Working on a renovation together is a big step. You may find answers to some initial questions here.
What is your background?
I hold a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the Politecnico di Milano and a post-initial Master in Heritage Conservation from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL). In Belgium, my official title is “Ingénieur civil-Architect”.
Between these studies, I worked for five years as a consultant and project manager for international companies in the telecom sector in Italy and Belgium. I enjoyed the context: dealing with clients, learning and applying methodologies and best practices, travelling and working with people of many nationalities. But my heart wasn’t in the content. So, after a few years, I decided to go back to my first love – building renovation and project management. I was accepted in the program at the KUL and started again from there.
How long have you been doing renovations?
I started Standing Renovation in 2010, but I’ve been working as a renovation specialist since 2004. For five years I was co-managing director of a general contracting company and for two years I worked at a Belgian University (the Faculté Polytechnique de Mons) teaching interior design studios.
At the contracting company, I was responsible for client relationships, designing interiors, managing the choice of the supplies, organizing the logistics (a lot of materials came from Italy) and supervising renovation works and sub-contractors. There, I realized that what clients appreciated most was that I was helping them create the houses they really wanted without the stress typically associated with renovations. It came naturally to me: I am genuinely interested in what people want from their homes and offices, and I’m passionate about turning ideas into real transformations.
When I started Standing Renovation I decided to build on this experience and to create a systematic, repeatable step-by-step process. This process can be adapted to individual client needs but it allows us to work together with clarity and accountability. In creating my approach, I drew on my academic, professional and personal experiences, along with all that I have learned (and continue to learn) from my clients.
Have you gone through your own renovations?
Yes, three times.
I bought my first apartment in Milan soon after finishing university. At the time I knew the theory but not the practice, so I made a few mistakes that I regretted afterwards. Still, even with a small budget the result was positive.
My second renovation was that of our house in Brussels. My husband and I had just got married and our house renovation ran in parallel with my first pregnancy. This work was not only a good ‘test’ for us as a couple, but it also allowed us to go through the renovation with no stress or anxiety. I had a wonderful pregnancy and a wonderful renovation.
More recently, we moved to a bigger house where I could install my office is on the ground floor. The house looked good initially, but once we started making improvements it was clear a full renovation was the only solution.
Who are your clients?
My clients are people who need to renovate or who want to improve their home or office space, but feel they cannot do it alone. They are positive people who approach others with openness, kindness and trust. Their home means a lot to them and they want to get it right from the start. They’re not looking for shortcuts or magic deals: they want do things properly. And they have sufficient resources to invest in a renovation well-done.
Usually my clients lead busy lives and want to focus on their personal and professional activities, so they are happy to delegate tasks such as managing a renovation. Of course, they want to be involved and take an active part in the project, but they are willing to leave the details to a trusted specialist.
Most of my clients are expats living in or around Brussels. Often, they feel even more lost than locals when planning a renovation. As an expat myself, I understand this feeling only too well!
A lot of them also have children. So they’re looking for advice on designing their home in ways that will fit with family life. As a mum myself, I can see a house from that perspective and help them combine style with practicality.
Are there people for whom your process doesn’t work?
From my past experience, my process doesn’t work well for people who are good at DIY and like to work with online design tools and make plans themselves.
If you have the time and desire to design and supervise your own renovation, or if you’re looking for special deals and like sourcing your own supplies, you will probably find my approach is not for you.
How do you differ from an Architect or an Interior Designer?
In terms of qualifications, I have a somewhat broader background. In my approach, I combine a feeling for the emotional side of renovation, as well as an aesthetic sensibility and technical know-how. My goal is to be a trusted partner for my clients and to organize the whole renovation in a smooth and enjoyable way. Although I am defined as an “Ingénieur-civil Architecte”, I have decided to focus on interiors. This means I cannot help you obtain building permits (permis d’urbanisme).
My renovation works require a building permit (permis d’urbanisme), can I work with you?
Yes and no. I have decided to focus on interior renovations which are my area of expertise. These do not require building permits. So if your project needs a building permit, you will require an architect (enrolled in the “Ordre des Architectes”) who will handle the administrative formalities and supervise the project.
I can work side by side with the architect, for example, if he or she wants to concentrate only on the part requiring the permit – such as a house extension – without dealing with the interior renovation. In this case I can plan and manage all the aspects which are not supervised by the architect.
How does your step-by-step approach work?
My process ensures the whole renovation runs smoothly by starting with a clear plan before any work actually starts. It involves five steps:
- Visualize solutions and understand their implications
We sit together and analyze your needs and desires. The aim is to understand what matters to you and your objectives from the renovation. From this, I will design a number of proposed solutions, which we review together so that you can choose your preferred option.
- Define your project in all its details
Next, we refine the chosen solution and define a feasible project, covering all the details and specifications (dimensions, materials, positions, technical installations, etc.).
We establish a plan for decision-making. From this, we have a set of documents that serve as the basis for a complete and correct estimate of the scope of the works.
This, together with Step 4, is the longest step and is crucial to the success of the renovation. Following this step you will be certain that all the details, both technical and aesthetic, are taken care of and that the result will really be what you want.
- Choosing the contractors and obtaining offers
I will select and introduce you to the contractor I consider best suited to your project.
I work with a limited number of preferred contractors and suppliers with whom I have collaborated for many years. I explain the project to them so that they understand fully what needs to be done and nothing is left to interpretation. These contractors supply price offers which I review to make sure they are complete and correct.
