Buying an old house is no joke – thankfully Esther O’Moore Donohue has a serious sense of humour about her tumble-down pile. Welcome to the latest installment of her renovation diary
At peak, house-in-bitness, I’d walk in and out of rooms in a daze, mentally noting the endless things that needed to be done. I would question what the eff I had gotten myself into and wondered if I could turn back time, like Cher. The low-level panic was always worst at night as I lay on my floor-bed. Every time I’d try to nod off, a brass band led by Dermot Bannon would parade itself around my brain holding signs with ‘The money! The mortgage! The rats in the flat roof!’ emblazoned across them.
It was both the best and worst of times and it seemed like for ages, nothing was really changing. I could see money flying out of my account and work being done, but very little looked different. Every room was dark, the floors covered in protective black plastic with grey plasterboard stuck to the walls. The kitchen and bathroom were rammed full of boxes and surfaces thick with dust, including my tiny violin which I played nightly.
Then one magical week, seemingly overnight, things started to shift and take shape. With the damp, undamped and my sober walls, plastered, the house no longer resembled the set of a bleak play set in a Welsh mining town. It now just looked like an episode of BBC’s DIY SOS.
Sure, there were eight million jobs ahead but with radiators up and running, I no longer needed to go to bed dressed like Ernest Shackleton. This was progress. Dermot Bannon and his band calmed down for a while and I was able to fall asleep without waking up in a cold sweat.
Whilst all my prized possessions were still Tetris-ed into the kitchen, I started to daydream about what would go where eventually, like a virtual Barbie House. I found myself in eBay auctions bidding for ‘brass cup handles’ like my life depended on it.
I bought a top of the line bin for too much money and a foncy coat stand that was not essential. Hours were lost to searching ‘real homes’ online as I tried to figure out what house lewk I wanted to go for. I knew I wasn’t an all-grey Mrs Hincher, but beyond that, I hadn’t a clue. Was I Velvet Boho Women with scatter cushions galore? Perhaps Mid Century Modern Cutie Pie with Eames reproductions at every turn was more my style? I was asking the big questions.
After many hours searching #interiors on Insta and consulting the energy of the moon, I realised that, I, Esther Two Names, had no idea what she wanted. This was ideal as after consulting the energy of my bank balance, I realised my decorating choices would be limited. I couldn’t live with grey plasterboard for a second longer however so after the walls had dried out, it was time to paint the town (house) red/a strong off-white.
Even though I was on a tight budget, getting a professional in was the only way I’d have the place done this side of 2025, so I asked around. Columbus (yes, Columbus) arrived one chilly afternoon, dressed like a poet.
I had been forewarned that he was a man of very, very few words so of course I couldn’t stop asking him questions. I turned into my Illuminati floor man ‘Any thoughts on JFK? JR? JVN?’ I ventured. But he was not for chatting. He had a job to do and talking to me wasn’t on his agenda, except when he saw the colours I had chosen.
All of a sudden, Columbus found his voice. “Is this really the one you want?” Oh, hello Senor Sassypants. He clearly didn’t appreciate the An Post green I wanted for the doors in the hall. I had a vision and the hall simply had to resemble the interior of my local post office, of that I was sure. I wanted that Big Postal Energy to greet me as soon as I’d enter the house. Columbus accepted my choice and retreated back into his monk-like silence. Before I knew it, his mission was complete and he set sail on his version of the Santa Maria, a maroon HiAce van.
The house was still in a heap but throwing some paint on the walls really brought rooms to life. Everything looked bright and fresh, the heat was pumping and the Wifi flowing. In just a few months, all traces of the drab, damp, parasite-infected house had been erased. I felt waves of relief wash over me and enjoyed a cuppa in my only mug, queen of my tiny, damp-proofed castle. A lot had been done and there was more to do but I could see a chink of light at the end of my renovation tunnel.