Our girl on how she got her house in the running for Home of the Year 2016
THE KITCHEN is the heart of every Irish home - but I reckon mine is more like the funny bone. It has handless white gloss cabinets, aqua glass worktops and splashbacks... and a pink rubber floor.
The Home of the Year judges like it - Declan thinks it’s “a hoot” while Deirdre says my use of colour is “very brave”.
Hugh says that when he’s in it he feels like he’s in Hairspray: The Musical, and that it “lifts the spirits”. I’m not sure if the Hairspray comment is a compliment, but I’m going to imagine it is.
No, I’m not pals with the trio, I didn’t have them over for dinner - but they have been in every room of my house because my pad is on this week’s Home of the Year show on RTE One.
I know they said all these things about my kitchen because, as I was tucking into my Good Friday fish dinner, watching the Late Late Show (desperate measure, no pubs open), Hugh Wallace was Ryan’s debonair guest - and up popped a clip of my kitchen.
My home is a 1970s detached four-bedroom house in South Dublin which I bought in late 2012. It was like an old, ugly dog in a shelter that gets left behind every time because people choose the young, cute pups instead.
I don’t think other people who viewed it before me could see past the rotting, swirly carpets, layers of floral wallpaper that had been painted over, broken down boiler and windows that did a better job at housing woodworm than keeping the rain out.
Even the mortgage advisor in the bank was aghast when I showed her the brochure of the awful kip I was buying, but I assured her it was my dream home.
Or rather, it would be.
When I looked at it, I could see the potential. I could see the walls stripped, skimmed, painted white and my beloved art hanging on them, and the floors relieved of their carpets, then sanded and whitewashed. I could see the spaces with one doorway knocked in and another one blocked up.
And how the smallest bedroom (beside the master bedroom) would make a perfect walk-in dressing room. And how the dining room, with a few built-in shelves, would be a cosy library.
I found an amazing local Jack-of-all-trades guy and we got to work the minute I got the keys, and I moved in six weeks later. In Autumn 2014, I completed ‘phase two’ - new windows with Georgian panels throughout, a new boiler and efficient heating system, and a chimney flue and wood-burning retro stove fitted.
Furniture-buying was the best part. I love the retro/vintage look, so I scoured DoneDeal and Adverts.ie and bagged incredible pieces at bargain prices.
The vintage furniture shop, Anonymous (on Dublin’s Francis Street) was the source of many more pieces, and I picked up gems in the monthly brocante and flea markets in Newmarket Square.
I couldn’t find the bed I wanted in Ireland, but tracked down retro perfection in John Lewis in the UK and had it delivered. And through Amazon, I found white metal lockers (like the ones I remember from school) which are both fabulous and functional in my spare bedrooms.
Buying furniture overseas is now easier than ever as delivery prices are so reasonable (I bought a side table in Germany, paid €14.50 delivery charge and it was with me 10 days later.
I bought a new composite back door in Poland for a fraction of the price quoted in Ireland).
Art is my Achilles heel. If I see a piece I love, I have to bring it home.
Thankfully, my tastes aren’t all expensive - two of my favourites are sketches of dogs I bought from an artist on the street in New York years ago for $10 each.
A home without art, to me, is a home without a soul. It brings so much joy and colour into every day.
When you have a tight budget, you have to be creative, imaginative and inventive. And you have to have good broadband as Google has all the answers and inspiration.
I had to be enterprising with my money, but I was still able to create my dream home.
I feel proud that I got my hands very dirty, and learned many new skills in the process. I now have an extensive tool box, plus I know how to use it.