‘Our flat’s so small I can load the dishwasher from the couch’

Most people seem to spend 90% of time in 20% of their home, wasting the rest of the space

Dominique McMullan at home loading the dishwasher

Dominique McMullan at home loading the dishwasher

 

There’s one problem – the Dublin housing market. In reality we can’t afford to buy what we want. And listening to our friends’ experiences we’re not sure we are ready to battle our way towards it. As a result we’ve started looking at what we currently have, only differently.

Our situation is incredibly lucky considering how difficult housing is for so many people in Ireland. We live in a flat in a mews, behind a lovely row of houses around a leafy park. You walk through a gap in all the fancy houses off the square, to get to our little block. We have neighbours in a flat underneath us, and neighbours to either side. But it’s pretty peaceful and we have off-road parking, which is unheard of in the area.

That park is located between two south Dublin suburbs and everything we could possibly need (including an art deco cinema and the world’s faffiest grocery shop) are a stone’s throw from our front door.

Our rent hasn’t gone up since we moved in, and we’ve a guarantee that it won’t. We regularly pinch ourselves and are keenly aware of how good we have it.

You’ll be happy to know it isn’t all roses, though. The building we live in was built in the 1970s and is worn and tired. The big issue, though, is the layout of the flat. It means, among other things, that we can load the dishwasher while sitting on the couch and can really only have a maximum of four people in the living space at any one time.

This has suited us up until now, but as we enter our 30s – that special time in your life when more time is spent at home and less time shouting in loud bars at 4am – we are looking for a space to reflect that. We’d like to be able to have friends over for dinner and a space where we can watch a movie without straining to hear the TV over the washing machine.

Bad use of space and storage seemed to be the issue. We received gorgeous homeware as gifts after our wedding, but found them piling up in the corner of the flat, with no proper place to sit. I realise how lucky we are to have a room over our heads at all, but need a home that can accommodate our needs.

We tried moving furniture around, purchasing clever space-saving devices from Ikea, and investing in lovely soft furnishings. However, the problems with the space required bigger thinking. After having a few friends around to see what they thought, and remaining stumped, we decided a professional opinion was needed.

Rearranging layouts and knocking down walls or changing doorways can feel very intimidating, and it can be difficult to know where to start. Architects can help, but they don’t make this process easy, especially when it comes to projects of a smaller size. And, honestly, I was shocked at the estimate quoted after speaking to an architect very briefly.

Sometimes you just need another eye on your home. A little help from someone who can see everything from a fresh perspective makes identifying problems and finding solutions much easier.

A friend suggested Optimise Home (optimise-home.com), a more cost-effective way to get expert advice where you need it. Aoife came over to the flat and we spent some time talking through our various issues, as well as our lifestyle and what we liked about the space.

We talked about how best to use the space, and how to keep any changes at a reasonable price. Then I mostly forgot about it. Three weeks later I went into the Optimise offices and saw my flat transformed on screen

Often the space in apartments or smaller Irish homes is under-utilised. Most people seem to spend 90 per cent of time in 20 per cent of their home, wasting the rest of the space. Aoife had recognised this in our livingroom and rearranged the space so that we could make use of the whole room.

There was storage built in and an elegant solution that saw the dishwasher removed entirely from the living space. By a simple rearrangement that we hadn’t even considered, accompanied by some clever furniture, our problem seemed to be solved.

She left us with four different options for new ways to lay out the flat, each with varying scales of change. By moving a wall she had created a whole new cosy living area and dining space with enough room for six.

The last two options would require getting a builder in, but the first option we could implement ourselves, and, importantly, wouldn’t cost too much.

We left with fully dimensioned A3 design layouts of each option and 3D illustrations to go through at home. We also had a list of recommend suppliers and trades people. We have discussed potential building work with the landlords, and as long as they are informed along each step they are happy for us to make changes.

Once again, we’re obviously very lucky. We are hoping that 2018 will be the year of our first dishwasherless dinner party.