Denise Salman | Home & Office Renovations in Santiago, Chile


I´ve known Denise now for the last 5 years, and I will confess right away as a disclaimer that we have become close friends. We met because our children were in the same kindergarten class together, and it turned out she lived exactly two doors down the street from me at the time.

Only this testimonial is not about our being friends, (though because we are I do get to see the amazing transformations she has orchestrated in many different home and office environments), it´s about how I perceive her work as a professional in the building, construction, and interior design trade.

Denise started her business 5 years ago, and in the beginning it was called "A Place to Call Home". In my opinion, that name was at best a suitable tag line for her company, as Denise is adept at turning almost any environment into something cozy, and inviting, and that will make you feel at home, but somehow it lacked the appropriate headliner, which is herself! While it´s still a pleasure to feel like you are at home while at the office, the new and improved name: Denise Salman: Home and Office Renovations, puts Denise squarely at the center of the process where she rightfully belongs, and fully owns on the job, whether in your office, or in your home.

We hired Denise last year to refurbish a very old, pretty stinky, (and even turned to be sinking!) bathroom in our house. We had completed a long and painstaking home remodel some years before, and this bathroom had been left behind for a future date when the funds and the patience returned in equal measure. After our previous experience, we were more than ready to hire a contractor for the job.

In psychologist Byron Edington´s couple therapy blog he sites:

Hire a contractor. This may sound contradictory if you are trying to minimize cost, but it's not. Too many people--women and men these days--believe they can do various remodeling jobs themselves cheaper, better, more quickly than hiring it out. The end result can be quite good.
But it can be frustrating, poor quality, endlessly time consuming, and a real bruise to the ego when a mate yearns to have the job finished, and the end is nowhere in sight. With the do-it-yourself approach, the potential for an "I told you so" is always present, and those are hard on a marriage. With all the unforeseen tools required, runs to the hardware store, time off work, construction disarray, and miscellaneous interruptions to the project, not to mention possible unsafe results and code violations, it could very well end up being cheaper in the long run to hire a professional. Plus, the pros are insured and bonded, they know building codes, you can access their past clients to check out their credentials and they're available to redo something that isn't quite right.

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I would have to say that ALL of the aforementioned things did come true when we had taken the more hands on approach previously. And I couldn´t agree more with his sentiment.
It might seem more expensive at first, but a professional contractor will save you time, pass along their discounts, AND they, or at least Denise is available to redo it if it doesn´t meet either her own, or your standards.

THIS people is Denise´s role of a lifetime.
I promise you I have never met someone so committed, and so passionate about BOTH the process, as well as the outcome. It´s her dream, it´s her passion, and her hobby all rolled into one. Sorry, but it doesn´t get much better than that when seeking a professional contractor to get the job done.

I want to return for a minute to the word "contractor". Somehow this definition of her gets swept under the rug.
I still can´t figure out if it´s a gender problem--as if to say we only perceive the men in society as a hard hat wearing "contractor", or because she actually does so much more in her role, that the word doesn´t describe it well enough, but her role is effectively someone that agrees to furnish materials or perform services at a specified price, especially for construction work.

Denise Salman is a contractor, only instead of a hard hat she appears in 3 inch clogs stealthily disguised in great cut bootleg jeans. With all of her 5 feet of stature, Denise is a powerhouse in this profession.

She literally handles everything in a remodeling job from start to finish.
The design, the interaction with an architect if it´s necessary, the interaction with the municipality and building permits and codes if necessary,provision of the budget for the project (which in her case is on time and on price something almost unheard of in any market let alone the Chilean one), hiring, (and firing if necessary) of any and all maestros, electricians, gasfiters, plumbers, assumes responsibility of those maestros, and their work schedule, and their productivity, purchasing of materials, accompaniment of purchases--anything from fabric swatches down to towel racks, (including kitchen sinks!), all if it falls in her realm of how she operates as a contractor.

Denise first helps you to share your vision for the space. In our case, I wanted a something non conformist, and completely original. Since it was a very small space, I wanted something entirely open.
Open shower head in the middle of the bathroom, and no walls, and open shelves on the walls, and under the vanity. I had the sense that we could trick to eye to believing the space was bigger than it was if we could eliminate the limitations of shower walls, bath tubs, and cupboards closing things in. I think she might have been skeptical of the design in the beginning.
Her intuition said it would be difficult, and might not turn out the way we planned, but she agreed to try to achieve the vision anyway...knowing the risk involved. From this point, Denise helped me give vocabulary to my vision, and we shared lots of photos and design ideas for weeks before setting the plan in motion. Next she provided a budget to include all of the line items we would have to consider, along with her own transparent fee (good luck trying to figure this out with other contractor teams!).
From here we went round and round with architecture renditions (highly recommended) of how the space would look--mostly so that I could argue back and forth with my husband about was our "shared vision". Once we were happy with how it all looked on paper, we started to set the plan in motion. Denise accompanied me to store after store of bathroom tiles, shower heads, and toilets.
She held my hand the entire time and touched all the tiles I touched so I could get a sense of how it would look and feel on my hands and feet once installed.

Next up, demolition day! The maestros came in to knock out out all the old tiles, and bathtub, and relics of fixtures that seemed to have been there for centuries. After that, together with her team, they had to decide how to best go about leveling the floor so that it would have the proper drainage for an open shower, so that water would flow down the drain, instead of making a slimy pool on the floor of the bathroom.

