Antonia Mahon-Fidelle Founder and Principal Interior Designer at Blue Sparks

Truth: There will always, always be surprises in a renovation job

Get the inside story on interior design and construction

Welcome to Two Truths and a Why where you get the real story on interior design and remodeling. In this blog series, I ask industry experts why they do what they do and what they think you must know before you renovate.

Are you ready? Let's do this.

Antonia Mahon-Fidelle on managing the inevitable surprises you will face when you remodel

Today, an interview with my friend and fellow interior designer, Antonia Mahon-Fidelle. Antonia is a self-confessed French history and Paris Geek. If you want to buy and renovate an apartment in Paris, Antonia is your gal.

Today, an interview with Antonia Mahon-Fidelle, Founder and Principal Interior Designer, Blue Sparks

"I love helping Paris-lovers create a home in Paris. My background in Management Consulting keeps things organised, and as I've been through it myself, I know the ropes and have a network of trusted professionals whom I can recommend like tax advisors, notaries, and builders."

-Antonia Mahon-Fidelle, Founder and Principal Interior Designer, Blue Sparks 

Antonia's #1 Truth: There will always, always be surprises in a renovation job.

"Nobody can tell in advance exactly what will happen when demolition starts.

  • Will there be extra steel joints in a floor where you wanted to make an opening for a new staircase?
  • Will what's under the existing flooring be the same for the whole surface? (important for the type of screed used as a base for the new flooring).
  • Are all the walls we want to knock down really just internal, non-supporting walls?

How to deal with it:

In order to manage the uncertainty and mitigate the risk, it really helps to get an extremely detailed quote from the builders.

  1. It's great to have your own check-list organised by room or by type (demolition, construction, plumbing (including heating and hot-water), tiling, electrical, windows and doors, built-in furniture, painting - they can get quite long and unwieldy, so I do mine in Excel.
  2. Once you've listed everything you know you want done, walk over the site with three different builders and write down everything that they say. Then update your list with what you want to include and send it to each of the builders to ask for a quote.
  3. Then when the builders return the quotes, you can check that they have quoted for everything, and you can compare prices for each room or type if you insert each price for each line (one column per builder).
  4. Also, remember to allow for 10-20% extra budget for those surprises! (and if there aren't so many surprises, you've got extra curtain money, yay!)."

Antonia's Truth #2: Don't get too many opinions.

"Don't ask too many people if they like the sofa or the rug you are considering; you'll probably just get conflicting opinions (if the people you ask are being honest).

How to deal with it:

Just discuss your choices with one or maximum two people whose opinion (and taste!) you trust and who know your space. And, if in doubt, trust your gut feeling!"

Why Antonia does what she does:

"I believe that buying and renovating a pied-à-terre in Paris, France, should be an amazing experience. As this is a difficult and stressful thing to do for North Americans, I guide them through the whole process so that they can delight in the journey and love living like a local in their new home."

How to connect with Antonia


Phone: +33 6 23 59 79 99

Online: https://BlueSparks.Paris


More Two Truths and a Why

Know that you have to show up with Fred Gutierrez

It's best to give your contractor some grace with Teresa Eubanks

You need to literally think outside the box with Brian Yahn

Jackie Lopey, Certified Interior Designer & Founder of Wide Canvas

She didn't know it, but Jackie Lopey's days as an advertising executive were numbered when she bought and renovated a 1950's bungalow. She soon went back to school and started her own design studio. Jackie is an award-winning, certified interior designer and the founder of Wide Canvas.


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