Bathroom disco ball spins house into Home of the Year final

Welcome to these three houses of fun and take a look around as homeowners and TV judges alike savour the playful side of life
Bathroom disco ball spins house into Home of the Year final

Jen Sheahan outside her restored 1800s Dublin cottage, which is now a finalist in Home of the Year.

We all need a bit of razzle-dazzle right now and the disco ball in the raspberry-coloured downstairs bathroom of tonight’s Home of the Year finalist would lift your spirits on the dreariest of days.

As the homeowner, Jen Sheahan, says: “Try looking at a disco ball and being in a bad mood.” 

The Dublin-based management consultant installed the sparkly attraction in her downstairs bathroom when she renovated her late 1800s cottage.

The downstairs bathroom complete with disco ball.

The downstairs bathroom complete with disco ball.

And tonight it made the Dublin house groove into the limelight, joining David O’Brien’s Ballygarvan home, complete with its kitchen grand piano, in the final of the 2021 RTÉ series.

Jen had wanted one of these cottages for a long time and was delighted when this property came on the market in 2019.

This cottage is 'a masterclass in tiny-house living', says architect Hugh Wallace.

This cottage is 'a masterclass in tiny-house living', says architect Hugh Wallace.

It needed a lot of work as it was damp, had no central heating and the toilet was outside.

 Jennifer did a complete renovation, knocked all internal walls, dug up the floor and lowered it plus added on an extra floor to make it a two-storey house.

Judge and interior designer Suzie McAdam dubs the ground-floor loo the “disco bathroom” the moment she steps into it. 

“It feels very generous and spacious; it’s a tight space but they’ve cleverly managed to fit in some additional storage,” says Suzie, gazing around.

And the entire residence is a masterclass in tiny-house living, notes architect and judge Hugh Wallace who delights in the fact that it has “shown this old dog some new tricks”.

From outside this home looks like a “quirky period cottage with no sense of what lies behind the front door,” says architect Amanda Bone.

“I worked around the corner from here so I know a little bit about the history,” she says. “These houses were built for firemen. 

"Each house had a bell that was connected directly back to the fire station, so when an alarm went off a bell in your house rang.” 

Particularly impressive is the big chimney roof-light, which floods the house with light. “There’s no longer a fireplace so this is used to bring light into the home,” says Hugh.

“This homeowner has shown you can take a very small house and transform it into a modern home and yet stamp your personality on it. It’s all about maximising functionality.” 

But this time last year, Jen says the bijou cottage was “a hole in the ground”. 

“There were front walls, part of the roof….and the rest was kind of held up by four metal beams,” she says. “But I had always wanted a fixer-upper.” 

There are clever storage solutions throughout this home. Jen describes her style as “modern, playful and colourful”.

“I always wanted to live in a cottage but they’re obviously very small and it’s definitely a labour of love,” she says. “I really get a kick out of things that are dual usage or maximising space as much as possible — putting in these little storage areas and cubbyholes.

'All the dining area seating has storage underneath, as does the couch/ottoman. There are just little nooks everywhere.

Jen's favourite spot.

Jen's favourite spot.

There isn't a square inch wasted — we've made use of absolutely everything

“There isn’t a square inch wasted in this house — we’ve made use of absolutely everything.”

 Jen’s favourite spot is the private outdoor courtyard area she describes as “bright and cheery”, complete with a foldaway table and vertical garden.

“I love being out here it makes me smile every time I see it,” she says.

It also gives a view of the first-floor extension and a glimpse of the roof garden.

“During the pandemic, I was working from home fulltime, so the house is even more important I guess than it ever would have been," adds Jen. 

"It needed to serve every purpose You know, office gym at certain times, home — everything. It’s just better than everything I could ever have dreamed of. I love every inch of it. I just love it.” 

The judges gave it a score of 28.


“A house of fun” is how judge Amanda Bone described the first house in this week’s programme, the restored farmhouse in Co Cork.

Interior designer Rachel and Robert Hobbs live with their three children in the modernised 1800s residence with extension.

They bought their home in 2017 and worked hard to create a fun, functional family home.

They retained three external walls of the original house and built from there.

They converted a small shed and joined it to the build of the original house.

They began demolishing in November 2018 and moved in December 2019.

It was a self-build project so they were hands-on and lived on-site while the work was being carried out.

They were keen to reflect the original house and surroundings as well as having a home that could work for three young children.

The family incorporated lots of fun elements such as a floor net on the landing area and a climbing wall in their son’s room. They have also placed the front door at the back of the house. 

They worked with an architect on the design of their home and Rachel designed the interiors.

The judges gave it a score of 26.


Finally, Richard Brown and Lara Salmon-Brown live in a self-build contemporary farmhouse in Co Down.

Their home was built on Richard’s family farm in 2016. They wanted the exterior front of the house to mimic what a traditional farmhouse would look like.

They have a barn extension at the back of the house and they wanted this style so it would blend perfectly with the farmyard. 

They don’t like a lot of clutter and describe the house as quite minimal with a few traditional undertones in places. 

Their open-plan kitchen/living and dining area is very contemporary with a concrete floor which they say is ideal for farm living as it’s easy to maintain.

They both love the connection with the outdoors and how much of the outdoors they can enjoy from inside the house. Each room in the house offers a different view of the scenic countryside.

The judges gave it a score of 20.

Home of the Year airs on Tuesday nights on RTE One at 8.30pm or catch up on RTE Player,

More in this section

News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up