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    Creating a stylish home that will flow to work for all your needs

    Potential savings from a mortgage switch, combined with some additional funds, could be the way to create your ultimate interior scheme

    Sponsored by Ulster Bank

    Some of us have a natural eye for beautiful design and the know-how to create a well laid out home. But for many, expert advice is required in order to achieve a cohesive scheme that flows throughout.
    And so, in the final part of our Switch it Up series, in which we’ve tackled all aspects of the home improvement journey from kitchens and bathrooms to getting a better BER rating and looking at how renovations can maximise our space, we’re rounding out the series by talking to interior design experts who explain how form can follow function in our homes. Potential savings from a mortgage switch, combined with some additional funds, could be the way to create your ultimate interior scheme.
    An interior architect or designer can help enhance any indoor space, focusing on layout, spatial planning and conceptual design. We spoke with three designers who shed light on what you can expect from an expert in this field, while offering tips on how to enhance your home.
    Lauren Martin and Louise Rankin run North Design while Emily Cunnane heads up Inspace Design, both practices are based in Dublin.
    “We often see clients project managing their own renovations and coming to us mid-way through construction for help after some costly mistakes,” say Martin and Rankin. “Any project comes with its problems, but having an experienced, impartial body with your end goal in mind can help you manage these as they arise and save you money in the long run.”
    An online consultation is easily done. “You can ‘virtually’ walk through the space with the designer, pointing out the areas you wish to improve, any particular pain points, and any ideas you may have,” Cunnane says.
    While costs vary, she says, “In the long run working with a designer will often save you money as they will pass on discounts for products and let you into their little black book for tried and trusted tradespeople”.
    So what can an interior designer do for you? You don’t need to be undertaking a big project to work with one and often, many issues can be solved by reorganising your layout.
    A good interior designer will get to know you and how you live your life, and then spend time creating an environment that will enhance your day to day, Cunnane says.
    “A ‘broken plan’ layout is a cost effective way of opening up a space, and choosing the right furniture will have an enormous effect. Lighting is a key element which can change the feeling of an existing space entirely. Your designer will be able to help you maximise natural light as well as create an intelligent layered lighting plan to create spaces within spaces, and change the function of an area easily,” she says.
    Kitchens and bathrooms

    Opt for a couple of different lighting types in the kitchen. Photograph: Getty Images

    Kitchens and bathrooms are generally the rooms we want to maximise.
    “Layout and lighting are the two key elements,” Cunnane says. “In the kitchen consider running your units all the way to the ceiling if you are short on space. It will not only give you more long-term storage space but give the illusion of a higher ceiling.”
    Under cabinet lighting gives you visibility across your work surfaces and ambient light when you don’t want to use overheads. A feature pendant creates drama over an island or in the middle of the room.
    In the bathroom, wall-hung units can create a feeling of space. You could also consider unifying the finishes in a small room, such as using a micro-cement for all surfaces rather than a tile, Cunnane says. Opting for wall rather than ceiling lights can give a more polished feel too.
    Under stairs bathrooms can prove tricky for home owners, according to the team at North Design.
    “The layout in these spaces are usually quite restrictive, and this tends to reflect in the design too. There is so much potential to make these spaces something special. You could introduce a bright patterned tile with a strong colour on the wall. This always ends up being a pleasant surprise for your guests,” they say.
    Making the most of awkward spaces
    Sometimes the introduction of an open plan extension can leave a void in the centre of the house where there had been a previous living area. A designer can help.
    “It’s important to inject function back in. Use a stronger colour on the walls, introduce joinery or wall panelling, or change up the lighting, it can be made more inviting, and may become your new ‘snug’ or post-dinner entertaining space with guests,” Martin and Rankin suggest.
    Paint is another clever and inexpensive way of altering a space, they say. “Paint a large sample of the proposed colour on various walls and live with it for a couple of days. You will be amazed at how a colour can feel different at various times of the day and with weather changes, so take the time to get it right.”

