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The making of a homely home with Aisling Grimley

The making of a homely home with Aisling Grimley

Property buyer Breffnie O'Kelly talks to Aisling about her home, in an informal and informative chat.  First broadcast on 13 July 2018.

In this episode of the podcast, Breffnie meets with Aisling Grimley. Aisling has been living in her home for 19 years during which time her family has grown from nearly four to six. It currently is home to herself, her husband and their four grown daughters.

During that time the home has also been used for Aisling’s catering business and it is from here that she launched My Second Spring.

The house is a three bedroom, end of terrace, Victorian-style red brick. Since their purchase 19 years ago Aisling added an attic conversion and extended the kitchen.

WIth its Purple Aga the kitchen really is the heart of the home. The Aga colour choice speaks volumes about Grimley’s personality.

Breffnie approached Aisling because she felt that Aisling’s home was always a ”real home”. Breffnie was conscious of the time needed to keep a house looking and feeling organised.. At the time of the interview Breffnie’s own home was for sale. While Aisling didn’t feel that she spends a LOT of time keeping her home, she comments that there is a lot of storage. She is constantly putting stuff away and throwing stuff out: with six in the house it is easy for stuff to accumulate.

Recalling the time when there wasn’t quite four in the family, Aisling tells us about the hunt for this house, how it is surprisingly similar to their previous home. They felt they got a good deal on the property when they bought it because the potential of the house hadn’t been maximised for the sale process. It transpired that the vendor was travelling a lot for work and didn’t have the time to commit to getting the property ready for sale. When Aisling viewed the house the garden was overgrown, darkening some rooms, and the rooms were cluttered. The estate agent did a very poor job at presenting the property and the house was poorly maintained. It turns out that most people couldn’t see past the overgrown garden and the unappealing presentation.

However, having lived in a similar property, Aisling and her husband Francis, knew the potential of the house and could see that the unappealing presentation masked a house which was in good condition and which did not require major work. She especially remembers moving into the house, straight from the labour ward with her new baby in a carry tot on the floor surrounded by wallpaper samples.

There were some compromises made however. The new house wasn’t south facing, and Aisling, a keen gardener with a love of plants and flowers, had promised herself that her new home would have a south or west facing garden. The compromise on the garden aspect was deemed acceptable by Aisling and Francis given that the house was close to a multi-denominational school and, planning ahead for their family, their children’s education was something on which they didn’t want to compromise.

In the end there wasn’t as big a gap between the mortgage on their old home and the one on their new home as Aisling and Francis had expected. This is mainly because Aisling put a big marketing effort into the sale of their first house, including coverage in a national newspaper when they sold it, and this combined with the lack of effort on the part of the vendors of the house they were buying, meant that they had the best of both worlds…..a good sale price for their own property and a keen purchase price on the one they were buying.

Breffnie comments that when she had her first home she hadn’t a clue where to start with making a house into a home. How did Aisling approach it?

Aisling got advice on colours from an interior designer. She has used experts for interiors on a couple of occasions and has never regretted it.

The existing kitchen was a good solid wood kitchen and was relatively new so changing the flooring and painting cabinets lifted the whole room.

However, Aisling and Francis, with their growing family were always thinking about the budget so did work on the house by degrees. After a few years they converted the attic. Although it might not comply for planning permission to use as a room they were happy to do the conversion for for their own purposes.

Eventually, after 10 years, they realised they needed more bathrooms, their kitchen roof was beginning to show wear and tear and an exterior party wall needed attention. Their builder, who had worked on a few smaller jobs for them, was consulted. On discussion he convinced them to undertake an extension. He made a makeshift kitchen in the front room of the house while work was being done to allow them to stay at home.

Aisling is grateful to him for his vision as they ended up with a beautiful, big kitchen living room. It made their home feel like a new house. Breffnie, with her property expert hat on comments that he “Created a room that will sell the house!”

As well as the builder, they also got help with the interior. Aisling is a keen cook who worked as a caterer. She needed a small enough working area which would allow her to step between sink, cooker and fridge. Natasha Labe helped design the interiors. One tip Natasha gave her was, when planning a wardrobe space, to measure her husband’s shoes. She applied this logic to the kitchen, measuring all her essential equipment. From there, she worked backwards to make kitchen fit appliances. Aisling always wanted an Aga. It was a big investment but sometimes you have to give yourself the permission to have the things you want. Now it is the heart and soul of the kitchen, the house. From a practical point of view: the Aga keeps them warm. Also saves them having a toaster, electric kettle cluttering up worktop.

In the end they went for a semi-solid wood floor in this newly extended space. It is largely The rear wall of the extension is largely glazed. The builder also suggested several skylights in the new kitchen extension. This makes the most of the north-facing aspect., In the end they didn’t need planning permission for the work as they kept it under requirements for same. They had originally had drawings from an architect but felt that it was too elaborate for their needs.

Aisling has strong views on kitchen units. Expensive kitchens also have MDF carcasses. We sometimes think we should go for more expensive, more solid doors but the reality is that you may want to change in 10 years; easier to do if you haven’t spent a fortune on the doors. However, she is glad that she spent money on the quartz worktop.

Natasha - interior architect, worked on the kitchen dynamics, Opened up the space, made decisions about where everything needed to go. However the build was not without its hiccups and a major issue was apparent when it was all very close to completion …..the kitchen island needed to be moved, and this realisation dawned after the sink in the island had been plumbed!!! This appeared to Aisling to be simply too big a job to contemplate however once she talked to the builder she realised that in fact, it probably amounted to two or three days work and as Aisling notes… wasn’t her that needed to do this work..! All she had to do was look the other way as the island got dismantled and moved. . She and Natasha had wisely decided that once the builder is still on site, changes can be made and you’ll never regret spending an additional bit of money if the end result is the right job rather than a compromise. Remember even if it’s your house, this is business. Don’t be emotional: ask about the time and money involved in making a change..

What principles can be deduced from Aisling’s experience?

  • The architect’s plan were too elaborate. She didn’t want elaborate. They knew and trusted their builder. An interior architect might be a better plan than an architect.

  • Get expert advice from someone who understands.

  • Choose special elements, like Aisling choosing her purple Aga, to keep you focused on the endgame.

  • Consider living in your house while the work is happening. . Ask the builder if a kitchen can be set up elsewhere in the house to accommodate the family.

  • Allow yourself to evolve with the house. A family changes.

At home with Breffnie Episode 2: Eva from Houseology

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