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Home comforts Dermot Bannon says the pandemic has changed the way we view our houses

The home now has to wear many different disguises. It has to be an office during the day, a restaurant at night because we can’t eat out; sometimes it has to be a cinema or a coffee shop; and even back in March and April, it had to become a school.

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Dermot Bannon

Dermot Bannon

Dermot Bannon

Ireland's favourite architect Dermot Bannon is very defensive about the notion that his shows are purely voyeuristic property porn, and out of touch with regular people.

The 48-year-old TV star is back on our screens tonight and believes that there is still as much of a hunger for home-renovation programming as there ever was. In fact, he believes that the pandemic has changed the way we all view our houses.

“We are now living is such an unusual time, obviously, when our home has become so much more important than a place to sleep at night,” the Dubliner passionately explains.

“The home now has to wear many different disguises. It has to be an office during the day, a restaurant at night because we can’t eat out; sometimes it has to be a cinema or a coffee shop; and even back in March and April, it had to become a school.

“People were forced to repurpose areas of their home that they never thought they would have to.

"People are now living in their homes 23 hours of the day, so homes are more important than ever, and I think the Irish love to watch other people’s homes being transformed, so when Room to Improve returns next year, I hope it will be as popular as ever.”

Before that though, there is the small issue of his latest TV venture with the second series of Dermot Bannon’s Incredible Homes, which airs tonight and next Sunday on RTÉ One.

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Dermot Bannon

Dermot Bannon

Dermot Bannon

“This has changed a few times since the original plan. We were very lucky that we managed to get to Canada back in February before Covid arrived, so we have a whole episode on Canadian homes that will blow your mind.

“We travelled all over the country and found an amazing variety of houses, from log cabins that are completely off the grid, to mansions that can host parties for 300 guests. Some of the houses are in complete wilderness, while another one is in the heart of Toronto.”

He continues: “And then we have one other show and the homes are all here in Ireland, which is a change to what we would normally do.”

Season one of the series had episodes from Sydney, Melbourne, Sweden and London.

“That in itself proved trickier to produce, because Irish people are less interested in allowing cameras into their homes than our European or Australian friends. Let’s just say that in the Irish episode, we feature four or five houses. But those houses came together after three or four rejections. In Sweden, we had a 100pc success rate. But wait until you see the homes — you will be blown away by them, and they are not all multimillion Euro homes. In theory, anyone can create something special by just throwing money at it.

“We didn’t want to just pick a nice house in Killiney with a balcony overlooking the sea. That would be too easy. There is one home in Goleen in West Cork that I adored and can’t wait for more people to see. It juts out of the landscape with views of the Atlantic, but it’s hidden away too.

“This is called Incredible Homes for a reason. It is not called ‘Incredible Houses’. We went searching for houses that have become proper homes; that are special for more than just the price tag, and that have been created by someone who understands the clients’ needs and has created the perfect home for them to live in.”

So how do Irish architects compare to their international peers? “Honestly, we punch way above our weight. I’m not just saying that. You can see it in writing and music too. We have a talent for all of the Arts and that has moved into architecture. Grafton Architects is doing some incredible things around the world getting some of the highest profile commissions going — and we have so many others too. Too many to mention. We really are exceptional at it.”

So where does Dermot see himself in the pecking order? Without hesitation, he laughs: “Oh, right at the bottom. No doubt about it. I’m serious — OK, I’m good at what I do, but there are some geniuses out there that are doing things that I adore and wish I had thought if. I still haven’t done that one building or design that I think will be my crowning glory. I’m working on it — any day now,” he giggles.

Travelling around the world to take us on a tour of some of the most outrageous and stunning homes has a lot of perks, but one of them is not what you think.

“I love travelling, obviously, and I love seeing, touching, smelling and breathing in these magnificent homes, but I also love meeting the people behind the designs. It’s not on camera, but I totally fanboy the architects a lot. It wouldn’t make great TV to see me fluffing my lines meeting these guys in their kitchen or sitting down in their living rooms.

“I could sit there for days talking to them, but the production crew would fire me. It would be awful TV. So I get in, meet them, chat to them, try not to embarrass myself too much, and then get the hell out of there,” he laughs.

And what about his own fans? Magazine+ wondered did his Christmas show last year, which saw him transform his own family home, result in fans outside his door.

“Fans?” he blasts. “Would you stop? I do get cars driving slowly along, peering in from time to time, but they just want a look. I had two lads cycle over from Rialto one day during Covid to have a look. That was the closest I ever got to having fans.”

He continued: “I have no regrets about opening the doors to my home for the last show. If I expect others to do it for me, then I should be willing to do it too. We are in 10 months now and still love everything about it... and nothing has changed at all since the last show aired. I still haven’t done the snag list.”

⬤ Dermot Bannon’s Incredible Homes starts tonight on RTÉ One at 9.30pm

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