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Denise O’Connor – All Under One Roof guest architect

Thinking of renovating your home? All Under One Roof guest architect Denise O’Connor has the latest trends and top tips…

Following on from our “All Under One Roof” Facebook live interview with the very talented architect and interior designer Denise O&’Connor; we wanted to share her excellent tips and practical advice for anyone looking to renovate their home.

As estate agents, our clients regularly ask us what rooms they should renovate to increase the value of their homes. We all know renovations can be stressful and expensive, particularly in the current climate. Choosing an architect that is a fit for you and can manage the process smoothly is key to ensure you are happy with the result.

Denise joined our MD Clare Connolly to share her expertise and advice on everything from how the pandemic has changed how we live to her own personal experience of balancing her love of architecture and design with the practicality of living with young children!

The covid effect…

The pandemic forced many of us to spend considerable time at home. For those working from home, the lines between work and home life became blurred. Some people had the space to separate the two, but many people were working (and home-schooling) from a small makeshift corner in the house! As a result, we view our homes differently now and our priorities have changed.

Denise outlined the key trends that have emerged.

  • Comfort is a major factor as we all carve out our own spaces in the house to meet our needs. Open plan which was the dream pre covid is still popular, but clients also want closed rooms to relax, study, or work.
  • Our outdoor spaces whether that is a lovely garden to a patio to a balcony area continues to be an escape and an important additional outdoor room for relaxing and entertaining.
  • We are all well used to working from home and this is expected to continue long after restrictions lift. Necessity really is the mother of invention, and the pandemic did spark our creativity in this area! We have become better at using space. Remember the old days of the spare room or the ‘good’ room?! Now, every spare space can be used to maximum effect in some cases negating the need for a costly remodel or renovation. From attic conversions to restructuring a room layout to converted sheds and fully equipped garden offices, there is no shortage of options for every budget.
  • Sustainability is a crucial part of how we live now. I think this was heightened because of covid. We need to live smarter and ensure our homes are as sustainable as they can be. We also realized we don’t need so much clutter! I think we are all shopping in a more considered way and supporting Irish suppliers, with eco credentials, where possible.

Having renovated her own home when her children were smaller, Denise has been in her clients’ shoes. She understands what it means to plan a significant renovation, move the family out and manage the process on time and to budget. As an architect, she has an innate love of design and form and she also had to marry this with the needs of family life – two things that do not always go together! Denise kindly shared her key learnings with us…

Denise’s Top Tips for home renovations…

  • If you can do the entire renovation in one go, rather than in phases, do. It’s better value for money with building costs escalating and let’s face it, a renovation is disruptive, so it is better to only disrupt the entire house once!
  • It can be difficult to estimate the full cost of a renovation until the architect and builder have seen your house and discussed your plans. In general terms, it can be €2,000 to €2,500 per square meter for new builds. This can increase again for older period houses as certain elements of the property may need protecting or there may be additional costs around sustainability upgrades.
  • If you want to brighten a north-facing room i.e., a kitchen, I advise you to uplight the room as much as possible and choose light-reflective materials for kitchen units, etc. There are some clever ways of introducing light including light fittings that mimic the light throughout the day. In the mornings, the light is cooler, and it warms as the day goes on. This creates an ambiance of natural light. Another idea is to incorporate mirrored splashbacks. It may sound a bit left of the field, but we did this for a client, and it worked really well. The light is reflected against the splashback and bounces off the kitchen units and doors. Mirrors, in general, are superb – use them opposite the window and consider changing solid doors to glass doors.
  • I know it’s tempting to retain existing parts of the house such as wooden floors to keep down expenses. However, depending on the condition of the floors, it is sometimes better to replace them. If they are scuffed and in need of repair, they will really stand out and ruin the overall impact of your newly renovated space. If they are in good condition, you can get them sanded and varnished.  
  • If you decide to work with an architect and I would recommend you do, choose an architect that shares your style aesthetic. Look at their work on Houzz and Instagram. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Make sure you understand their process. Pick someone who has experience doing a similar project and you like their overall style and approach.

Denise O’Connor is the founder and MD of Optimise Design. For more information on Denise and the services she offers, visit and

To watch the full interview with Denise, visit our Facebook page

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