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Image / Living / Property
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IMAGE x Dyson Self-Build Ireland: ‘Your home is your bespoke sanctuary, a retreat, your own little world’

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By Sarah Finnan
16th Jan 2023
Sponsored By
IMAGE x Dyson Self-Build Ireland: ‘Your home is your bespoke sanctuary, a retreat, your own little world’

In the fifth of our IMAGE x Dyson Self-Build Ireland series, we meet Vicki and her husband Des, who took on the mammoth task of building their forever home in Co Cork.

Self-builds have surged in popularity in recent years. A complete labour of love, the payoff of seeing your dream home come together cannot be underestimated… but it’s not something people take on lightly.

Often a long and arduous process, there are several different factors to take into consideration before heading down the path of building your own home. Moving back to Ireland from Edinburgh in 2018, Vicki and Des already had a couple of renovations under their belt before deciding to start on their own. Initially looking at upgrading an old property, they ultimately decided on a self-build instead – all while Vicki was pregnant with her third child. Moving in two days before Santa arrived, it was pure chaos at Vicki’s admission, but they haven’t looked back since. 

Below, they share their secrets on everything from budgeting to timing to what they wish they knew starting out.

What was the land like when you first got your hands on it? 
Our home was built in the middle of a field however there are old walls and trees on some of the boundaries so we always wanted to build something that would, in time, bed into its surroundings. We had also previously lived in Edinburgh for many years so always had an appreciation for beautiful old buildings that stood the test of time but with a twist of modern form and functionality.

When did you start the project?
We were due to start in April/ May 2020 but we ended up starting in June due to Covid.

Has it stayed on timeline/budget?
We had hoped to finish the build within one year, however, it ended up taking exactly 18 months to the day – we moved in just two days before Christmas. Given that we built through the thick of Covid, a year and half still feels very fortunate. In terms of budget, we had a fixed build cost with our contractor and included researched and realistic PC sums within it for key items such as glazing. From the moment we broke ground we also started putting deposits down on all the big pieces such as kitchen, flooring, bathroom goods and paving. Rising costs are unavoidable but being as organised as possible really helps.

Did you stick with the original plan, or did it evolve as you progressed? 
My husband, Des, and I fell in love with an image we found on Pinterest about six years ago and always talked about moving back to Ireland to build a home just like it. The design evolved over the years due to practicalities, internal requirements and cost but the essence was still very much drawn from that one image. During the build and some of the lockdowns we made little tweaks such as changing the central wall in our home, which was originally block, to red brick. Breathing space during the build came with its pros and cons as we were expecting our third baby so we had a ticking clock but we always tried to utilise the time wisely and make the most of it.

What do you now know about self-builds that you wish you knew when you started?
We were fortunate in so far as that we had already done a couple of renovations before building our own home, so we had some experience with the pressures. That said, I’m not sure anything ever prepares you fully for building your own forever home! I guess the most important thing we learned is that whether you’re building or renovating there will always be compromises, sometimes because of planning but usually because of budget. Perseverance will always be key, the big ticket item that came in way over budget was our stairs. We sat down with our joiner and looked at every cost element of the stairs and came to a compromise that still gave us the result and look that we wanted but, most importantly, at a price we could afford.

What questions do you wish you asked your builder/architect?
Is there a more affordable way of doing something? Question it all – from the core of the build, such as the steel that’s been specked by the architect/engineer, to the insulation that’s being used by the builder. Also if you have a QS involved, read his costings and try and understand them as there may be further savings that can be made, or conversely, things you will need to up speck. We had a great working relationship with our builder and were involved in most next-stage discussions which were great as it gave us a wonderful understanding of what was coming, what options/questions lay ahead and also to meet the trades that would be working on it. Establishing good rapport helps hugely as you develop respect for each other and it makes it easier to have honest discussions.

Dyson Self-build Ireland

What advice do you have for homeowners who are about to take on a self-build? 
Keep saving pictures of all the things you see and love, inspiration can come from anything – a postcard, a plant pot or a professional. Never be shy in asking people where they bought something or who helped them shape their space. I’m home crackers and the greatest joy I take on Instagram is helping others find elements they love. Never shy away from just asking the question.

How did you save money along the way?
We picked some of our key materials very early on and then waited for them to be reduced in the sales. We also put down deposits to secure prices and always kept an eye on places such as Done Deal. These little savings and early payments really help when it comes to the end of the project as this is where the budget is most stretched.

Did you seek finance? Was it difficult to acquire?
Yes, we had to source finance to build. You have six months to draw down a mortgage from the date of approval and with lockdowns, this lapsed so we had to go back to the start again which was frustrating and led to a six-week lag. Fortunately, we were working with an incredible contractor where there was complete trust on both sides.

Dyson Self-build Ireland

What hurdles have you encountered along the way?
Well, the words ‘Covid’ and ‘Brexit’ have featured in a lot of our core challenges. We hit all three lockdowns and one of the hardest parts was trying to research everything virtually. Shops were closed, so getting in to see things physically was very challenging. Also not being able to have our friends and family over at various points in the build as movement was so restricted meant some parts felt quite lonely – Instagram once again became my go-to place to retreat and chat with like-minded lovelies.

What aspect of it have you enjoyed the most?
Watching your dreams come alive! My hubby and I were very much a team when it came to the build, some elements we divided and conquered, others we were very much united on but with every stage of the build, we were both constantly blown away by the reality of our vision. It is so satisfying to watch something come to life that you have put your absolute heart and soul into.

Dyson Self-build Ireland

Anything else you want to add/tell me about the project?
I often get asked what my background is and if it’s to do with building – which it’s not. Neither I nor my husband work in anything related and we didn’t have a clue before starting our renovations a few years ago what the process would entail, but we are passionate about doing something once and doing it right. Research every element you can. This can be exhausting at times, but the reward is immeasurable. For me, home and happiness are intrinsically linked. A home needs to work for the way you live, but it also needs to reflect who you are. Your home is your bespoke sanctuary, a retreat for you and those you love, your own little world.


 

It takes bravery to follow your design dreams, particularly when those dreams require thinking outside the box. Dyson is, and has always been, a champion of design innovation and creative bravery. In this series IMAGE x DYSON salute Ireland’s brave self-builders who are making their design dreams come true.

Visit image.ie for more in this inspiring IMAGE x Dyson Self-Build Ireland series, plus clever home hacks, cleaning wizardry and more.