A dairy farming couple from Cashel, Co. Tipperary, showcased their farm cottage renovation on the eighth series of RTÉ One’s ‘Home of the Year’ on Tuesday night last (March 1).
Máire Hennessy O’Connor and her husband Denis extended and renovated a derelict 1800s cottage on their farm ten years ago.
Máire, who was working in the tourism and hospitality industry at the time and Denis, a busy dairy farmer, saw huge potential to breathe life back into the derelict country cottage.
Denis worked on the structural side of the project while Máire took charge of the interior design.
“We kept the original structure of the old cottage and the fireplace and one of the external walls as our inside hallway,” said Máire.
“We also raised the roof of the old cottage to make it a dormer cottage and added two bedrooms upstairs, with one other bedroom downstairs in the original structure.
“We then added a walk-in wardrobe and en suite onto two of the bedrooms at the end of the house. We also built on a kitchen, living area, bathroom and utility room to the back of the original cottage. It took about 18 months to complete.
“A few years later and with four daughters running around, we built on a playroom and loft bedroom, with an entrance hallway,” she said.
The family was thrilled to have their living space selected to take part in the ‘Home of the Year’ competition.
“Even though we had to keep it a secret at the time of filming, there was huge excitement among our family. We did lots of work and tidying around the house in preparation so there was a great buzz for the few weeks in advance. We were so honoured to have the opportunity to be part of the show,” Máire added.
The judges were impressed with the views and the country chic style of what they dubbed “an inspirational and delightful family home”.
A new passion
Although Dangan Cottage didn’t make it to the final, it scored an impressive 26 marks from the adjudicators. They commended the strong sense of connection with the landscape, the restoration of the original hearth, the high ceilings and the furniture.
The success of the cottage renovation project has led Máire to establish an interior decorating business, Chic Dwelling Decor, based on the farm.
“I worked for 20 years in tourism and hospitality until the pandemic hit in March 2020. I had completed a part-time interior design course during 2019, at the Dublin Design Institute and set up the interior design business in 2020,” she explained.
Armed with a background in marketing and her keen eye for interior decorations, Máire set to work establishing her online and offline consultancy and retail business, sourcing vintage and antique finds and lining up craftspeople in the area and around the country.
Máire offers interior decor consultations, both in-person and online, and has also opened a home interior shop with a mix of old and new pieces available on her website.
“After our own home renovation project, I knew this was where my heart was in terms of a new career and this gave me the desire to start my own business. I thoroughly enjoy working with homeowners,” Máire said.
“I believe that a home should be a comfortable, stylish, but also functional space, with items and accessories that create an atmosphere you like to spend time in. By changing the way people feel about their home environment, ultimately it can change the way they feel about themselves.
“My clients are the most integral part of my journey,” she added.
Máire is about to begin a part-time course in home staging and styling to assist anyone selling a property to increase its value. She also works with Airbnb or self-catering businesses to help them give their rental properties a fresh, welcoming look.
Máire benefitted from support through her Local Enterprise Office in Tipperary, using the trading online voucher scheme and taking part in online webinars and training events to help get her fledgling business up and running.
“For anyone taking on the adventure of a self-build renovation, there is hard work involved. Be prepared for ups and downs along the way but the rewards at the end are more than worth it,” said Máire.
“There are lots of great Facebook groups that you can follow and take advice from people on a similar journey which is always a great help.”