Home res­cue

RTÉ’s lat­est se­ries of Home Res­cue sees a Cork mum with eight sons — all with names be­gin­ning with the let­ter K — de clut­ter her home. Ailin Quin­lan meets the fam­ily

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside -

How to de­clut­ter your home

When ar­chi­tect Róisín Mur­phy and builder Pe­ter Finn agreed to re­design the bed­rooms of a Cork mother and son, what they found was not a clut­ter prob­lem, but a crammed-to-burst­ing fam­ily home ac­com­mo­dat­ing three gen­er­a­tions.

In July 2017, Carmel Im’s el­dest son Ken­neth, his wife Lisa and their two chil­dren, moved back into the four-bedroomed, end-of­ter­race house Carmel had been shar­ing with her 29-year-old son Kon­rad, in the Cork sub­urb of Bal­lyphe­hane.

To ac­com­mo­date the new ar­rivals, Carmel, a knit­ting and cro­chet­ing en­thu­si­ast, and Kon­rad, a fash­ion de­signer who is now study­ing for a de­gree in so­cial work at Cork In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, moved, with all their pos­ses­sions, to two smaller bed­rooms down­stairs: “The house is very full but we all get along,” says Carmel a mother of eight sons, whose names all be­gin with ‘K’ - and who as a re­sult, have be­come widely known as the Kork Kar­dashi­ans. There’s Ken­neth (39), Kieran (36), Kevin (35), Keith (34), Kristo (33), Kon­rad (29), Kraig (25) and Kory (22). Up to the time Ken­neth and his fam­ily moved in, both Carmel and Kon­rad - who is also deeply in­volved in com­mu­nity work - had been stor­ing most of their craft ma­te­ri­als in these down­stairs bed­rooms. It amounted to quite a lot - on top of Carmel’s knit­ting and cro­chet­ing sup­plies, Kon­rad, a the­atre buff and for­mer Mr Gay Cork 2015 and Mr Gay Ire­land 2016 who en­joys cre­at­ing eye-catch­ing en­sem­bles, had heaps of fab­ric, sev­eral man­nequins and even a sewing ma­chine.

“When the lads moved in that July, we cleared a lot out, but I still had piles of stuff,” re­calls Carmel, adding that the bed in her new room was sur­rounded by a sea of boxes and cup­boards crammed with craft­ing ma­te­ri­als: “It was very cramped; there’s no deny­ing it. “I had to move ev­ery­thing from my bed­room to the down­stairs room.” After see­ing an ad­ver­tise­ment for par­tic­i­pants for the pop­u­lar RTÉ se­ries Home Res­cue, Kon­rad ap­plied, and last Au­gust, Róisín Mur­phy and Pe­ter Finn ar­rived at the fam­ily home to see what needed to be done.

They had just three days and €8,000 to trans­form the two prob­lem rooms, with the help of IKEA Ire­land, for what was to be the first episode of the new se­ries. “Carmel’s prob­lem was not clut­ter,” Róisín re­calls.

“Ba­si­cally this story is about mak­ing space for three fam­i­lies in one house.” The word ‘clut­ter’ she em­pha­sises, does not tell the real story - Carmel, she points out, is sim­ply a granny with an av­er­age num­ber of pos­ses­sions which now had to be squeezed into a much smaller amount of space. “It’s es­sen­tially a story about the hous­ing cri­sis and about hav­ing to ac­com­mo­date what are three fam­ily units - Carmel (59), Kon­rad, Ken­neth and his wife and chil­dren - in Carmel’s home. “For me this was a story about hav­ing to ac­com­mo­date three dif­fer­ent life­styles in one home,” ex­plains Róisín, adding: “It was ex­tremely chal­leng­ing.

“How­ever, at the end of the day, it was about giv­ing Carmel a room that was hers, a place she could re­turn to and en­joy her own space. Carmel is a young granny and is still cook­ing din­ner and do­ing her crafts. She also has lots of style, and so has Kon­rad, so I wanted to give them each a room with style; they are very creative peo­ple.”

