Unlike Dermot Bannon’s design choices, Room To Improve will never go out of style

At some point in the past 10 years, architect Dermot Bannon built an extension into the psyche of the Irish television-watching public and made it their permanent home.

We’ll leave it to future generations of historians and psychologists to deduce why, at a time of soaring house prices and general discontent with the property market, Room To Improve (RTÉ One, 9:30 p.m.) is become one of Ireland’s great obsessions. But whatever the reason, the merry spectacle of home improvement has flourished even as property has metastasized into a political battleground.

And now he’s back for series 13 – or 14 if you’re one of those Bannon purists who insists that the two-parter Dermot’s Home in early 2020 qualifies as its own separate season.

As is Room to Improve tradition, the fun stems from the tension between Bannon’s architectural ambitions and his clients’ more sensible desire to live in a beautiful home that doesn’t look like Frank Gehry’s fever dream. And so, in the first of four new episodes, comes that inevitable moment when Bannon tries to persuade Lisa and Marc Daly of Dublin’s Kilmacud to outfit their new kitchen with stained wooden units that look like something out of a trendy restaurant. where the drinks come in jam jars and they serve “coleslaw” on the side.

Ever a visionary, Bannon is convinced that this is what they urgently need to tie their new build together. Lisa and Marc are appalled. And since they are the ones who sign the checks, they win.

There is an added human interest component as Lisa and Marc’s middle child, Liam, has autism. Indeed, one of the reasons for building a new home adjacent to their existing home (the sale of which will fund the project) is so the family can design a sensory room especially for it.

But then the pandemic hits and construction precipitously slows down. The Dalys move to accommodation outside Drogheda, from where Lisa has to travel to school in Dublin with her three sons. “It’s just crazy,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s sustainable. I’m exhausted. I have to hang out in Dublin for four hours.

Builder James McGlynn is also at his wit’s end, who has not only had to negotiate the challenges of managing a project through 18 months of continuous lockdowns – but also has to deal with a huge increase in the cost of materials. McGlynn signed delivery of the house at an agreed price – and now her overhead has skyrocketed. It’s an uncomfortable situation. Still, with mediator Bannon, the Dalys agree to a number of budget-cutting measures, with an expensive zinc roof as their first luxury.

Even the longest journey comes to an end and this is the case with the Dalys. We visit their new home and it is indeed a minimalist marvel.

“They took me on a journey to give me insight into living with autism,” says Bannon. “It’s a huge relief to come here today and see that the building is working for Liam.”

The episode is really a story of parents doing everything they can for a child.

And perhaps therein lies the secret to Room To Improve’s success – with all due respect to Bannon and his endless reservoirs of merriment. Ostensibly a real estate show, it’s actually about perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. Unlike Bannon’s stained kitchen units, this is something that will never go out of style.

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