Top Tips for Building a Home

On this weeks podcast I spoke with David O’Brien. David’s incredible self-build in the Cork countryside was the first home to go through to the grand final of RTÉ’s ‘Home of the Year’. The black house is totally unique and while it looks dark from the outside, it is bright and airy on the inside and packed full of personality.

Speaking about his gorgeous home on the show, David said: “About five years ago I decided that I’d like to build my own home. I wanted to build something that was really unique to me. Black is my favourite colour, so I decided to build a black house”. David and I chatted about the process of building your own home in Ireland. He gave some excellent insights into the ups and downs of the process and provided very useful tips for those considering their own self-build project.

David O’ Brien is an interior designer and project manager with RJ O’ Brien Building Contractors in Co. Cork, which is a family run business, established by his late father Ray, over 50 years ago. He also runs the Instagram account @newbuildireland

Be sure to check out the first instalment of RTÉ’s Home of the Year (@rtehomeoftheyear) to see David’s house!

David was kind enough to also provide the Legal Diaries community with his top tips for building a house:

  1. Do your research, search the internet, Google, Pinterest, Instagram, magazines etc. to find the style of house that you would love to build.
  2. Write a list of priorities, how many bedrooms? How many bathrooms? Do you want a large utility/bootroom? A huge open plan space? Individual rooms?  
  3. Hire an architect and engineer. It is so tempting to save money here and maybe only go with an engineer to design the house. An architect will think about the landscape, day light and much more and you will end up with a far more considered home.
  4. Study the design. Does it meet all of your priorities, is it practical/functional? I recently looked at a set of plans for a large home where the kitchen was located very far away from the bedrooms. Not practical for families or even if you wanted a glass of water at 3am.
  5. Is it within budget? It makes sense to hire a Quantity Surveyor at this point. We have all seen the battles between Dermot and Patricia and co on Room to Improve.
  6. It is never too early to start thinking about finishes. I would highly recommend hiring an interior designer before the build starts. Remember an interior designers’ role is to listen carefully to you, the client, and to help you translate your ideas into a coherent design.  It will save you, time, money and stress, it will also bring a fresh creative perspective to your build.
  7. Once planning is approved start researching materials for the interiors. Look at kitchen styles, bathrooms, doors, skirting boards etc. get samples, put them somewhere that you see them every day, if you still love them after a few weeks, it reassures you when making the final decision and avoids rushed choices.
  8. Spend your budget wisely. Invest in the windows, insulation, floors etc. It’s very easy to spend money on things that really don’t make an impact, such as, expensive light switches and plug sockets etc. If you have the budget, great, but if you are finding things tight, take some time to consider what you are spending your money on.
  9. Stick to your gut, remember it’s your home and you have to love it, trends come and go.
  10. It is such a privilege to build your own home, try and enjoy it, I know, easier said than done. 

Be sure to check out David’s Instagram account for house inspo and interior design tips and tricks.


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