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Room to Improve: Dermot Bannon

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

If you're planning any drastic changes to your house but don't know where to start, RTE's Room To Improve would be a good place to look! On the show today, we have architect Dermot Bannon to give some top tips and to chat about his new series of Room to Improve.

Dermot's Top Five Tips

1. Light:
If you're planning an extension think about where the light is coming from. Light is the most important thing in any building. If the place doesn't have the proper sunlight you can throw you hat at it.

2. Function:

Make sure your functions relate to each other. Think how you will use the house. Maybe open plan will suit you and maybe it will not. So think holistically. See how you live your life and prioritise the rooms accordingly. If you don't cook very much there's no point in putting the kitchen at the back where the light and view is.

3. View:

Always maximise the views. For Room to Improve we did a house in Glasnevin that had a lovely south-west facing garden. There was a door at the back with two tiny windows and heavy blinds so you couldn't see the garden. If you have any kind of an outside space, make your house relate to it because it is another room.

4. Keep it pure and simple:

If you're planning an extension think about where the light is coming from. Light is the most important thing in any building. If the place doesn't have the proper sunlight you can throw you hat at it.

5. Proportion:

Everything has to be in proportion. Treat a room as a volume and not a plan: that is three-dimensional rather than two-dimensional. In practical terms, it means that a large room will require a higher ceiling so that you don't get that tunnel effect. The elevation of a wall is like a blank canvas - all windows and doors have to be in proportion to that space.

Dermot Bannon, architect

What's the difference between this series and the last three series?

In this series because building work has become such good value the budgets have got bigger and the projects have got bigger but the value has got huge. Previously on series it was literally improving a room in a house now it's revamping the whole house with an extension. We are doing the whole thing.

Has it been hard for some of the people to get bank loans?

On some of the projects they thought they would get €100,000 and then they would only get €50,000 so we had to scale down the project. It's a sign of the times and we just had to deal with it.

Can you tell me a bit about Lorraine's and Padraig's house?

Lorraine is a Pilates instructor and Padraig is a whale watcher and runs the Irish Dolphin society. Both educated and had been living in Dublin but they found the site of their dreams and it was in the middle of nowhere. They had a site at the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere but it had great panoramic views. The house that they bought was a shabby bungalow that did not use the gorgeous panoramic views that was available to it. They bought the site with the intention of building their dream home.

Was there ever a homeowner who didn't listen to your advice?

You always get that. I think everybody starts off really nice and say they will follow your advice. Once it becomes week two and it becomes a different animal. I think once you are dealing with someone's home and their life savings they completely forget there are camera's on them recording the project. That is great as that is what makes the programme real.

There was one project where I was trying to give them the best advice on how to lay out a kitchen and because they could not see it in their own heads they decided not to go with my advice. I think they made a mistake but what can you do.

What is the least amount of money you had to transform a house?

You couldn't really do anything with €10,000. The main problems in people's houses are the living space and the kitchen. People are now living in open planned spaces and people who are in work 9 to 5 want a big family room. They tend to be the projects I am asked to do. The minimum budgets would be about 30- 40,000 thousand.

Has recession affected your business?

I set up my own business in the recession. You think you are making a fortune but when you work out the amount of hours spent you realize you might have made a loss. It's difficult to answer that as I'm only out on my own in the last year. I am busy which is great. It's such a huge crisis that there are so many people out of work. There's nothing available for anybody. I was scared to set up my own business. I did have the cushion of the TV show and god does favour the risk takers. I think if I didn't set up my own practice I would have regretted it.

What are your top tips to improving your living space?

A good bathroom and a good kitchen is what people want. You also need lots of light. Views out to the garden are also important.

What about attic conversion?

That can cost a lot of money. If there is an attic there and someone is about to buy it they will see that potential themselves. It's the little unexpected things that you can do to make your house feel better they are the things that will increase the value of your house.

Have you ever remodelled a house and thought -I should have done this instead?

We always learn something from every project. It's gone, it's done and you just take from it. I suppose it's the person you get for your last project that will get the best out of you.

Do you view other houses on the market to get inspiration?

No, not really other houses on the market but I look to things that my hero's might have created. I also never design anything in isolation. There is a gang of us in the office and we thrash out everything together.

What is your favourite building in Ireland?

The terminal building in the airport is a favourite of mine.