Living here: 'We like our house, but it's not amazing,' says TV architect

‘We like our house, but it’s not amazing at all’

‘I live in Drumcondra on the north side of Dublin. We bought a little house here 15 years ago and we spent a year doing it up. We stretched our budget to the limit and had no money, so we had to do it ourselves. Every single night for a year we worked on it and looking back now we shouldn’t have done it like that. We learned a huge amount though and we fell in love with Drumcondra. I love being able to walk into town and I also like the variety of streets here.

“We are now in our second house here, having moved around the corner in 2005. It is a 1920s house and the front is half pebble-dash and half redbrick. We got the original windows put back in and it still has the original fireplaces and picture rails. There is a real sense of what the house was like.

"We have an extension with a big kitchen and living room. It is a big box-type structure onto the back of the house, the kind you see me suggesting to clients on Room to Improve on RTÉ. It solves the problem in smaller houses where the kitchen was a scullery and tucked under the stairs, and then you had one good room to the front and a good dining room to the back.

"I wanted a kitchen with a big 12-seater table where everything would happen around it, such as dinner and homework. So the kitchen became the most important room. We also have a utility room downstairs and another room doubles as a playroom and a den, but essentially we live in the one big room.


“When we were adding the extension, I think the builders were expecting me to be much worse to deal with. Because I do it every day, a lot of the stress in my job is clients who are stressed and panicked.

“When I was working on my own house, I was very aware of the limitations of what you can do and I think I was very tame with the builders. It’s like the old saying that cobblers’ shoes tend to be the worst.

“I was so worried about everyone else’s builds that I struggled to get to the site when we were adding the extension. I would be worried about a client’s door handles and then in our house no two door handles match.

“My wife gets infuriated when people comment on our house to her, saying it must be amazing. We like it, but it’s not amazing at all. The door handle broke in our toilet three weeks ago and there’s still no door handle, and to be honest, it could be six months before it will be fixed.

“What I love about here is the different mix in ages between people close to 100 and younger couples and people like me in their 40s. I love the mature trees and the railings on our street.

“We probably need one more bedroom. We moved in here when my wife Louise was pregnant with our first child and the house, which has three bedrooms, seemed so big then. We now have three kids and they are taking over and it fells like we are being shoved into one corner of the house.

“You can get caught up though worrying about not having enough space. Kids adapt. I’m lucky in that I get to visit so many houses and see how life pans out for people. Life happens in a heartbeat and I’m more into enjoying it than worrying about more space.

"I grew up in Cairo and went to college in the UK, so I've always moved around. While I like where we live, I wouldn't be happy if you said I am going to spend the rest of my days here. I could see us ending up in the south of France, or on an Italian hilltop.

"I'm not one of those people to get very rooted in a place. When I visit people and they are finished with their homes, they often say they want to go out of there in a box. I never think like that. There's a lot more of the world out there that I want to see and experience."

In conversation with Brian O’Connell