    A micro-cement finish is not only space-enhancing in a bathroom but it’s also on-trend. Photograph: Getty Images

    Trying trends
    Interior trends come and go, but one that’s set to stay thanks to the pandemic is how we use our homes for rest, work and play.
    “That joy of separation between work and home life has merged and has put pressure on our homes. Clients want their homes to be more flexible, the main addition being incorporating a work space, but one that is flexible by having the option of closing it away when not in use to allow for evening and weekend family time,” Martin and Rankin say.
    This could mean an office area with a fold-over door that can be shut away in the evening time to physically and mentally put thoughts of work to bed.
    When it comes to décor trends, Cunnane asserts that homeowners can afford to take some small risks. “There is nothing wrong with getting your inspiration from current trends, but why not consider broadening your sources,” she says. “Look at movies for colour schemes, and high fashion can inspire shapes and forms in your soft furnishing.”
    Into 2021, North Design is seeing natural, light and dark timber tones teamed with accents of black. “There is a strong emphasis on textures, the use of rattan in headboards, chairs and accent furniture are all leading features. Colourwise it is a muted use of tones – earthy greens, mustards and dusty pinks.”
    About Switch it Up
    Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.
    Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators’ home tours. Plus, we’ve got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what’s involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.
    Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.
    Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.
    “We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.
    “We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”
    For more information, visit ulsterbank.ie
    Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland More

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    Discover the Dublin 4 renovation project designed for three generations

    Switching your mortgage could provide extra funds to add new details to your home. For Sooby and her family, their clever renovation has resulted in a house that works for everyone

    Sponsored by Ulster Bank

    In part of 11 of our Switch it Up series, we discover the directional, multi-generational renovation of the home of content creator Sooby Lynch. This Sandymount home was built in the 1930s and has been passed from mother to daughter for almost four generations. Now, it has been transformed into a home that works well for three generations of the same family.
    “I’ve lived here nearly all my life,” Lynch says. “It was my great-grandmother’s originally and there is a tradition of someone either inheriting or buying the house and keeping it in the family. I think it’s great because in the future, as my parents get older, it will be easier for me to care for them,” she says.
    [embedded content]
    Lynch and husband Paul, daughters Marnie (3) and Penny (8), plus parents Sheila and James live between the original three bed semi-detached house and a new one bedroom annex apartment.
    Before lockdown the couple had launched a 39-seater boutique theatre in the centre of Dublin. As they wait to focus on that in 2021, Lynch is working with brands through her Instagram account @standingbythewall. She’s also giving her all to finishing the renovation of the family home.

    The newly-finished exterior of the house, complete with contemporary slate coloured windows and front door, allows access for Lynch’s parents to the side.

    The couple bought the property from her parents five years ago with the intention of breathing new life into the space. A ground floor apartment to the side of the property for her parents to live in was a priority. The completed annex now includes a kitchen, living area, bedroom with en suite and a guest toilet. Her parents can walk directly into their new home from the main driveway, which is perfect for her dad, who has mobility issues.
    Architects Finnegan Jackson were on hand for the design, but Lynch’s original idea for a “super modern build” was rejected by planners. “It didn’t look anything like the rest of the area, so we changed it and the new plan was accepted,” she says.

    Priorities are vital when it comes to planning a build, and for Lynch, she knew what she wanted to achieve with her budget.
    The most important element to get right was a working kitchen. “Originally there was a breakfast room, with lots of little spaces, there were no counter tops, and appliances were all over the place. I really wanted a kitchen that worked well for cooking and baking, but also space to just hang out in,” she says.
    And so, in order to achieve that goal and to drench the property in light, the couple knocked several ground floor walls. They were careful to leave folding doors into the living room, an original 1930s feature, in order to have one area separate from the rest of the open plan space.
    Compromises had to be made in order to stay on budget. “We had poured resin floors on our wishlist, but they’re expensive,” she says. “We decided to change the windows instead – so we cut other stuff from the budget to do that. I’m delighted we did it as it’s so cosy now. We just painted the original floorboards over lockdown instead and they look lovely.”
    Industrial steps now lead down to the extended, spacious kitchen. “I gave the metalwork guy photos of fire escapes. When they were put in they did look really industrial, but I painted them white and they look great.”
    A free-standing American style fridge/freezer is a bold centrepiece in the room, and the couple splashed out on a hob with integrated downdraft extractor.