- Entrust the work to professionals
There are risks and constraints associated with any renovation. My role is to anticipate and manage them so that you keep control of the situation.
I liaise between you and the contractors so that they can proceed with their work without interruptions and you can continue with your daily life.
- Review the works and enjoy your re-valued property
Once the work is finished, we review the whole renovation. You can finally enjoy it!
For most of the steps you will receive a project plan that outlines the deliverables, the ‘to do’s’ and milestones, so that you know what to do and where you are at every moment.
Does it work?
I believe many renovations become nightmares because they start with no trust, no plan and no agreed objectives. The other essential ingredient is a good relationship among the client, the contractors and tradesmen and myself.
With this in place, we go through the process together. We cover all the questions and tackle all the issues, all at the right moment. When we prepare together like this – and choose the right contractors and suppliers – there’s little space left for horror stories.
What results can I expect?
You will have a renovation that makes the best use of your space, adds tangible value to your property, and a home that truly fits with your way of living. What’s more, you will get there through an enjoyable process that saves you time and energy, so you can focus on what matters most to you.
How much does it cost?
For full scale renovations the fee is 12 % , VAT exclusive, calculated on the basis of the eventual real total cost of the renovation project, VAT exclusive.
For smaller projects a flat fee applies.
The Refresh Your Home service starts at 495 eur VAT exclusive.
The Planning Check service starts at 995 eur VAT exclusive.
Is it expensive?
I would look at the cost in terms of how much value the support of a professional brings to you – in terms of getting the results you really want, in adding tangible value to your property, and in saving your energy and time.
My services are for people who are ready, willing and able to invest in their home upfront rather than spend money afterwards trying to cope with the consequences of a badly planned renovation.
If you think about it, a property whose renovation project has been well planned and well managed can really improve your life!
How long before should I contact you?
For renovations of a property you’re buying: ideally immediately after signing the “compromis de vente” or even before, to secure a space in my planning. This will leave us a few good months to design your renovation and to plan the works in advance. Note that my preferred contractors are usually never immediately available.
For renovation of a property you already own: at least 6 months of advance of when you would like to carry out the works.
For consultations: these smaller services can usually be scheduled within a few weeks of your first contact.
Note: I can only work with a limited number of clients per year, so please contact me as early as possible.
Will I recover the investment?
Yes, if you believe that you will achieve results you would not be able to obtain alone.
Also, if you have heard horror stories about renovations, then you know that the total cost often includes a few months extra rent because of delays, as well as increases in the original budget because of misunderstandings and reworking.
And if you’ve spent hundreds of hours chasing contractors and supervising their works, then the total bill is probably much more expensive than you may realize.
The Standing Renovation process helps you avoid these additional, avoidable costs and adds value to your home.
In which languages do you work?
I work in English and French, and of course I speak Italian with my Italian clients. With the contractors however, I usually speak and write in French.
Why do you work only with your own preferred contractors?
Contractors make the transformation happen, without them you would have no renovation. So for me it is essential to team up with the right people, to respect them and their work. A good team on site will make all the difference and the result will be a win-win for everybody.
Over the years I have selected the contractors I love to work with. These are people who work with passion, are precise and honest, and bring integrity and commitment. They are not always the cheapest but I believe that quality must be rewarded.
In terms of contracts, you will have a direct contract with Standing Renovation and another directly with the contractors.
Can I use my own contractors?
If you wish to use your own contractors, we can work together on Step 1 of my process but no further.
I only need to renovate a bathroom (or a kitchen, or a room), can I still work with you?
My policy is to work in houses that are not lived in. In particular, I rarely take on bathroom renovations on their own. This is because renovating a bathroom (or bathrooms) usually takes a long time and it is often difficult for people to leave home for a few weeks while the work is going on.
Kitchens are usually quicker and depending on the situation, a ‘stand-alone’ renovation is usually possible. Note, however that kitchens are proportionally one of the most expensive areas of a house and I work exclusively with people who want to make an investment in improving what exists already.
Can I buy my own products?
My philosophy is to provide you with a full package where you can choose among a vast array of pre-selected products. This ensures that everything works perfectly together.
From my years of experience, I have found that this approach leads to the best results. It also avoids delays from late deliveries and hold-ups and reworks caused by products that do not fit with the other materials and fixtures. And because I look after all the sourcing, you are freed from having to chase suppliers or negotiating with them should problems occur.
How do you choose products and materials?
Choosing finishes and products is part of any renovation.
For example, if you want to redo a bathroom you will need to choose all the sanitary ware, tiles, and accessories (mirror, lamps, toilet paper holder, etc.). If you want to redecorate a room, you might need to choose the right paint color, floorings, lamps and curtains.
It may seem easy, but there is so much choice out there that it can quickly become overwhelming!
When we work together I will walk you through pre-selected choices based on your preferred style. I can also organize shopping visits with local suppliers so you can see things ‘in the flesh’.
You don’t need to worry about construction materials (such as glue, mortar, cables, etc). I and the contractors handle sourcing all of these.
Do you work outside Brussels?
I mostly work within Brussels and its surroundings as I personally supervise the renovation and regularly do site visits.
For consultations, location is not a problem. Travel fees will be charged for consultations over 10 km outside Brussels
Is there a way to sample your work at no cost before making a decision?
Can I meet you to discuss my project before making a commitment?
I’d be happy to meet you to get acquainted and discuss your ideas and concerns. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org describing your project and why you are interested in working with me. We can then meet and see whether my services are for you.