Dermot Bannon: ‘Every house needs three spaces – a head, a heart and a gut’

The kitchen is the heart. The workings of the house are the gut. And we all need headspace

Lockdown has highlighted the importance of people having “personal space” in their homes, architect Dermot Bannon says at the Irish Times Home and Design Summer Interiors event on Thursday evening.

“What lockdown has thrown up is the need not for a “good room” but for a separate room,” Bannon tells Irish Times features editor Madeleine Lyons. “Somewhere you can go and make the Zoom call. Somewhere you can go and make a work call. But also watch Netflix – whatever you want to watch for two hours. It doesn’t need to be big.”

Every house, he continues, requires three spaces: a “head”, a “heart” and a “gut”.

“The heart space is your kitchen, your social space, where people gather. The gut space is somewhere we have probably over-looked for a long time. And that’s storage. Utility rooms. Machine rooms. The workings of the house. And the headspace  – we all need somewhere to be by ourselves. It shouldn’t necessarily be a bedroom. It doesn’t need to be big. But you do need somewhere separate.”

He also suggests an external office in the garden can help with working from home. “If you need extra space and you have space in your garden it’s great to be able to do it,” he says. “One of the best things with taking it out into the garden is that it gives you a boundary. You leave your house and you go to work.

“You leave work and go in for your lunch, your coffee break. What’s really getting to people – what I’m hearing over consultations over the last year is – ‘I don’t know whether I’m at work or at home’. A lot of people leave a laptop on the kitchen table –  ‘I’ll just finish off those few emails’. And then they’re going to bed absolutely exhausted or they’re worried in the middle of the night. They’re stressing. They’re not able to switch off. Before lockdown, the commute was a way to decompress.”

In the same broadcast, landscape designer JJ Digby suggests traditional garden decking may not be appropriate for Irish weather. “The issue is it’s timber on the flat, which isn’t very well suited to an Irish climate … Why are you putting a deck in? Would it not be better to go with some hardstand or paving?”

Interior designer Suzie McAdam says that, when starting an interior design project, it is useful to write a detailed brief – and to also consider the future.

“What really frustrates you? Are you sitting at a kitchen island with a really low stool, so that by 11 your back is killing you? You have to really almost interrogate your day and figure out what areas are really frustrating you.

“And also to really future-proof. I worked on my own house. We finished it in 2019, just before lockdown. I was designing for our lifestyle at that time – myself and my husband. And then we had baby, and obviously it changes so dramatically in a couple of years. Even as a designer, it is hard to look into five years’ time.”

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