    At the entrance to the kitchen is a functional walk through pantry, which also houses the microwave. They achieved the impactful high ceilings by digging down to garden level – which is a clever way to achieve a feeling of space.
    Lynch didn’t stop there. She carefully considered lots of other ways to make the house function for them during their renovation. An upstairs laundry room that must be the envy of friends was non-negotiable ­– the concept behind it to “make the chore an absolute joy”.
    “It was to make the whole wash, dry, fold, iron and put away an enjoyable and easy job. There is a washing machine, dryer, hot press and counter space for sorting,” she says.

    An image saved from Pinterest has now become a reality and takes pride of place in the family bathroom. “My pink sink is a total joy. I could talk about the pink sink all the time,” she laughs. “Our old bathroom was dingy and very small. The water wouldn’t stay warm, the water pressure was horrendous, the hot tap on the sink didn’t work and there was no freestanding shower. So the big bath, powerful hot spacious shower, and all the storage is just great. It’s a very calm enjoyable space to spend time and relax in,” she says.
    Décor is a key component of this home and with a distinctive monochrome palette throughout, Lynch’s inspiration comes from New York loft apartments.
    “I’m into the plain minimalist look,” she agrees. But she doesn’t think you have to splash out to achieve it. “The décor is quite budget-friendly, and most of the storage is Ikea. We splashed out on an expensive couch from Sofa So Good in Navan. All four of us can now sit comfortably on it which I love.”
    With the line between indoor and outdoor becoming ever more blurred, long term plans include a garden that can be used as an extension to the kitchen. The couple eventually hope to convert the attic into a den or a bedroom for their eldest daughter, and a home office is another possibility, if restrictions continue.

    Daughter Penny’s bedroom is airy and bright and filled with interest

    Building started in September 2019 and a completion date of six months was given but the pandemic saw the process stall. “We rushed to get my parents’ part finished and they’re in now which is brilliant,” she says.
    While most of the work is complete, the finishing touches will be done on an incremental basis, she says. “It’s a million times better than it was,” she smiles. “We really appreciate the level we have gotten it to.”
    Lynch says their living situation has been a dream for her family during lockdown, with everyone blissfully co-existing.  “I can’t believe how lucky I am to live here and have my mum and dad right next door, knowing we can look after them and see them every day. It’s just the perfect set up.”
    About Switch it Up
    Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.
    Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators’ home tours. Plus, we’ve got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what’s involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.
    Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.
    Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.
    “We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.
    “We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”
    For more information, visit ulsterbank.ie
    Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland More

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    Small release of new homes now available at Ledwill Park

    A small release of homes have just been made available at Glenveagh Homes’ stunning new Ledwill Park development in Kilcock, Co Kildare.
    Sponsored by Glenveagh
    With prices starting from €312,500, these 3 and 4 bed properties offer quality build and energy efficiency at the core of their design.
    Originally launched in spring 2019, Ledwill Park has been a resounding success with over 130 homes sold to date. When fully completed this outstanding development will consist of approximately 430 homes. The last 4 bed semi, which overlooks Kilcock GAA club, is also ready to occupy now so you could be in your new home in time for Christmas.

    The Sparrow – the 4 bed semi-detached house in Ledwill Park

    The homes in Ledwill Park are innovatively designed to deliver super living accommodation and bedroom space. At the heart of every house in Ledwill is a superbly designed and fitted contemporary kitchen by Gallagher Kitchens.
    The kitchen of the 3 bed semi-detached house in Ledwill Park

    The 3-bedroom homes come with a contemporary kitchen. Each home benefits from an abundance of natural light from the excellently positioned windows.
    The homes vary in size between 102 -114 sq.m./1,104 sq. Ft. – 1,228 sq. ft for the 3 beds.

