Dermot Bannon creates space for the family in the reconstruction of a bungalow


There’s no shortage of fun and educational times as Laura and Kenny Brown rebuild their bungalow in Howth, County Dublin, from the ground up.

Laura, a media professor, and Kenny, who works for a pharmaceutical company, have three children and one on the way when Dermot Bannon first goes to RTÉ One. Room for improvement on Sunday.

They tell her that they want to open up their living space and maximize their view of the sea.

Laura and Kenny Brown with Dermot Bannon.

But the drama also continues on location as we watch Laura show Dermot her beloved G Hotel in Galway to give her interiors inspiration.

Over afternoon tea, Laura tells the famous architect: “We’ve lived in three houses in eight years and really none of them felt like home forever – now that we’re in the home forever, I want it to be something like this; I want my house to look like a hotel.

Dermot replies, “King of minimalism meets queen of maximalism.”

Not so fast, Dermot.

It turns out that Dermot himself looked to a World Heritage Site no less for inspiration when he redesigned the Browns’ entrance.

Months later, Kenny talks about glazing the day the windows were installed.

Dermot phoned me on a Friday evening and said, “Would you mind changing the front door to transparent glass because of the setting sun?” He described it as like Newgrange, he said the sun would come in through the entrance hall and light up the whole hall. I said yes.”

Before: The cramped kitchen of the Howth house.  Photo: RTE Room to Improve
Before: The cramped kitchen of the Howth house. Photo: RTE Room to Improve

Laura and Kenny and wish to redevelop the residence to suit their family.

Dermot hatches a plan to use the attic’s potential to make the most of the house’s stunning views – and also to future-proof the property for the Browns.

Baby Zara arrives just as construction begins.

“We’re going to be a family of six living in a three-bed bungalow, so refurbishment really won’t be an option – it has to be an extension,” says Laura.

The couple bought the detached bungalow in 2017 on the road where Kenny grew up.

Kenny’s parents still live in the area and the Irish Sea is to the rear.

“It’s the landscape of Kenny’s childhood,” says Laura.

As Dermot walks around, he looks aside at a semi-functional bathroom, storage spaces and a kitchen. “It’s our bathroom, but you can’t see the toilet – they’re buried in there,” says Laura.

In the kitchen, which the couple happily describes as retro, Dermot exclaims, “You have no counter space at all!

Laura admits: “Dinner time is just a war zone – it really is a horror show.

“The house is really not functional and it has also affected our social life a lot. We don’t even have people anymore.

The couple use their bedroom to access the garden, for example when their children’s friends come and go to play.

“I’ve had total strangers in my room picking up their kids,” Laura says.

Then they scamper off to the garage – or Kenny’s man cave.

“I like messing around with stuff, and tinkering and fixing stuff,” Kenny muses.

Dermot is perplexed. “You didn’t fix anything in the house, did you?” »

Unfazed, Kenny replies, “That’s your job!”

Dermot does not hold back. “I love it – ‘I kinda like DIY’, and half the toilets don’t work!”

Contractor Denis McGlynn begins demolition and construction in April 2021 after restrictions on non-essential construction work.

With rising material and labor costs, this is a challenge.

Laura and Kenny move into a rental house and when the lockdown delay prolongs the overall process, precious money is spent on rent.

Quantity surveyor Claire Irwin arrives to manage the budget and align expectations.

“Spending must stop!” she said at one point.

But as Laura says, “We just want it all!”

Laura and Kenny arrive to inspect the scene near the start of construction.

As Dermot, Laura, and Kenny look towards the attic, Kenny says, “I’m going to need backup because she wants to set up a bar.”

Dermot is unimpressed.

“Okay. What kind of bar?”

Laura pulls out her phone. “A bar. An art deco bar. Do you want to see it?”

All Dermot wants to know is how much it costs.

“It’s about a thousand euros,” Laura replies.

Cut to Dermot outside the house.

“A thousand euros for a stupid velvet bar. Which they will never use? There is no money for this.

“If they find money for it, I’ll be a little annoyed.”

Costs increase, wood and steel by 30% making the pricing job harder.

Since construction was first costed in 2020, the fallout from Covid and Brexit has driven up material costs and added €25,000 to the original budget.

Quantity surveyor Claire notes that the initial budget of €275,000 has increased to €300,000.

They end up going over budget.

Laura and Kenny decide to make three changes.

They opt for Aluclad windows throughout, underfloor heating and an extra meter of floor space in the front room.

They deem it worth it and much cheaper than a renovation in the years to come.

Eight and a half months of construction later, there is a happy ending. The couple is delighted with the transformation of their old bungalow.

Normally, with a rectangular bungalow, “you split it in half, one half for the bedrooms, the other half for the accommodation,” says Dermot.

“But you couldn’t split that house in half because you had to connect from front to back.”

So Dermot split it down the middle.

This spine or storage wall “hooked the design together”.

Instead of a kitchen island, the worktop faces a folding window.

As for the bedroom or what Laura calls the “boudoir”?

“It’s like stepping into a marshmallow,” says Dermot. “It’s the best view in the house”

COST ASSESSMENT

Investment €330,000

SEAI Scholarship €20,000

Cost per square meter 1600 €

“They received over €20,000 from SEAI, which was fantastic,” says Claire Irwin, quantity surveyor.

“It was for floor insulation, interior wall insulation, new windows, attic insulation and their air-water heating.

“They spent that extra €30,000 on things that wouldn’t be very easy to do again,” Claire explains.

“The total cost of the house per square meter was €1600 per square meter. An average house costs between €2,400 and €2,500 per square meter.

  • Room for improvement broadcast on Sundays at 9:30 p.m. on RTÉ One and on RTÉ Player
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