Home renovation curator Monika Zasada is offering her construction guidance through online courses. ANA PACHOLAK
Home renovation curator Monika Zasada is offering her construction guidance through online courses. MARIUSZ IDASIAK
Just about anyone who has ever tackled a home renovation project has a horror story or two to tell. It could be the contractor who removed part of the roof and left on vacation just before a tropical storm came calling, a poorly placed picture window that cuts off the view of the mountain that attracted you to your vacation property in the first place, or the flow of a kitchen renovation that results in bottlenecks between the sink and stove.
Now, Monika Zasada, who has 25 years of experience in the home renovation industry, is offering an online course through the website of her consulting firm, De-Mazing, that will help clients navigate through “the dysfunctional space” that is the home renovation process. The name of her company, she said, came from a client who praised her for solving the maze of her construction project.
Zasada calls herself a home renovation “curator,” even as she is mindful the term has lost much of its meaning now that it is being used to describe everyone from the shopkeeper who selects the organic cotton T-shirts sold in her boutique to the guy who blends the beans used to make your cup of coffee.
“I am a curator of projects — not a general contractor,” she said, adding that curator was yet another title bestowed upon her by a client. “In my role as curator, I accompany my clients from A to Z, from the ‘aha’ moment when they get the idea in their head for a renovation project to the Zen-like feeling of the housewarming party.
“Another way to look at it,” she continued, “is you can have musicians and a solo singer and pianist who come together to play a musical piece. What would this piece sound like without a conductor?”
For a limited time, she is offering her “Nail It” course for $497 at her website, de-mazing.com. Besides the four-week course, participants also get access to four, one-hour group “construction therapy” sessions, during which they can work their way through their construction project nightmares. What’s more, she will give clients lifetime access to her online classes.
Zasada said she saw the online course option — she also offers a free, one-hour introductory class — not only as a smart business idea that allows her to reach more clients in the $450 billion renovation industry but as an opportunity to use the skills she has developed over the years to help people avoid getting overwhelmed by their projects.
But participants have to be ready for a course that is taught with the enthusiasm and demands of a Peloton biking class, with Zasada plowing through the topics at a high-paced, no-nonsense clip.
She said clients need to know themselves. If they have strong design ideas, they should hire an architect who is flexible, she said. It they choose an architect set in her own ways, there will be clashes. Speaking of design, Zasada said it is the most critical phase of a project. Knowing what you want before you begin and avoiding later change orders is the least expensive way to complete a project, she said.
Zasada said she also urges clients to focus on the quality first when undertaking a renovation. High quality items, from kitchen counters to bathroom fixtures, can add to the value of the home and give its owner more pleasure than just enlarging its footprint, she said.
Zasada also gives clients who enroll in her classes examples of the types of contracts they should require from their architect, general contractor and subcontractors to avoid heartache down the line.
How Zasada arrived at this point is another story. She grew up in a small town in northern Poland.
“I grew up in an apartment that was the size of some of my clients’ dining room tables,” she said.
That two-room apartment was shared with her brother and parents as well as her grandparents. To this day, Zasada said she is obsessed with encouraging her clients to provide ample storage so they can get the most out of what space they have.
When she was growing up, Zasada had no idea she would find her way into the home renovation business. Instead, she studied American literature and wrote her master’s thesis, “Puritanism and Transcendentalism Revised,” which was largely based on Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick.”
Before accepting an appointment to teach at a university and work on her doctorate, Zasada thought it would be wise to visit the United States. There was only one problem. “The price of a ticket was as much as it cost to buy an apartment in Poland,” she said.
Through a lucky break, she was hired to translate a book about living with irritable bowel syndrome, a topic she knew nothing about, but the project paid well, and Zasada was able to finance her trip to America.
That sojourn turned into a permanent stay, and Zasada, who worked as a governess and a teacher’s aide, moved to Sag Harbor in the 1990s and eventually found work with a contractor, where she started by answering phones and running the office before becoming vice president and eventually setting off on her own.
Besides projects on the East End and in New York, she has worked internationally, in Panama, Germany and other countries.
“I think I have singlehandedly created a niche,” she said. While acknowledging that hiring a curator might seem like a high-ticket item to many people looking to undertake a renovation project, she believes her courses can make her services more attainable. “I wanted to create a course to be affordable so people across the world could learn the process and become empowered so their project does not become a horror story,” she said.
One fine body…