5 Minutes with Majella O'Donnell

By contributor Lucretia McCarthy

Majella O'Donnell_approved image_190306.jpg

Staunton Henderson chatted to Majella O’Donnell About all things architecture, and found out why she’s absolutely loving her home.

Singer, wife, presenter, mental health advocate - there’s a lot of things that Majella O’Donnell is rightly famed for. At Staunton Henderson, we see her as an architecture champion and ideal client too. In 2018, she and Irish country singer husband Daniel O’Donnell took part in RTE’s Room To Improve, teaming up with Dermot Bannon to transform their four bedroom detached property in Donegal, where she raved about the process, and the results. 

One year on from the positively life changing show and just in time for her new series, Daniel and Majella’s USA Roadtrip, we caught up with Majella to talk about how she viewed her home now and what it’s like to live in great design… 

Staunton Henderson: Majella, on your episode of Room To Improve, you talked about how much you loved your redesigned home. How do you feel about it now that you’ve had a year to live in it?

Majella: I still love it! I’ve never felt about a house like this, it’s the first time that it’s truly my own. I wanted to live in a house that really had a soul and we achieved it and more. It’s like having the same house but with a new one inside the old.


Double Height Windows After

[image courtesy of rte.ie]

Staunton Henderson: What does your husband Daniel think of the house now?

Majella: He absolutely loves it too. The house always had the location, but now it takes full advantage. Originally it had small patterned windows and could be so dark. Every morning we would come down and put the lights on straight away. Now it’s full of light and the outside has been brought in so we can enjoy the phenomenal rugged Donegal landscape. 


Kitchen Before

[image courtesy of rte.ie]

Staunton Henderson: Daniel is a passionate ambassador for Donegal, it’s his home county and place of birth so it’s no surprise this is his favourite element of the change. What’s the best bit of the renovation for you?

Majella: Of course the windows make a huge difference as I said. But really, it’s the family friendly layout. The downstairs incorporates all the rooms, with zones so everyone can do separate things, together. When I used to cook, everyone else was in the other room but now it’s easy for everyone to be in the same space without getting under each others’ feet. 


Open Plan Kitchen Diner After

[image courtesy of rte.ie]

Staunton Henderson: The renovation process can be really tough, and there certainly was a bit of drama on the show, was there any point along the journey where you felt like giving up?

Majella: No! Absolutely not! [laughing] I didn’t find it that stressful at all purely because we had an architect and a project manager. We had previously done a renovation to the tune of €2 million at another house and we did it with just a builder. We had to make lots of decisions, and Daniel drove the builders crazy too, popping in with suggestions. It all went over budget. With architects, you pay someone to take that strain, they find out at the beginning exactly what you want and there’s a definite plan. We only had to pop up now and again. Of course the budget went completely out the window this time too but that’s architects for you! I did actually get a lot more than I thought I would for it though, so there’s also that. 


“Before, I never minded going away all the time, now I just love to be at home.”

Master Bedroom After

[image courtesy of rte.ie]

Staunton Henderson: You had a really positive experience using an architect, compared to going it alone. What advice would you give to a homeowner who was thinking about employing an architect for their own project?

Majella: I’d say to try and be open minded. Don’t be too demanding on exactly what you want because that’s the architect’s forte, there’s no point in hiring them to do it all yourself. Let them suggest things. With our house, Dermot [Bannon] had a vision that I could never have had. What he asked us was what we really wanted from the house and how we wanted to feel when we were there, and that was the important thing. We didn’t really need more room, we just didn’t feel that the rooms were being utilised as best that they could be, I want to use all the rooms. In terms of feelings, I wanted to feel like the outside is coming in, and for it to feel safe and welcoming, just full of good vibes!


Nook After

[image courtesy of rte.ie]

Staunton Henderson: You of course had the famous Dermot Bannon, but if you chose again, what would you look for in an architect?

Majella: Hmmm, well it’s important that they get you and know where you’re coming from. And you’ve got to give the time, space and info to let them; really tell them what makes you happy in your home. I took Dermot to a cottage on an island that I go to in the summer. It’s all simple, there’s no electric, nothing. And he just got it. He saw what I like and what a home feels like to me. 

Upstairs living room_Before.jpg

Living Room Before

[image courtesy of rte.ie]

Staunton Henderson: Majella, we think you’re an exemplary client. What advice would you give to an architect setting up a new practice?

Majella: The number one thing is to really work hard to get to know your clients. Find out exactly what it is they’re looking for, I don’t just mean shiny taps (of course that’s always part of it anyway), ask what they want from the building. Also, try to watch their budget! On Room To Improve there’s a moment when we had our bubble burst, we’d been shown all the wonderful things we could have for our money and then a while later, we were told ‘well actually no you can’t.’ It felt like a slap in the face, it really did. Even though we could afford it in the end, not everyone can up the budget like that. Architects need to be careful in that respect, that what they’re telling you is possible. A more practical thing that keeps it all moving and on schedule, is to work with the builder, that worked wonders for us. 

Upstairs living room_After.jpg

Living Room After

[image courtesy of rte.ie]

The couple’s episode of Room To Improve aired on 18th February 2018. Daniel and Majella’s USA Roadtrip is available on RTE every Sunday from March 2019. 


Feeling inspired? Get in touch to see how we can make you happier at home.