Róisín’s first pri­or­ity was to pro­vide Carmel with what she de­scribes as a “proper” bed in her new room - and to find more work­able stor­age op­tions: “She’d been sleep­ing in a sin­gle bed, so we made a big four-poster ‘Al­pha Woman’ bed, which is a strong pres­ence in the room,” she says. Carmel was en­cour­aged to go through her clothes and pos­ses­sions and de­cide what she didn’t need - her new room, which mea­sured about three me­tres by four me­tres, was sim­ply too small to store it all. “The project

helped me cull out ev­ery­thing,” the mother-of-eight re­calls, adding that although ini­tially some­what re­luc­tant to let things go, by the sec­ond day of ‘culling,’ she was find­ing it much eas­ier to do.

The crew also re­stored an old Ir­ish coun­try cab­i­net for Carmel’s jew­ellery and knick- knacks, and cre­ated a spe­cial craft­ing cor­ner in the bed­room. Her craft ma­te­ri­als were moved out of the bed­room and into a cup­board in a new­ly­cleared space un­der the stairs. The crew also hung pretty cur­tains at the bed­room win­dows and re­placed the black­out blind with clear muslin nets, to give her pri­vacy but al­low light in.

They also in­stalled spe­cial day­light bubs which sim­u­late real day­light, to help Carmel coun­ter­act her Sea­sonal Af­fec­tive Disor­der, a type of de­pres­sion re­lated to the changes in the sea­sons. Kon­rad’s room pre­sented a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge - it was smaller than Carmel’s, and also func­tioned as a reg­u­lar meet­ing place for Kon­rad and his large cir­cle of friends. To cre­ate more space in his room, Kon­rad too was en­cour­aged to sort through his pos­ses­sions and learn to live with less.

Re­calls Róisín: “I wanted to give Kon­rad’s room the feel of a stu­dio apart­ment; to make his room a place where peo­ple could hang out.” There wasn’t enough room for a sofa or chair so a king-sized, raised, plat­form bed pro­vided this op­por­tu­nity, be­com­ing, re­calls Róisín “like a big ‘mosh pit’ or space where peo­ple could con­gre­gate and hang out”.

The bed-de­sign also use­fully in­cor­po­rated stor­age space for Con­rad’s ex­ten­sive tee shirt col­lec­tion and other pos­ses­sions.

“The stor­age was built into the frame­work of the bed,” Róisín ex­plains, adding that a dra­matic painted geo­met­ric pat­tern on the wall be­hind the bed now sub­sti­tutes for a bed-head and also al­lows for more space. The crew also built a spe­cial wall-cab­i­net which of­fered stor­age op­tions and also con­tained a fab­u­lous make-up mir­ror sur­rounded by lights: “When it opens it’s a the­atre make-up mir­ror, but it’s very dis­creet when it is closed, “Róisín ex­plains. “Kon­rad is very in­volved in the­atre and has a lot of friends who come to do their hair and make-up. “I moved a lot of his coats and the­atre cos­tumes into ex­ist­ing stor­age space in the hall this had to be cleared first.”

She thor­oughly en­joyed the project, she says now: “Kon­rad and Carmel were lovely peo­ple to work with. I think this was the most chal­leng­ing makeover of the se­ries be­cause of the size of the rooms and what they had to ac­com­mo­date - but it was also one of the most re­ward­ing projects, be­cause you knew you were re­ally help­ing out.”

Carmel, who has steadily con­tin­ued with a clear-out of un­wanted pos­ses­sions since the team left, is de­lighted with the re­sults: “They did it all in three days. If Kon­rad and I had done it, it would have taken us years; I don’t think we’d ever have got there I know that if we’d tried this with­out the team there would have been great trou­ble be­tween all of us over what could stay and what had to go, but the fact that they were pro­fes­sion­als was a huge help.” She has also learned a very use­ful life-les­son, she says: “I’ve learned that I have to stop just pick­ing up stuff I have a very ex­tended fam­ily, and I have eight sons so I was al­ways buy­ing things I thought some­one might like, but I’m more dis­ci­plined about that now I must be the only one in Cork city who can walk through Pen­neys and buy noth­ing!” Home Res­cue re­turns Oc­to­ber 30, 8.30pm on RTÉ One

Pe­ter Finn and Róisín Mur­phy (left) helped trans­form Carmel and Kon­rad’s fam­ily home in Bal­lyphe­hane, Cork.

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