    The living room of the 3 bed semi-detached house at Ledwill Park

    The following is a list of some of the standard features at Ledwill Park;
    External Features
    Maintenance free, tasteful mix of brick and render exteriors
    Composite front doors with secure five-point locking system
    PVC fascia, gutters and downpipes

    Heating
    Heat pump system which is thermostatically controlled to maximise your comfort

    Kitchens
    Contemporary kitchen by Gallagher kitchens

    Gardens
    Driveways finished in paving
    Seeded gardens with secure post and panel fencing to rear gardens

    Bathroom & Ensuite
    Stylish contemporary bathroom, ensuite and guest WC with elegant sanitary ware
    Beautiful taps, shower heads & bath fittings

    Energy Efficiency
    All homes are A-rated and incorporate sustainable and renewable technology resulting in lower energy costs
    High level of insulation incorporated in floors, walls and roofs
    All houses are constructed to provide a high level of air tightness in order to retain heat.

    Guarantee
    Each Ledwill Park homes is covered by a 10-year Homebond Structural Guarantee

    Kilcock is a unique town with much to offer

    Kilock as a location also has much to option. The town is a rare example of a town where a road, a canal, a railway and a river run side-by-side and with this comes great amenities and transport services to the area. The Irish Rail service runs from Kilcock to Dublin with the Intercity train taking approximately 45 minutes to Connolly Station. Kilcock train station is less than a 10-minute walk from Ledwill Park.
    The M4 interchange is less than a 5-minute drive from the development and the travel time to Dublin city centre off peak is 40 mins (35 km) via the M4. Dublin Airport is also just a 30-minute drive from Kilcock. Bus Éireann also has regular services through routes 115 and 115A running from Dublin to Mullingar via Kilcock.

    Kilcock is easily accessed by train

    There is also an abundance of schools in the area. Kilcock has three primary schools, Scoil Choca Naofa, St. Joseph’s BNS and Gaelscoil Uí Riada and is home to secondary school Scoil Dara, located on Church Street.
    Maynooth University is also located 5km east of Kilcock and is easily reached by both train and car.

    The canal runs through the town

    Kilcock also has a wide variety of trendy eateries, bars and restaurants to suit all tastes. You can enjoy a quiet intimate drink in one of local pubs including; O’Keeffe’s, Murphy’s & The Gregory. Or why not have a lovely tasty homemade breakfast at the weekend in either The Blackforest Café, Timeless or the award-winning Rye River Café. The high acclaimed Bujolle Bistro also serves the finest French Cuisine each evening.
    There are also a wide number of sports clubs and recreational facilities in the area including Kilcock GAA, Kilcock Celtic Football Club, Kilcock Canoe Club and the North Kildare Club which is a sporting and clubhouse facility that houses cricket, hockey, rugby and tennis all under one crest.

    A bedroom in the 3 bed semi-detached home in Ledwill Park

    In late 2017 the Royal Canal Greenway section between Kilcock and Maynooth was completed allowing walkers and cyclists to avail of the canalside amenity which will eventually when completed link Dublin City to Athlone.

    To see all that these stunning Glenveagh homes have to offer log on to www.myhome.ie/4301663 or visit www.ledwillpark.ie. You can also contact Noel Duffy of Sherry FitzGerald New Homes on 01 6671888 or Eamon O’Flaherty in the Sherry FitzGerald Brady O’Flaherty office in Maynooth on 01 6510000 for more detail or to arrange a viewing. More

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    Glenveagh’s Silver Banks has much to offer

    Glenveagh Homes have recently launched the second phase of 3 and 4 bed homes at the Silver Banks development in Stamullen, Co Meath.

    Sponsored by Glenveagh

    One of the fine homes in Silver Banks

    If Covid-19 has thought us anything it is the importance of where we live. These fine homes in a beautiful setting will ensure you have everything you could possibly need close by no matter what the future brings.

    Stamullen enjoys close proximity to the sea and the beach

    Silver Banks is just a five minute drive from Junction 7 on the M1 motorway with Dublin Airport just 20 minutes away and the city centre 40 minutes drive.
    There are endless transport links nearby too, including Gormanston Train Station just five minutes away and Balbriggan Train Station 11 minutes away as well as a private bus service from the village and Bus Éireann services from Balbriggan.

