The coronavirus pandemic has herded us off the streets and out of familiar zones like offices and other workplaces and forced us to retreat into rooms, apartments and houses we would otherwise spend so much less time in.
Those four walls feel like they've been transformed into our whole world.
We're all in need of a bit of magic right now and abracadabra is the stock-in-trade of TV home makeover shows.
Architect and designer Róisín Murphy and builder Peter Finn found this was the case more than ever as they embarked on filming the fourth series of Home Rescue on RTÉ One, which will screen from Thursday, October 29.
Making people’s homes more appealing to live in, on minuscule budgets, is exactly what we need and want at the moment, Róisín agrees.
As a veteran of seven months at a desk in my sitting room/office (I know, first-world problems), I immediately blurt out: “Are our homes prisons or havens at this stage?” (Because, seriously, some of us are beginning to wonder.)
“Havens, of course!” Róisín tells me, a little taken aback, I think.
Then she adds: “Are you practising all the rituals? Going for regular walks and so on? We’re at the in-between stage now, coming into the winter. Physical health rituals are important.”
Plants are another key and easy pivot for making your space more appealing, she adds.
What if you’re a bit of, well, a plant serial killer?
“Any kind of plant will do,” she insists. “Aloe vera, herbs, geranium — I love fig and banana plants and big palm fronds.” Something clicks with me and a few notes are added to the shopping list.
And there we have it: The beauty of this show is that it’s in the simple, achievable tricks that the true enchantment lies. “Our series is focused on aspiration — but we’re talking about ordinary homes and ordinary people who have ordinary budgets,” says Róisín.
“It is not Grand Designs, and we don’t have super budgets but it’s about how they can use the superpower of paint and knowing where to knock a hole and what to do with a piece of timber.”
In the first episode, the team arrives at the home of Sinead and her 11-year-old daughter Jodie. Still recovering after breast cancer, Sinead has had to put her mobile hairdressing business on pause. But, having turned her garage into a self-contained rental, her conservatory has become a floor-to-ceiling storage room that she simply doesn’t have the energy to tackle alone.
Róisín and Peter together with their clutter-busting team — now suitably masked, sanitised and socially distanced for our times — reconfigure challenging spaces into functional homes in just three days, with help from Ikea Ireland.
One of the highlights of this year’s series for Róisín was creating a hidden wardrobe for another participant. “She thought I had got rid of it, because I have a reputation for no storage.”
Róisín also enjoyed working with children during the filming. A mum of three, aged from 19 to 13, she says her own younger two children were particularly delighted during the first lockdown that pandemic restrictions “trapped” their older brother in the house with them. “They adored cooking and playing darts with him,” she says.
During recent months, Róisín found the biggest trend for her was the acceptance that the home has to accommodate young adults. “That was happening even before the emergence of the lockdown. And with that a more democratic use of the space,” she said.
“They tend to bring adventure and youth into the interior and may encourage more risky interior behaviours — in a good way!”
Róisín speaks from experience. “The teenagers in my home have noticed the arty collection of ceramics and accessories I have a passion for and at one point stuff was migrating from where I would have left it to their rooms — a Turkish carpet walked downstairs while I was out and into the eldest son’s room, and each child robbed artwork which was interesting, trendy prints, in particular, featuring images of architecture or the city they absolutely loved.
“They completely took over the cooking and introduced giant-sized coffee makers and a new menu but also started helping with household stuff which they had totally overlooked before.
“They ask for input on the colour of the front door, walls and regularly discuss the incomplete state of the bathroom (tiling in boxes for two years).
“They never understand why parents don’t like bikes in the hall, and are fans of reorganising systems one has done for years whether it’s the loading of the dishwasher or the seemingly illogical organisation of cupboards, they like flower walls one day and at some point, suggested hanging records — yikes. but the silver lining of the Covid lockdown, they appreciate the home and its tiny details that can make life more fun!”
- Home Rescue returns to our screens on RTÉ One on at 7pm on Thursday, October 29, for six weeks