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'anxiety' TV architect Hugh Wallace on doing his own home renovation and says he no 'starchitect'

"People come up and say hello, and they’d say, 'Hello, Hugh' and then I’m going, 'Christ, I must know you' and, of course, I don’t"

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Hugh Wallace with fellow Home of the Year judges Sara Cosgrove and Amanda Bone

Hugh Wallace with fellow Home of the Year judges Sara Cosgrove and Amanda Bone

Hugh Wallace with fellow Home of the Year judges Sara Cosgrove and Amanda Bone

Hugh Wallace couldn’t be accused of not empathising with the homeowners who have their lives turned upside down and inside out on any of his popular TV shows.

The television architect and husband Martin have just begun renovating their forever home in the heart of Dublin city.

And the 65 year-old already feels like he’s starring in his very own episode of The Great House Revival, although fans sadly won’t get to see a ‘big reveal’ of the low-key couple’s revamped digs down the line.

“Stress,” he relates down the phone while enjoying a well-earned sun holiday. “And the anxiety over the whole project.

“At the moment, we live in a small cottage beside the house we bought and the work on it has just started. There’s absolutely nothing — I have four walls.

“I’m not doing a show on it because Martin is very private. But I’ll have all the neighbours in, no doubt about that.”

“I live in this great old Dublin neighbourhood off Clanbrassil Street. There’s a lady on the street who organises the sweeping of the street, so if you don’t sweep the section of the street in front of your house she knocks on your door. I just love that.

“People scrawled graffiti on a big wall and they all got organised and got it all cleaned again. The community sort of look after one another. We’ve left the keys in the door and gone off to work and come back and the neighbour would come in and say, ‘I think you left these in the door’.”

Hot off the back of Home of the Year, clinched by a 150-year-old Wicklow farmhouse owned by Kate and Shane Byrne, the presenter can now be seen on the third season of the popular RTÉ restoration show.

Like viewers, Hugh says his jaw was on the floor at some of the awesome restorations featured on the Sunday night staple, filmed in the most challenging circumstances yet over the past three years.

“The buildings this year are extraordinary. They go from a general store up in Monaghan to a 14th century tower house in Cork. It’s amazing to watch these homeowners take on abandoned buildings, and you’re going, ‘You must be mad!’” jokes the director of Douglas Wallace Architects.

“It’s not like they’re architects or engineers; they’re social media personalities, they’re nurses, doctors, and they go through this extraordinary journey of saving our heritage, renovating houses that were about to fall into the ground and disappear. And, my God, when you see what they do — particularly in this series — it’s mind-blowing, and they’re all quite young.”

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The dapper host first came to prominence as a judge on RTÉ’s nationwide home contest alongside architect Declan O’Donnell and homewares designer Helen James, and latterly, architect Amanda Bone and interior designer, Sara Cosgrave.

He also scored another success in the crowded property show genre with My Bungalow Bliss on the channel last year.

But hard-working Hugh, who at one stage in recent weeks had two shows running simultaneously on RTÉ, insists he still doesn’t see himself as a celebrity — and is especially allergic to the word used to describe television architects.

“‘Starchitect?!’” the Dubliner repeats aghast. “Ah Jesus, I don’t think I’ve got that far. That was sort of the 2000s — there was definitely a few worldwide starchitects around the place, but they’ve fallen by the wayside.

“People come up and say hello, and they’d say, ‘Hello, Hugh’ and then I’m going, ‘Christ, I must know you’ and, of course, I don’t. Then people want selfies and stuff like that, and that’s fine. People are genuinely very nice.”

Irish Twitter, needless to say, can be a different story altogether, with the scoring on Home of the Year, in particular, often inviting the wrath of armchair judges on social media, though Hugh concedes his female colleagues typically get a tougher time.

“Indeed they do,” he says. “Particularly Amanda — but she takes it in good spirit. I think it’s just hilarious some of the tweets.

“I got stopped during Covid by a guard and he gave out to me because he said I gave a house the wrong score. You do have to [have thick skin], but it’s just such a fun show.”

Suffice to say he has no designs on toppling Dermot Bannon as Ireland’s reigning starchitect. “Not at all,” adds Hugh. “We are good friends — and Diarmuid Gavin. The three of us have great fun.”

So could a Gordon, Gino & Fred’s Road Trip-style show starring the country’s top three property porn hunks ever happen?

“Absolutely,” he laughs. “That’s it.”

  • The Great House Revival continues on RTÉ One tonight

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