WESTLOCK - While many local businesses have been forced to either shutter or significantly scale back in 2020 due to COVID-19, a Westlock-area woman is bucking the trend with a business most wouldn’t expect to find in small-town Alberta.
Michelle Wiese is the founder of Design Hall (www.designhall.ca), a residential drafting and consulting studio specializing in full, custom blueprints and 3-D visualizations for new home builds and renovations.
With an eye to serving the Edmonton and north central Alberta markets, Wiese, who bills herself as an architectural technologist and residential design specialist, is looking forward to not only the challenge of starting a new business in Westlock, but doing it in a male-dominated industry all the while in the midst of a global pandemic.
“Starting up is very intimidating and this being a COVID year makes it even more so. But I’m positive this will pan out,” said Wiese, whose family roots in the Westlock area extend well over 100 years. “With my profession I could have started this in the city, but I knew there was a need for somebody locally to offer this. For rural communities outside Edmonton and Calgary, where the designers and builders are, I was hoping to be a bridge connection and be the home-design resource a person could go to and see in person instead of having to drive to the city.
“I’m excited to be able to help out the community and give support to people considering new home construction or renovations, which is definitely a big thing this year.”
The 30-year-old R.F. Staples School grad was drawn to architecture as a youngster following the building of the family’s home in Westlock. And now, in advance of getting the studio open, she’s been busy renovating that same home herself.
“I was about 12 years old when we built the home. I always had an interest in plans and would always sketch and draw and when we built the home my interest just evolved from there,” she said.
Wiese went on to earn her Architectural Technology Program diploma in 2011 from NAIT, then worked at various firms in Edmonton which allowed her to grow her diverse portfolio. She’s been involved on approximately 500 residential projects since starting in the industry, ranging from 800-square-foot bungalows to 10,000-square-foot, multi-million-dollar homes.
“I was fortunate with the connections I made early in my career. By specializing in custom residential blueprints it led to many opportunities to be a part of high-end, estate projects that I never would have anticipated after graduation from NAIT,” she said.
“It’s been a really great career. It’s pretty amazing to be able to design something completely new that didn’t exist before.”
Wiese says she draws inspiration from the built environment, historical elements, her rural roots and travels, while her designs are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, yet functional for everyday life.
“Homes are my trademark, that’s what I’m passionate about. Being able to create those spaces that clients can call their own and build their own memories in and live their lives,” she said.
“I think people have a big attachment to their homes on a personal level.”
So, what’s the one thing people should know if they’re contemplating building a new home?
“The biggest hurdle in this industry in general for people who are custom home designers is that people who are building a new home pick it out of a catalogue, or order that plan online, which completely puts us as custom home designers in a bad spot because people are missing out on opportunities to support local,” she said.
“The downside about those plans too is that many aren’t designed for our local codes and guidelines. People buy a product they’re going to have to make changes to anyways and end up spending more money than what they have to.”
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