Ask the Pros: Tips for Leading a Successful Renovation

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This month, we’re bringing in the voice of Dr. Amanda Stanec, M.S., PhD, business owner, author, former professor, marathoner, Iron Man finisher, and mother of three. (Wow, right??) She has led projects on behalf of the International Olympic Committee, the Association of the Summer Olympic International Federations, Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, United World Wrestling, NFL Play 60, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and PHE Canada. 

Impressive, but what does any of this have to do with renovating? Well, Amanda is also what I would call an expert project manager — she knows how to get things done!

ALL of the project management skills she has refined in her career have directly translated into leading her own renovations to success.

Keep reading to hear her story and get her tried-and-tested advice for leading your own renovation to success. Or, scroll to the bottom for a bullet point checklist of her best tips.

amanda stanec expert project manager renovation advice and healthy living

A Touch of Kismet

I first met Amanda when my family and I were living in St. Louis. Our kids went to the same school, and we met in the parking lot at drop-off one day. I immediately loved her energy, and that moment sparked a friendship that would last a decade! 

Not long after we met, I invited her over to our rental, which I had poured my heart into. My family’s stay in St. Louis was going to be a short, two-year stretch, and I knew I had to make home feel good fast. My laid-back, personal, thoughtful style caught Amanda’s attention, and it wasn’t long before she insisted I help with her home, but also insisted on compensating me for my help…

Believe it or not, that’s when this version of Styleberry was born!

Amanda was one of my very first ever paying design clients, and such a gift to me, both as a friend and a fellow entrepreneur. She has since worked with me as a solo designer and has worked with our whole team.

We have designed a total of six rooms in her home (and one outside), and I have seen what an amazing project manager she is! Amanda takes our detailed plans and implements them like the pro that she is. So, what’s her secret?

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Amanda’s kitchen, from the Peacock Farm Project

Renovation Insights from a Professional Project Manager

SP: Hi, Amanda. Thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me today. To start, why don’t you share a bit about who you are and what you do?

AS: Hi! I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada and love being active outdoors with my spouse and our three daughters. I am a former college professor who left higher education 12 years ago when I founded my small organization, Move + Live + Learn. Move + Live + Learn bridges the divide between youth sport, physical and health education to create intentional and impactful curriculum and programs for youth. I also do a lot of research in sport, related to sport governance and sport leadership.

SP: What was it like channeling your project management skills into managing your own home renovations?

AS: I honestly loved applying my PM skills to our renovations. I’ve learned as a small business owner that relationships and follow-ups are key. I adore our general contractor because he’s honest, trustworthy, detail-oriented and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. We communicate really well and he understands that when he shares action items and next steps, I will take some on so we can divide and conquer to save time

I also look ahead in my own business and did so with the renos. If my contractor wasn’t bringing something up that I thought might be needed soon, I would ask him about it. Other times I would order certain materials as soon as I received plans to ensure what Styleberry sourced would be available when I needed it. This is a privileged position to be in, but I’ve seen on the flip side how much time one can save by doing so. 

Finally, I learned that following-up with vendors is as valuable as when I follow-up with my clients. When I’m told no or that it’ll take a while longer than I’m comfortable with, I pick up the phone. I simply build a new relationship and ask some questions to probe them to try a bit harder to deliver. 

This has led to them finding a skylight in their back room, rather than waiting the 3 weeks they had told me I’d have to wait earlier that same day. It also led to a 2-day wait for a tub rather than the 3-month wait I was told! 

I’ve found treating people with kindness and respect and asking them to dig a little harder can save weeks in a renovation.

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SP: As we shifted to design at a distance, what was it like getting the design plans from us and bringing them to life on your own?

AS: I am a firm believer that I should stay in my lane. In fact, I’m blessed enough to have worked for Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and she was the one who complimented me for my ability to thrive in my lane. That’s what you and your team do so well. 

I trust you. I don’t second guess you, and I feel welcomed to ask for clarification or your rationale for the decisions you make. I don’t show the plans you create to others for their input. I let you and your team do your thing because that’s what I hired you for. Your experience is so valuable and I learned so much from you along the way. 

Also, as pretty as the drawings always are, they simply don’t do justice to the spaces that you and your team have created for me. Many people advise folks not to work with friends, but working with you has only helped us stay in touch several states away and many years after we became friends. There is no other designer that I would even consider hiring.

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SP: Is there anything you wished you would have known before you started, or advice you might give to other first-time renovators?

AS: It’s okay to call the window vendor and ask them to check the backroom! Do not feel that you can’t be involved or that it has to be a terrible process. Expect to be inconvenienced but have a grateful heart for what awaits on the other end. Let’s face it, no one wants to hear you complain about your new gorgeous kitchen! 

SP: And lastly, how can someone know if leading and managing their own renovation is right for them? Are there any key personality traits or skills that will help?

AS: I think it helps to be someone who will take initiative, communicate effectively, pick up the phone, and who has a sense of humor. 

SP: Couldn’t agree more!

Renovation Management Checklist

Okay, just in case you are as addicted to list-making as I am, here’s a roundup of Amanda’s best tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid to be involved.
  2. Hire a contractor you trust and with whom you work and communicate well.
  3. Divide and conquer to save time — if there’s something you can do instead of your GC, do it.
  4. Order materials as soon as you receive the design plans from Styleberry. It will save time and ensure the sourced products are in stock.
  5. Trust the design plan created by the experts.
  6. Pick up the phone and follow up with vendors on purchases and timelines.
  7. If things are taking longer than you’re comfortable with, don’t be afraid to start new relationships to see what else can be done.
  8. Treat people with kindness and respect, always.
  9. Have a sense of humor!

As always, if you’re ready to renovate your home — and you love our fresh, relaxed, meaningful approach to style and functionality — we would be delighted to design it. Reach out to us here to discuss your project and see if we’re the right team for you.


Styleberry Creative Interiors specializes in fresh, relaxed design crafted in a meaningful way. With a team and process you can trust, we’ll help you create soul-soothing spaces that inspire you to unwind, connect, and finally… exhale. Our studio is based in downtown San Antonio, Texas and serves clients in the Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, and greater San Antonio Metropolitan areas, as well as Nationwide.

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