THE WIN-WIN STRATEGY
by Lori Williams
The owners of Design Collective West are a force on the design playing field, a cohesion of innovative architecture, highly creative interior design, and exceptional business acumen. And as everyone knows in the world of sports – say football, for example – a team’s cohesion strengthens, builds, and unifies, enabling a higher rate of success. Meet the husband-and-wife team of Michele and James Wheeler. Theirs is a powerhouse partnership with Michele as architect, creative lead, and interior designer and James (former college football player) as manager of the firm’s non-design-oriented facets, including finance, operations, and logistics.
“Michele is the quarterback of the company, and I tend to consider myself as the company’s chief lineman. By handling all of the business-oriented aspects of the company, it provides Michele and our team the space they need to run with full speed and full focus on the creative and technical aspects of our projects.”
–James Wheeler, Design Collective West
Design Collective West was founded in late 2015, when the two decided to combine their respective careers. Michele has practiced architecture and interior design for nearly 20 years, specializing in high-end custom homes, commercial and hospitality projects, as well as furniture procurement. Prior to co-founding DCW, James gained extensive business and entrepreneurial experience working for several Fortune 500 companies in brand management, sales, and finance. His college football career served to hone his team-building skills, which he daily parlays into aligning designer, client, and builder.
“Michele is the quarterback of the company, and I tend to consider myself as the company’s chief lineman,” says James. “By handling all of the business-oriented aspects of the company, it provides Michele and our team the space they need to run with full speed and full focus on the creative and technical aspects of our projects.”
“James blocks and tackles for me,” says Michele. “He has strengths in certain areas that I do not, and vice versa. Since James takes the lead on elements like business strategy and development, resource management, finance, and operations, I am able to focus on what I love – creating, designing, working with clients, and collaborating with our team.”
Their clients benefit from this team approach. Together, the Wheelers meet new clients and present their win-win strategy – creative design, clear vision and inspiration, focused and efficient process, strong communication and documentation. DCW offers the full spectrum of architecture and interior design services, from high-end residential to hospitality and commercial spaces, including space planning, interior finish and fixture selections, interior construction drawings, and furniture design and procurement. Their portfolio showcases an absolutely stunning mix of artistry and innovation.
Successful projects start with great design, and that’s the beauty of Michele’s gifts. She’s a specialist at project visualization from beginning to end, embracing the entire process, analytically and intuitively. The heart of her creative passion manifests itself in inspired spaces, distinctive and timeless, purposeful and simplistic.
It’s been surmised that the ability to communicate between both hemispheres of the brain enables greater creativity. “It’s rare to find a professional like Michele, who has the technical mind, skillset, and experience of a licensed architect, but also the creativity of an interior designer,” explains James. “She seamlessly blends the two perspectives together in a way that is truly unique.”
One of Michele’s fundamental objectives is to ensure that all of her designs are timeless, even when they incorporate a current building design trend. In addition, the firm prides itself on a core belief that no two projects look the same. The spectrum of their created living spaces ranges from unique, fun, and funky to modern, sophisticated, and of course, timeless. Ultimately, she believes any style can be beautifully executed. From an architectural perspective, Michele explains, “We are true believers in four-sided architecture. In our projects, we design all exterior faces with the same interest, aesthetic, and caliber as the front facade. On the interior, we layer shapes and volumes, textures, patterns, lighting, and color to create special moments in every space, not just visual moments, but emotional moments too.”
“I’ve realized that many of our clients equate the value of their project not in dollars, but in the value of time and family. We use design to create moments for reflection, moments for family time, and moments for bringing balance to life. All of these aspects are important components of the projects for our clients.”
–Michele Wheeler, Architect, Interior Designer, Design Collective West
“We’ve had opportunities to grow the company, but the key reason we’ve kept the company fairly small is to ensure that Michele has her hand in every project,” explains James. “Our clients want to be able to work directly with Michele, and, compared to larger firms, we are able to provide that experience.”
That’s a humble statement coming from the former collegiate lineman, who tells the parents of the kids he now coaches that there’s no better game than football for learning about teamwork, how to react on the fly, and how to work together to overcome adversity and achieve something bigger than oneself. Says James, “Those principles have carried over and helped us succeed in business.” As for reacting on the fly, Michele says that she has had to “call an audible” a few times in the middle of a project, when circumstances with scheduling or product availability change. “In business and in life, sometimes you have to do that,” she admits. “Even in the most challenging situations, we do make a great team. We balance each other.”
Ultimately the couple finds that balance has been foundational. “I’ve realized that many of our clients equate the value of their project not in dollars, but in the value of time and family,” Michele says. “We use design to create moments for reflection, moments for family time, and moments for bringing balance to life. All of these aspects are important components of the projects for our clients, for our team, and for us personally.”
“Our goal is much greater than simply designing houses and other gathering spaces; we design beautiful yet functional dwellings and settings where families and friends are able to spend time together and create memories,” says James. “That’s at the core of our business.”