Home of the Year has returned to our screens for its seventh series with two new judges and some amazing interior design. Over the coming weeks, a total of 21 homes across Ireland will compete for the prestigious title of 'Home of the Year' in 2021.

Read more: Does a 1800s piano work as a kitchen island?

From new builds, restorations and re-design, the series features people who have created their dream homes. Making the tough decisions will be our three expert judges; design legend and returning HOTY judge Hugh Wallace, award winning interior designer Suzie Mc Adam, and award-winning architect Amanda Bone. 

We caught up with Suzie to find out how she landed her place on the show, what she looks for in a winning home and what she believes Irish people will be investing in when it comes to their houses in the near future.

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Speaking on her new role as a TV judge, Suzie said that the timing was really fortuitous as she was still on maternity leave from her day job, and had been spending a lot of time working on her own home. So much so, in fact, that the interior designer thought the Home of the Year producers were getting in touch to compete in this year's show:

"I initially thought that they were reaching out to me because I had just finished doing my own home," she laughed. "I had actually considered entering the show as a contestant because I love the show but then they asked me if I would be interested in being a judge."

"It was really exciting because I had watched the show for so many years," she continued, "I just thought it was a nice time to try something totally different, especially after lockdown. I had been on maternity leave, I had my baby in April last year, so I hadn't gone back fully to work and it seemed like a good opportunity."

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Returning to work following maternity leave can be tricky at the best of times, but taking on a new role on television during a global pandemic with your baby in tow is a whole other ballgame. Luckily, the presenter says that long-time judge Hugh Wallace was a pillar of support while fellow newcomer Amanda Bone was a great ally to have on the journey.

"It was a lovely balance because Hugh was really generous with myself and Amanda," Suzie enthused. "He's so familiar with that arena so he would give us really good advice and tips on how to structure our points and everything. And then Amanda was on a similar learning curve as me so it was lovely to have them both."

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Unswayed by the passing dictates of design trends, Mc Adam draws on her love of antiques, art and her latest discoveries to deliver an eclectic richness to her work, especially when it comes to designing her own space.

"I really like to find and source pieces that are all individually quite beautiful, whether it be a sofa or an armchair, that they all really sit comfortably together," she explained.

"I like to explore different palettes with the upholstery and lighting; it's about being quite playful. In my own home, I could really go for it with experimenting so I have a unicorn head in my front room and an old mirror that has a strange silhouette."

"I like having pieces that you don't always see, I'm always on the hunt for that something special."

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When it comes to finding a winning space on Home of the Year, Mc Adam insists that homes should reflect the owners' personality, passions and interests. When she entered a contestant's home, she wanted to get a feel for who they were as a person.

"I wanted to see someone imprint their own individuality and creativity within their homes. Although we don't have any information about the homeowners, I wanted to almost understand who they were when I was in their home. That was really important to me."

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With a design studio based in Monkstown, Co. Dublin, Mc Adam has established herself as one of Ireland's leading interior design consultants, with a finger on the pulse of the latest styles and trends.

Looking to the future, Suzie noted that the pandemic has certainly changed the way people view their homes, and says that we can expect to see some fundamental changes in 2021 and beyond.

"There is a movement in design where you see people evaluating different areas," she explained. "I think we'll see a change to broken plan designs."

"We've loved, in Irish design, to build huge extensions with massive open plan living rooms and kitchens, but now all of a sudden with lockdown, we've realised that we need to have areas that function to work, study, watch TV, etc."

"Walk-in wardrobes had become a wish list for people but now I think they might re-evaluate things. Instead of a huge bathroom, they might want a proper working space. I think how people prioritise the scale of space in their homes will evolve."

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Pre-COVID, many of us would have only spent a few hours at home in between working, travelling, and socialising. These days, with our lifestyles restricted to a 5km radius, Suzie believes we will begin to prioritise our homes.

"If you're home all the time, you want the chair you sit on to be really special and comfortable," she explained. "It's something I've always valued, the importance of the right textile and lighting. I hope people use this as an opportunity to fill key rooms with things they really love."

If you're looking to make some small but significant changes to your space while you work from home and home school, the interior designer suggests finding pieces of art, photographs, flowers or even cushions that feel special to you.

"Your living room might be just plain walls and a sofa and that can be really monotonous, especially if you're spending long periods of time there. I think it's a good time to invest - and it doesn't have to be expensive - in things that make you happy," she advises.

"Fill your home with things that can make you happy. It's not worth having something that is devoid of personality around you."

Tune into Home of the Year on Tuesdays on RTÉ One at 8.30pm.