Michelle Blunk says it all starts with a conversation. What are your personal tastes? What do you hope to achieve? How comfortable are you with thinking out of the box? What is your budget? Those important conversations go on daily at the two companies that Michelle leads – Conceptual Designs Inc. and State Street Interiors. A passion for design excellence, innovation and detail mark Michelle’s style. She brings years of experience and savvy in residential and commercial design to her companies and sees them in a symbiotic relationship. “Every commercial client lives in a home; every person has a residence who either works, shops or plays in a business.” Her focus on customer expectations and satisfaction is backed by research and market trips to the places where trends have their roots. “We pride ourselves on a design staff who are experts. We have all of the talent you need to design all your projects,” she says. Michelle, who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Iowa State University, also believes in giving back to the community. She returns to ISU annually to meet and mentor the next generation of designers and is a founder of the Women’s Downtown Bettendorf Task Force.
Architect Angie Streckenbach takes pride in her understanding of what clients want in their professional spaces. That understanding comes from her strength as a listener. “It’s something I’m pretty proud of, the way I work with people,” says Angie, whose degree in architecture is from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “I love understanding people. I like to make sure everyone is happy with the end product. I want to understand what they’re using the space for, what they’re doing.” Her fascination with architecture was nurtured as a fifth-grader when an architect visited her class, and she then got to design her first dream home, with crayons. She views herself as a problem-solver, one who puts the pieces of the puzzle together to provide the perfect solution for a new house, a new building or a new work space.
Liz Bruesch has a passion for interior design and for creating spaces that people want to work in, live in and play in. She admits to always having been “artsy and craftsy,” and those talents extend to painting, crocheting, ceramics, silkscreen, printing and woodworking. “I just like taking things and making them better than what they are,” she said. The graduate of Harrington College of Design in Chicago says she is not afraid of color and pattern. “Most people are. I usually try to push, get people out of their comfort zone a little bit,” she said, but emphasizes, “We try to achieve their vision.” Examples of her creative work can be seen at the Genesis HealthPlex in west Davenport, Jewell Tool in Davenport, and also showcased at the new Coffee Hound and Cheesy Cow restaurants in Bettendorf. Lyla Mae, Conceptual Designs’ “director of morale” (see profile below) is happy to call Liz’s bungalow home. Liz is particularly fond of her sun porch, a cozy and comfortable spot “with light all around.”
Steve Dolleslager draws on his considerable experience in restaurant and hotel design, visual merchandising in the retail sector, landscaping, and residential projects. “I’m very much a visual person,” he says. “There really is no right or wrong to design or visual merchandising. It’s how you put those items together to make them work for the individual.” Steve’s imprint can be seen on some of the most popular restaurants in the Quad Cities, including Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, The Machine Shed, Thunder Bay Grille and The J Bar. He describes himself as very much a “hands on” designer with a particular passion for working with textiles. The opportunity to see a concept through from start to finish is what drew him to Conceptual Designs. Incorporating a client’s life experiences into a design is a challenge he embraces. “I want each piece to mean something to the client, whether it’s art or accessories. Maybe it’s a piece that was a family heirloom that the client wants to work with.” But, he adds, “I always want to make you think a little out of the box.”
Olga Loghinovici, brand manager of both companies, (Conceptual Designs Inc. and State Street Interiors), brings a special blend of business and design savvy from living and studying in Europe to her work at Conceptual Designs. But her unique perspective also reflects what she likes about America, particularly a business culture that encourages teamwork and collaboration. She has a particular interest in interior landscaping, using plants to complement design, something she does in her own home, where she admits to having more than 22 plants. “My husband calls me a plant fanatic,” she says with a smile. Her creation of “moss boxes,” wooden boxes of various sizes filled with rows of preserved balls of moss, are sold exclusively at State Street Interiors. Her business skills were honed during studies for a bachelor’s degree in economics and business studies from the Technical University of Dresden in Germany and a master’s degree in international relations from KU Leuven in Brussels, Belgium. Her mission in life, she says, “is to stay positive always. I learned in my life to appreciate what I have and what’s around me.”
Lyla Mae visits Conceptual Designs Inc. regularly to quality check our designers’ work for the “cool” factor. Her role also includes boosting our spirits with her playful energy and the occasional case of the “zoomies.” Lyla keeps us focused on the most important tasks which include constant demands for belly rubs.