    One of the living rooms in Silver Banks

    While the towns of Drogheda and Balbriggan are within close proximity, Silver Banks is within walking distance of Stamullen village and all it has to offer.
    Stamullen offers a strong rural community within close proximity of the capital. Its amenities include a St Patrick’s primary school, Gormanston College, St Patricks GAA club, various sporting amenities, childcare, local shopping facilities and the City North Hotel.

    The kitchen in the Silver Banks development

    Your lifestyle will also be completed by a visit to Gormanston beach, just five minutes’ drive away.
    Stamullen has much to offer nearby including train stations and the beach

    Silver Banks is a small exclusive development with a good selection of 3 and 4 bed family homes. With prices starting from €299,950, these fantastic houses are designed with family living in mind.

    Silver Banks boasts a fine finish throughout

    The spacious houses all have excellent interior finishes and with an A-rating they are future proofed to ensure this is a home that will cater for many generations to come.

    A living area in Silver Banks

    All houses are constructed to provide a high level of air tightness in order to retain heat. Internal features include walls painted throughout in a mid-tone easy neutral paint with ceilings painted in white.

    One of the bedrooms in Silver Banks

    All kitchens are integrated by Gallagher Kitchens while shaker style fitted wardrobes are provided in the master and second bedrooms. The houses also feature a stylish contemporary bathroom, en-suite and guest w.c. with elegant sanitary ware.

    Another of the bedrooms in Silver Banks

    External features include a tasteful mix of brick and render exteriors with composite front doors and driveways that are finished in Kilsaran paving.

    A bedroom in Silver Banks

    The confirmed prices for Silver Banks are:
    3 Bedroom Homes from €299,950 (starting from 115sqm/1,234sqft)
    4 Bedroom Homes from €320,000 (starting from 134sqm/1,437sqft)
    Find out more about these superb family homes now on MyHome.ie at www.myhome.ie/4379627, by contacting selling agent Raymond Potterton on 046 9027666 or at www.silverbanks.ie

    All of the homes in Silver Banks are finished to the highest of standards More

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    Go up, go out: which extension type is right for you?

    Lots of us need more space or want to maximise what we already have. Potential savings from a mortgage switch, combined with additional funds could be the way to create a dream layout   Sponsored by Ulster Bank   For many of us, space has become something we’ve been thinking a lot about over the…
    The post Go up, go out: which extension type is right for you? appeared first on MyHome.ie Advice & Blog. More

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    Barnhall Meadows – A chance to live in a ‘Wonderful Place’

    The Wonderful Barn in Leixlip, Co Kildare, provides the perfect backdrop to the stunning Barnhall Meadows development by Glenveagh Homes.
    Situated on the edge of Castletown House estate, formerly belonging to the Conolly family, the corkscrew-shaped building – which was built in 1743 – sits in front of these new architecturally designed, 2 and 3 bed homes which have prices starting from €320,000.

    The Wonderful Barn overlooks Barnhall Meadows in Leixlip, Co Kildare

    As well as providing a protected 4 acre parkland area right beside these fabulous new homes, the enchanting Wonderful Barn also forms part of the scenic 16km Arthur’s Way Heritage Trail which provides a superb walking, running or cycling route for local residents.

    Barnhall Meadows takes its name from The Wonderful Barn and is further evidence of developers’ Glenveagh’s appreciation of the past. They might be a young company but they appreciate their history and even the brochures for this new development have been designed in such a way as to encapsulate the inside of the barn.

    The Wonderful Barn is described as a fairy tale-style building and you can create your own wonderful story in Barnhall Meadows – a development which truly blends the best of town and country. The aforementioned walk and scenery brings peace and tranquility while Leixlip with its wide range of services and amenities – including two railway stations with regular links to the capital and further afield – has all you could ever need on your doorstep.
    Following the hugely successful previous launch in Barnhall Meadows, Glenveagh Homes have now released new 2 and 3 bed semi-detached and detached houses to the market.

    The living room of The Juniper 3 bed detached house

    Barnhall Meadows offers the discerning purchaser spacious accommodation, stylish, contemporary kitchens & bathrooms, a maintenance free exterior finish & an ‘A3’ energy rating as standard, thanks to high levels of insulation and state-of-the-art heat pump systems.
    The development also boasts one of the best buyer incentive packages on the market today with all appliances and flooring are included subject to the purchaser signing and returning contracts within 21 days.