Each step of the way Denise was in the bathroom with 2 or 3 other maestros (I didn´t realize that many people could fit in that tiny space), furrowed brow figuring out the problems hands on. To tell the truth I was pretty astonished at all the work it meant! for her. Any time I had any doubt, I would communicate it to her. She would shoot me a look of "I hate you you right now for having doubts, or suggesting changes", but "I also love you, and you are the client, and the client get what the client wants. Friend or no friend, I believe that attitude and client treatment is difficult to find of any professional, let alone one in the building trade in an environment that is in full employment in a relentless pursuit of erecting skyscraper after skyscraper.

Add to the equation that my lawyer husband required every last measurement and specification on paper. If it wasn´t on paper, he wouldn´t sign off on the job, and even more correctly, if it didn´t work on paper, it sure as hell wouldn´t work in practice. As much as we wanted to swerve this painful step, it turned out to help us with the floor slant in the end.

In our project, the slant turned out to be the albatross. She knew it would be difficult from the outset, as it turned out we did have to go back and redo the floor, as the water flow did get trapped in one small area. But Denise never backed down from any challenge, and since she agreed to assume the risk for the design at the outset, she never, not once balked, or backed out of her commitment to it. Instead she returned with her ancestral Armenian determination, and made the changes, and made it work. Today I have a beautiful, open floor plan bathroom to prove it.

Not to say that she doesn´t shudder when she walks by the bathroom now while visiting my house remembering all the hurdles, but I know it also makes her smile, and shine with pride at a job well done, and made beautiful. Denise and her team are really the true stuff. Diamonds in the rough. Hire her TODAY!

Love, Jen

I just wanted to tell you about a great experience I had with Denise Salman and her company Denise Salman

We hired Denise a couple of months ago to do a major overhaul on the house we bought. Mostly costmetic upgrades, but also some arquitectual work and construction.
It was a great experience! I was worried about the whole process- having been warned a million times that Chilean maestros are ALWAYS slow to get the work done, etc, etc.
Denise completely put me at ease during the entire process-- and kept her team of maestros, arquitects, electricians completely in line! Very impressive.
They finished on time- despite the numerous changes and additions that we made to the plan along the way. She was 100% flexible and told me from the start that my husband and I could be as hands-on or hands-off as we wanted. Not only did they do a great job, but Denise also has an amazing eye for interior design and was a huge help for me as a sounding board for ideas, datos of stores to go to and what would look good in the spaces we were creating.
Oh- and the customer furniture pieces that we had made for our kitchen and bathroom vanities are AMAZING.
She also expertly navigated differences in opion about style between my husband and I. She should charge extra for that! jajajaja.
But serioulsy- for any of you chilespouses that want gringo-style customer service but also need your Chilean husbands to be on board- Denise is definitly the answer.
Please feel free to contact me for any additional information.
Happy house decorating!


Working with Denise was a total dream come true when I decided to renovate my living room.
First, she came to my apartment and helped me think about what I wanted to do. Her suggestions were creative and thoughtful and, in addition, brought the cost down on several points.
Second, she went shopping with me to help me look at different options for furniture and accessories.
Third, she hired the workers and coordinated and supervised all the work that had to be done and everything was done absolutely according to the timeline we had a agreed on.
None of my family or friends could believe it. The work started on the date she said it would and ended two days before the final date. Finally, she is a total delight to work with –fun, creative, efficient and absolutely professional in every service she provides. My living room was transformed into a beautiful, comfy space within the time and budget we had agreed on. I enthusiastically recommend Denise for any home improvement project.

- Karen Anderson, Fundacion EPES

“We bought a house in Lomas de la Dehesa in 2006 and began to renovate it almost immediately, starting with the kitchen and bathrooms and continuing with many other projects until 2008.

We experienced enormous difficulties – bad workmanship, overpriced quotes, language barrier and a general lack of interest in providing a decent service or, sometimes, any service at all! In fact, it turned into a nightmare, until I spotted an advert for “Denise Salman” and contacted them to see if they could help.

If we’d known about Denise before, we’d have saved ourselves a lot of heartache, discomfort and money!! Denise provides great service – not only does she contract and converse with the “maestros” herself, she supervises the job from start to finish and ensures that the work carried out is to the highest of standards at the best possible price. She also arranges for the building materials to be delivered or goes out and buys them herself; nothing is ever too much trouble!

I would recommend “Denise Salman” to anyone – Gringo’s especially – save yourself the hassle and phone Denise!!!”

-Jane McDonald, Panama

“Denise and Brigitta, were easy and pleasant to work with and very up to date on the new ways of solving old problems, like organizing and decorating my teenagers’ bedrooms, one very small and the other large but awkward (the rooms, not the kids!). I found Denise to have great ideas for organizing spaces, and great tips on where to find unique materials and accessories in Santiago. What I most needed, and most valued, was that she managed the workers completely, so I could go about my life knowing she would get the job done right at my house.”

-Celia Cussen

“Denise has been helping me update, modernize, revamp, redo, rethink every room in the house (good thing the apartment’s not that big!).
She has been incredibly professional, has the best “datos” for “maestros” of every sort and watches over their work like a hawk, has impeccable taste and an uncanny ability to read my mind and do it my way, instead of hers (even when she respectfully disagrees with me!).

So if you need any interior decorating done around the house, or just want to jazz up a room or two, contact Denise by email. She’s amazing!”

-Katty Kauffman

“Have had great experience with Denise! Great problem solver, great contacts, and wonderful mediator with all those maestros that we hate to deal with.
The advantage of being a Chilena and knowing the how to manage the maestros and knowing a lot of people for great contacts, but at the same time having been raised in the States,
so understanding our needs and being very responsible and ethical about her work. I have to say that this is a winner combination!”

-Rebeca Galvez