with Scott Tallon Walker Architects, and in 2017 took on a full-time position within the practice where she is now an associate and heads up its interior design department with her colleague Raffaella Roncoroni.

Deirdre Whelan and Peter Crowley will be among experts providing advice about interiors and design at the permanent tsb Ideal Home Show, in the RDS, from April 12-14

Deirdre's Advice on Moving House

  • List what works and what does not work in your current residence: What makes you happy about it and what is lacking?
  • Know what changes are possible and not possible before you commit to buying
  • Consider whether there is too much or too little storage for your needs
  • Do you really need a spare room or could you turn it into a functional space you use regularly?
  • Selling Your House? Read Deirdre's Quick Tips

  • Make sure it’s clean
  • Place fresh flowers strategically — make sure they are not too strong-smelling (lilies can be a little too pungent)
  • Make sure windows are washed
  • Ensure the house is tidy and uncluttered so prospective buyers can visualise their own belongings there
  • A smell of baking gives a real sense of home
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