    One of the bedrooms in The Juniper 3 bed detached house

    In terms of location, Barnhall Meadows is unrivalled with the N4/M4 & M50 all within close proximity. For those doing the daily commute to Dublin, the City Centre is under 30 minutes away by car. Dublin Bus also provides a regular service (No 66) as does Irish Rail with Louisa Bridge & Confey train stations close by.

    The Poplar 3 bed end of terrace/semi-detached house

    For families with school-age children, there are quite a few creches, as well as Scoil Mhuire and Leixlip Educate Together primary schools. For older kids, Confey College, Leixlip Community School, and Colaiste Chiarain offer secondary educational opportunities. Additionally, Maynooth University is only 15 minutes away.

    The living room in The Poplar 3 bed end of terrace/semi-detached house

    Leixlip town has plenty to offer residents of all ages with local athletics, including GAA, soccer, rugby and basketball clubs. Leixlip Reservoir and the River Liffey allow for canoeing, fishing, and other water sports. Whether you’re walking around the Wonderful Barn, or taking a jaunt down to Leixlip Castle, you’ll have a wide array of historical spots to visit, adding some culture to your weekends.

    The kitchen of The Poplar 3 bed end of terrace/semi-detached house

    Weekends can be filled with shopping, dining out or taking in the local scenery with Leixlip & its surrounds offering a wide variety of boutiques, restaurants, bars & natural features including, the aforementioned ‘Wonderful Barn’, Leixlip Castle & the Arthurs Way heritage trail.
    Glenveagh Homes are synonymous with quality, precision & a strong focus on providing the highest standard of finish from construction right through to landscaping.
    The bedroom of The Poplar 3 bed end of terrace/semi-detached house

    Through joint agents Savills New Homes and Coonan New Homes, Glenveagh Homes are releasing a number of 2 and 3 bedroom houses to the market. Find out more now at www.myhome.ie/4373808 or visit www.barnhallmeadows.ie
    The Barnhall Meadows price list winter 2020 More

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    Cosy and colourful: this Wicklow cottage is a décor delight

    Switching your mortgage could offer you the opportunity to create your perfect space. For designer Emma Edmonds, doing the work herself is all part of the charm

    Sponsored by Ulster Bank

    In part eight of our Switch it Up series, we discover the cosy country cottage owned by interior designer Emma Edmonds. Lockdown was a time when many chose to try their hand at some form of amateur DIY, but when you’re a professional like Emma is, and you’re working from home, house renovations can be taken to a whole other level.
    [embedded content]
    Emma works as a designer and colour consultant for Stillorgan Décor and lives with her dog Maxi, “the love of her life”, in a beautifully renovated home in Ashford, Co Wicklow.
    A stand-alone cottage, it is a stone’s throw from Mount Usher Gardens and Avoca, and is compact in size with a sitting room, kitchen, bedroom and a dressing room, as well as a wonderful porch that blends the inside with the outdoors, which was built by Emma’s dad.

    Having bought her house 10 years ago, since then she has worked hard to turn it into her dream home. Plenty of inspiration came from visiting Martha’s Vineyard in the US on a trip with her mum a couple of years back.
    “The house was built in 1984 and when I bought it, it was liveable, but a little run down. I’m on my own, I didn’t have anyone to help me financially or otherwise so my mum, dad and brother were great,” Emma says. “They came in and ripped up smelly carpets, took out old cupboards and a few big sheds out the back. Since then, I have made it more old-world. I love the white picket fence look in America and have incorporated that style into the house.”
    In her own words, Emma is “never done” updating the cottage in some shape or form, mostly by her own hand, and at little expense. But renovating took on a whole new meaning recently. Tearing down walls, building patios and painting everything in sight are just some of her newest accomplishments. It gave her “little time to worry” she says.

