Dermot Bannon shows how we have reimagined our homes 

Dermot Bannon shows how we have reimagined our homes 

Beyond open plan: Architect Dermot Bannon embarks on an Irish odyssey to discover cleverly designed spaces 
Dermot Bannon shows how we have reimagined our homes 

The living area in Deirdre Whelan and Paul Kelly's mews house in Rathmines, Dublin. Picture: Claire Nolan

Who would have believed it? Homeowners’ ardour, ignited in the 1970s, for communal living spaces has finally cooled.

Blame the pandemic for flinging a bucket of water over it.

Dermot Bannon.
Dermot Bannon.

Because of course now it’s all about zoning areas to segregate work from play.

But it’s only really when architect Dermot Bannon makes his pronouncement on our living arrangements that we feel it’s, well, official.

“As architects, we have been banging on for years about open-plan spaces. Knocking down walls makes everything feel great but I think we have all learned we do need another room,” he says.

Interior designer and former Home of the Year judge Deirdre Whelan agrees. “I would say open-plan living, unless you have another place to go to for work, is very challenging,” she says.

Presenter Dermot Bannon with designer Deirdre Whelan and architect Paul Kelly.
Presenter Dermot Bannon with designer Deirdre Whelan and architect Paul Kelly.

Deirdre and her husband, architect Paul Kelly, welcomed Dermot into their own home recently when it was one of a number of cleverly designed residences to feature on Dermot Bannon’s Super Small Spaces, a two-part series which starts on RTÉ One on Sunday evening.

As we come through the pandemic, many homeowners have reimagined their living spaces in a completely new way.

Dermot visits a variety of residences to learn how their owners have changed their environments to suit their needs.

The living room. Picture: Claire Nolan
The living room. Picture: Claire Nolan

The architect was impressed as he explored what Deirdre calls their “upside-down” house in Dublin’s Rathmines.

“What do you do when you want to build a family home in a sought-after location you can’t afford?” he asks at the outset.

The kitchen area. Picture: Verena Hilgenfeld
The kitchen area. Picture: Verena Hilgenfeld

This solution is a neat one. Deirdre and Paul pooled their resources with two others and created three identical homes on their site — each of which is just five metres wide.

Last year, the friend owning the middle house in this reconfigured old mews “outgrew” the property so the other two couples bought it and between them split it, so now there are two houses there.

The shower room and outdoor area in Deirdre and Paul's home. Picture: Claire Nolan
The shower room and outdoor area in Deirdre and Paul's home. Picture: Claire Nolan

And it was because of this that Deirdre and Paul have what Deirdre calls their “quiet space”—a cosy sitting room that is, as Dermot notes, the complete opposite of the open-plan arrangement in the rest of the house. “It’s like a hug,” he says.

The residence embraces a community-style living, with a shared courtyard.

“It’s a bit like Melrose Place,” Deirdre tells me, citing the US soap. “And we all get on!”

The courtyard and trees outside lend themselves to the inside-outside style of living we’ve all become so enamoured with.

“We did it up — before there would be cars parked around and we would be having a barbecue with the car beside us, but that’s changed,” says Deirdre.

“It’s just a really seductive garden.”

The external space. Picture: Claire Nolan
The external space. Picture: Claire Nolan

Deirdre, her husband and daughter live together in the house while next door is a family of five and their dog.

The added balcony off the living space (which is upstairs — hence Deirdre’s upside-down house description) enhances their enjoyment, particularly during lockdowns. “Before we would have to traipse downstairs to get outside, but now we can literally go from the kitchen to this tiny little terrace and sit outside with a cuppa,” she says.

The light-filled space and clever design impress Dermot.

“The floor plan is smaller than the average three-bed semi but feels like this lovely open-plan space, using some really clever tricks,” he says.

As well as wall and ceiling mirrors to enhance the feeling of space in a hallway, there’s also a whole wall of storage in the living area.

“You have a 5m plot,” he muses. “How did you manage to squeeze everything in?”

Living in a way that’s conscious of space is key, replies Paul.

Frosted sliding glass upstairs enhances privacy when needed.

Dermot Bannon has said that it was all the coffee shops in containers and food trucks popping up of late on street corners that in part prompted the idea for this series.

Fittingly, his first port of call is a double-decker bus converted by a family into holiday accommodation in Cork.

In 2020, Thomas McCarthy lost his father to suicide during lockdown. He and his siblings decided to buy an old bus and transform it, in honour of their dad.

Irish craftsman Garvan de Bruir shows his unique self-build in county Kildare styled on old timber airplanes the arch shape.

They say out of every crisis comes an opportunity.

Back in 2005, interior designer Sarah Lafferty experienced a devastating fire at her home where she lost the majority of her belongings and home.

After extensive renovations, Sarah now lives a more minimalist life, which is reflected in the way she has designed her small Victorian terraced red-brick cottage.

And in Kilrush, Co Clare, Dermot meets Paul Gleeson, who restored an old pub.

  • Dermot Bannon’s Super Small Spaces airs on June 6 and June 13 at 9.30pm on RTÉ One

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