This is a question that I asked myself a few weeks after we shifted into our holiday home two summers ago, knowing full well that we would not be in France for the majority of the renovation we knew we would need to find a main contractor that we could trust but with my background in hotel development advisory, the already well thought through scope of work to be done and a document of mood images that took me three months to compile we could have gone either way. So what made us decide to engage a professional to help us through the design phase of the renovation? Are you wondering the same right now for your place? Well here are some things to consider:
- Location – are you in the same town as the work ? are you able to meet suppliers, contractors, other consultants on site or do you need support to do this? We are based in Dubai and our home is in the Savoie, France so we definitely needed to find a solution for access into the home.
- Product Knowledge – Do you know what is doable and/or available in your area ? There were a lot of things that we wanted to do in the house that had inspiration from what we knew was possible in Dubai and/or New Zealand (where we are from originally) and because we had a lifestyle in mind we really needed support to source particular products or solutions that got us to the experience we wanted even if the exact product was not possible.
- Technical knowledge – this was a given for us. We needed someone to help us with the approval processes that the works needed to go through along with a strong knowledge of local legislation that impacted things like electrical works. What we did find interesting was the two layers of approvals that we had to have – one from our local Mairie (town hall) and one from the Architecte de Bâtiments (who provide a role similar to the UK Historic Places Trust). Knowing what these two organisations require/like speeds up that process and meant a quick renovation was possible.
- Access to other professionals – as we removed a number of structural elements of the house we knew that we would need the advice of a structural engineer. Professionals tend to have a network of other consultants that they work with, people who they trust and understand the type of work they do.
- Design Talent – even though I had done a lot of homework into what we wanted to achieve in each space of the home and we were able to share moodboards (ie powerpoint documents of inspiration photos) that communicated these clearly I still wanted to be pushed stylistically, and have a local perspective injected into the design (ie we didn’t want a home that had lost its French heritage).
- Pulling it all together – the renovation ended up being a full gut and rebuild inside rather than just the facelift we had considered doing at the beginning of this journey. This meant that every trade involved in building a new house were going to be coming through our home as well. To do this effectively we needed to be able to give our main contractor a clear set of plans that was easy for the contractors to follow (ie in French using clear technical language) so we got accurate pricing and build.
So when we weighed up all of the above it was an easy decision to look for the support of an Interior Architect that was based close to the house. How did we find the right one? Word of Mouth!!! We wanted someone who understood our aesthetic, knew how to design for a family and spoke English. A year on and the work is almost complete – the snag list is diminishing and the house has started to feel like home.