    “In my bedroom, there was a plaster board wall that stuck out and I could never get the bed in the right place. I tried everything including patterned wallpaper but nothing worked, so one night I took a hammer to it and knocked down the wall,” she laughs.
    Taking inspiration from American interior designer and presenter of TV show ‘Fixer Upper’, Joanna Gaines, she decided to put shiplap panelling on the wall instead.
    “On the show they find terrible houses in good areas and renovate them. When they pull off the wallpaper they almost always find this thing called shiplap, which is planks of wood going across the wall. I hid the old wall by putting that up myself. I ordered the timber locally, clicked it together, screwed it to the wall and painted it white. That changed the room hugely for me. I keep it very neutral, all white, and seasonally, I add pops of colour,” she says.
    The bedroom is the only room where colour takes a rest. The rest of the house pops with black accents, deep forest hues, earthy neutrals and candy pinks.

    “I am a visual magpie and there are no rules in this house when it comes to the pieces I fill it with. It’s a mix of antiques and modern and I have loads of old photos everywhere,” Emma says. “My grandmother was a huge influence on me – I lived with her when I was going to college. She was a really good gardener and won awards for it. I have her picture in the kitchen, watching over me as I’m cooking the apple sponge she taught me how to make.”
    As a colour consultant, Emma knows you can rip up the rule-book. “People are sick of greys and that industrial look and are going for rich earthy tones, so I have Farrow & Ball’s Sap Green in the sitting room, which is really warm and cosy.”
    Recently she painted another sitting room wall a deep mustard – so it, “now looks like a pumpkin latte”. A large mirror and ornate black fireplace complete the décor here.
    “In lockdown, I also painted the kitchen cabinets black and papered the ceiling with a tin-effect wallpaper to give it that honky-tonk vibe. Everything is on a budget, and is usually done by me,” she says.

    One of her favourite spots is her American-style porch, which doubles up as another room. It’s the perfect spot to have a drink or cup of tea with a friend, especially while restrictions are in place. “It’s covered on all sides but open to the elements and is so handy in summer,” she says.
    The garden is her haven. “It slows you down. I recently made a patio out the back, it nearly killed me but I didn’t have time to worry while lifting slabs,” she laughs, adding, “I have a day bed on the porch so I plonk down there and read a book while listening to birds singing, which is heaven.”

    While Emma is happy to turn her hand to almost any DIY task, she did pass on fixing a leaky roof. “A really good local builder sorted me out ­– he got me a roofer and took down the old popcorn ceiling. It was upsetting when it happened, but I have a new ceiling there now and it’s plastered and painted. That’s the one job I couldn’t do myself,” she says.
    Next on the agenda is a possible attic conversion. “The perfect place to showcase all my Vogue magazines”, she says. Whether Emma takes on that particular project herself remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say, no better woman for the job.
    About Switch it Up
    Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.
    Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators’ home tours. Plus, we’ve got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what’s involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.
    Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.
    Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.
    “We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.
    “We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”
    For more information, visit ulsterbank.ie
    Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland

    Tags: Switch It Up, Ulster Bank

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    How to get a warm, energy-efficient home now and into the future

    Improving your BER rating is a great way to reduce bills. Potential savings from switching your mortgage along with access to grants could be the way to create your own cosy home

