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how we live

'We spent five years thinking about the big renovation': Step inside Sarah's transformed Meath home

Sarah’s old kitchen, living and dining area now form one open-plan space.

About your home

Where? Ratoath, Co. Meath

What type of house? Detached house in a cul de sac

How many bedrooms and bathrooms? Four bedrooms, three bathrooms

When did you move in? November 2013 

About you

Name: Sarah de la Vega

Age: 39

Occupation: Accountant

Who else lives there? My husband and our six-year-old son.

What made you choose this home over others?

Mainly the fact that it was detached – we didn’t think we would find a property on its own with the budget we had at the time. It is also in a quiet cul de sac and has a spacious garden, so it ticked boxes we didn’t even have on our list!

There is a flip side to everything so although it was a relatively new build the interior was quite badly in need of attention – hence the affordability. What made the final decision to buy this property was the potential, it was full of potential and still is.

We did a small amount of redecorating at first and put in a new en-suite bathroom, then spent five years living in the house and thinking about the big renovation which we did in 2019.

What is your favourite place in your home?

We renovated last year, taking down the walls between the kitchen/dining room and dining room/living room to turn the whole thing into an open plan space. This is hands down our favourite part of the house, we spend virtually all of our time here.

When the weather is good we open the large sliding doors to the garden so that the patio and living area merge. The feeling of space and the light we have in this area now is amazing compared to the boxed in feeling of the three rooms this space used to be.

Is there any part of the home you don’t like?

We are not happy with the master bedroom, it has not been decorated since we moved in. We have ideas but haven’t yet settled on what we want to do with it although it is next to the smallest bedroom which we are considering turning into a walk-in wardrobe.

This would free up space in the bedroom to have a nice sitting area or make up table. We also have chunky Mexican pine furniture which was oh-so-fashionable and popular in the early ’00s when we furnished our previous home, but it has dated and takes up too much space.

Is there any part of your home that makes it unique?

When house hunting, the thing we found unique about this house was that it was very unassuming – every room is square and well proportioned. A bit boring you might think, however the one thing that bugged us about houses we had viewed and even our previous home is the way they seem to be built to make them more interesting or clever.

Unusually shaped rooms, stairs with twists and turns, alcoves and boxed off areas – these are things you see a lot in new builds and while they initially look quirky and interesting and sometimes serve a purpose such as concealed pipe work these features make furnishing a house quite difficult. The simplicity of a straight staircase and square rooms caught our eye in this house.

Take us through an average day in your house, room by room. 

7 – 8am: My husband is the first up and the first to leave the house as he has a longer commute. Our son heads downstairs to watch TV in the playroom while I organise his school lunch and creche snacks in the kitchen. Most parents probably feel the house revolves around the kids, there were lots of ideas for the other small living room but we will never regret using it as a playroom and dedicating it to toy containment!

8am – 6pm: We both work full time and have offices in Dublin but are lucky enough to be in flexible roles which includes some home working. Each of us usually works from home one day a week. When I work from home I like to work from the kitchen bar with the kettle close to hand and the washing machine going in the utility room. My husband prefers to work from the small bedroom upstairs. If we turn this into a walk-in wardrobe we will have to incorporate a work corner with a desk. If home working becomes more standard in the future we are considering getting a garden room so that you create a work/home divide and balance.

6pm – 8pm: When we get home, I prepare dinner for my son in the kitchen. After this it is homework time. This all happens around the kitchen bar which is the general meeting place in the house. My husband or I usually do some exercise in the evenings so one of us will go back out. After some play time in the playroom it is shower time and bedtime for our son. When we renovated we took the bold step of removing the only bath in the house. My son was so unhappy about this for a while, we had to tell him that it was the builder’s decision! The family bathroom is essentially my son’s bathroom. We made it a wet room so it is very child friendly, also great for elderly relatives when you have guests.

8pm – 10pm: My husband and I have dinner after our son is in bed. We eat at the kitchen bar as after the renovation we said no food in front of the TV! We then watch a bit of TV, I used a corner sofa to break up the area and create a boundary between kitchen/dining space and living space. Then it is time to head to bed with the help of some excellent blackout blinds. 

Is there anything you’d do differently if you were doing it again?

There are a few design flaws that we have to live with post-renovation. Although we were very involved in the design and build process, a few things did slip through and I would have preferred they didn’t.

More: ‘I drink my morning coffee and ask Alexa for the news’: Inside this tech-filled home in Armagh>

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