A sharp rise in house building and renovation activity here is being reflected in the Permanent TSB Autumn Ideal Home Show, which takes place next weekend at the RDS. All exhibition stands are booked out, with some of its key attractions expanded to cope with an anticipated rise in visitor numbers.
At the show's centre, The Irish Times Home Interiors Fair will once again attract some of the country's top specialists in furnishings, decor, interior design, art, kitchens, bathrooms and appliances. It has also lined up leading professionals to share their ideas and experiences with home-owners in the specially built Irish Times Home&Design Theatre.
The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) is back at the show with a larger Build & Extend Theatre, again reflective of the current surge in building. "Planning applications for one-off homes are estimated to be up more than 40 per cent, a fact we see in our own survey figures too," says Sean Lemass, managing director of SDL Exhibitions, which runs the Ideal Home Show.
“We have seen a huge increase in the number of self-builds and extensions, and these aren’t just modest rooms over the garage but major transformations, as well as home offices and garden rooms,” he says.
The amount of money people are willing to spend is on the rise too, says show director Catriona O’Connor. “More people are looking for high-end bespoke pieces, which is why we have eight craft makers at the show.”
These include The Wood Factory, Finline Furniture and Mango Crafts. The range of art work at the show is also expanding, with six artists and two art galleries participating.
The event allows self-builders, renovators and those simply redecorating for Christmas to find out about all aspects of their project under one roof.
"We have the Revenue on hand to explain to people about initiatives such as the Help to Buy and Home Renovation schemes and Sustainable Energy Ireland to talk about energy grants – information that can save you money," says O'Connor. "Visitors will be able to talk to architects, then walk across to Revenue together to find out how much their schemes will save you, to get a clearer picture of your budgeting. And then, of course, you can go across to the Permanent TSB stand and sort the finance."
Also back this time is the Colourtrend Interior Design Forum, featuring seven specially designed rooms by designers such as Arlene McIntyre's Ventura Design, Jackie Tyrrell Design and Katharina Gummelt of Xiu Feng Shui.
Aughrim, Co Wicklow-based interior-design practice Collette Ward Interiors has created the Autumn Showhouse, one of the top attractions. "It's a very sophisticated family home with a lot of modern aspects, with an earthy feel inspired by nature in terms of colours and textures, brought to life with warm metallics," says Ward.
Her studio, which employs four, has been trading for more than 20 years. Demand is currently very strong, she says: "The biggest difference between demand now and that of the Celtic tiger years is that this time around people are spending money they actually have."
This appears to be informing buying decisions too. “People are looking for custom-made, key pieces with a view to keeping them for the long term, which is what I advise them to do. They can then have fun with accessories like cushions, throws and pictures,” she says.
Quality and value
The pursuit of quality and value is driving an increasing number of home-improvers north of the border too, according to Wayne Lyons of Soaks Bathrooms in Belfast, another exhibitor.
“We’re seeing lots of customers up from Dublin because of the exchange rate. Between the recent fall in the value of sterling and the zero-rate VAT, we can offer buyers from the Republic of Ireland – because we’re exporting to them across an EU border – people can make savings of between 30 and 40 per cent by buying their bathrooms from us. People are taking advantage of that,” says Lyons.
He too is seeing demand for quality goods, including top sellers such as Drench shower doors – art deco panelled doors with clear glass bound by elegant black lines. “All the interiors designers want them now,” he says.
White still dominates ceramics and sanitary ware but taps have had a style update. “Chrome is out. It’s all brushed bronze and black,” says Lyons.
But the biggest indicator of consumer confidence is the growth in demand for high-tech Japanese toilets. As well as headline-grabbing TOTO Washlets that cost about €6,000, Soak will have versions at the show starting from €1,000 and upwards, as the concept of self-cleaning toilets that wash and dry users moves mainstream. “No one wants a bog-standard loo anymore,” he says.
The Permanent TSB Ideal Home Show takes place at the RDS Simmonscourt, Dublin October 27th-30th