    Sponsored by Ulster Bank

    This winter our homes will be our havens. We are likely to be working from them, relaxing in them and we will likely be using more light, heat and energy than ever before as a result. Lots are thinking about an energy retrofit right now too, because insulation and heating upgrades can greatly improve comfort levels in the home – as well as reducing our energy bills.
    So, in part seven of our Switch it Up series, we’re talking to two experts who explain how to maximise the efficiency of our homes.
    Many of us are a bit bamboozled by the process of upgrading our properties, and are unaware of the grants available to help us to bring our home from a low building energy rating (BER) to a higher one.
    A BER is a grading, from the highest at A1, to the lowest at G, on how much energy a home requires for heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation. The goal for many is to have an A-rated home. Better for the environment, achieving it will save you lots in energy bills – but many homes are nowhere near this grade.
    Architect Gearoid Carvill of ABGC Architects explains what a bad BER means for a property and how to achieve a better one. “CSO statistics tell us that more than 50 per cent of housing in Ireland is D-rated or lower, so most of us have direct experience of bad BERs. Typically, a lower grade means that the house is more expensive to run.
    “Studies show that improving BERs add value to homes and that changing up one level, say from C2 to C1, equates to a 1 per cent increase in property value,” he says.
    To improve a BER, the simplest and most inexpensive changes can help. “I have seen refurbishment projects where you could improve the rating by swapping out the light bulbs with LEDs,” he reveals.
    When considering a more significant energy efficient retrofit of a property, Carvill recommends homeowners start with the ‘thermal envelope’ – that’s the walls, floors, roof and windows.
    “In an uninsulated home, a third of the heat is lost through the roof,” he says. “Insulate your attic with a minimum of 350mm quilt insulation in layers between, and above the ceiling timbers. You could also insulate the water tank if uncovered.”
    “Then look to heating controls and update your heating system. You could replace an oil or gas boiler with a heat pump or by adding solar, to heat hot water, which can be done with an existing tank. Update heating to controls for time, temperature and zonal, if feasible. An individual thermostat costs from €70 to €200. Thermostatic radiator valves sense the temperature in the room and adjust the flow. They are inexpensive, less than €20 a radiator,” he adds.

    For retrofit refurbishment there’s a holy trinity: comfort, economy and environment. If done right you should achieve all three, regardless of which is your priority.

    Wall insulation and window upgrades go together. The cost of insulating a compact three bed semi-detached property could be around €14,000 to €16,000, but significant grants exist towards the work. The price for triple-glazed AluClad windows will be similar, he adds.
    Typically the average 3-bed semi-detached property will perform much better and be more comfortable once work is done.
    In terms of your energy costs, “previously published data by the SEAI suggests that for a 3-bedroom semi, the costs per annum could be €190 for an A1-rated home, and €4,000 for the G-rated home,” he says.
    Grant help
    While there are significant costs attached to many of the works, grants of up to €6,000 are available for most of them from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
    Tom Halpin, head of communications with SEAI, says to apply for a grant, start with a BER assessment carried out by a SEAI-registered assessor. The certificate and advisory report provided will explain what works can be undertaken to improve the home’s energy performance, and what works should be prioritised.
    There are a range of grants available. “There are grants for attic and wall insulation which make the home cosier and keep in heat,” he says.
    “Once you have sealed your home and it is more efficient, you move to improving the heating system. Grants for heating controls are available and we are also encouraging renewable heating systems in the home – that could be solar panels to generate hot water or going all the way towards using a heat pump. The lowest grant is €400 for attic insulation and highest is €6,000 for external wall insulation on a detached house,” Halpin says.
    Once you have decided on the works you want to have carried out, the process of applying for a grant is quite simple.
    “You must decide what contractor you want to use – and there are hundreds of contractors from across the country listed on the SEAI website that are committed to the terms and conditions of the grant scheme. They have the properly qualified staff to do the work and can be inspected by us at any time,” he says.
    “You need a metre point reference number which is written at the top of a bill from your electricity supplier. You then go online, put in all your details and select the measures you would like to undertake, and the contractor that you want to use, and you will get almost an instantaneous approval if all of that is in order.
    “You then have eight months in which to get the works done. Once you get the offer, you can schedule works with various contractors. Grants are paid directly into your bank account or can be paid directly to the contractor. You must then get a BER assessment carried out after the works to see the uplift to the property,” he finishes.
    Homeowners can also engage with energy supply companies such as SSE and ESB, which offer to manage the works as it helps towards their energy reduction targets.
    One major benefit to an energy retrofit is that a BER rating generally translates to a higher resale value of the property. However, Halpin says this isn’t usually a homeowner’s motivation.
    “The first big benefit is the comfort in their home, and research has shown people realise immediately that comfort,” he adds.
    For retrofit refurbishment there’s a holy trinity, Gearoid Carvill says. It is “comfort, economy and environment. If done right you should achieve all three, regardless of which is your priority.”
    About Switch it Up
    Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.
    Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators’ home tours. Plus, we’ve got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what’s involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.
    Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.
    Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.
    “We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.
    “We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”
    For more information, visit ulsterbank.ie
    Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland More