Keeping up appearances

Everyone agrees that Ireland extended itself this last decade, and it all started with our homes. We paid too much for them, and then spent even more doing them up and making them bigger. A rash of glossy magazine and home improvement programmes showed us how. Kevin McCloud became a God. Nirvana was getting “more space and light”.

No more was it a case of getting the builders in, but of allowing the builders and architects to move in and ruin your life. The owners of perfectly fine homes, perhaps upright and functioning for 50 or 100 years, felt impelled to pull them apart, even if it did near ruin their finances and mental health.

The planners gave their blessing to this brave new age. Pastiche and blending in was out. The backs of houses sprouted improbable additions, long glass and timber boxes, or house-height structures, to provide those unable to trade-up with the new essentials like en-suite bathrooms, dressingrooms, studies, home offices and, of course, playrooms. The rich and fearless dug into their foundations to create new basements, ideal for wine storage and the media room – an estate agent’s word for a dark room with leather chairs and a television.

The poky kitchens, breakfast rooms and sculleries of our ancestors were no longer right. They were blasted out to create the single most important room of the decade: the big kitchen. The idea of the big kitchen was that family and friends could hang out together, while cooking colourful casual meals, Jamie Oliver-style.

The Irish Times