new construction project in Oconomowoc, interior designer
William Koehnlein (right) goes over millwork details with
Benjamin Neumann of Neumann Co. Inc.
There was never
any question William Koehnlein would join the family design business.
While other kids
were no doubt idling away their after-school hours, the young
Koehnlein was learning woodcarving (from his grandfather, Henry, who
designed and crafted intricate church furniture) or architectural
drafting at the elbow of the firmís draftsman, Koehnleinís father,
Walter, who started Collaborative Design in 1968, as a home furnishing
and remodeling business.
describes the unique flooring that will be installed in the homeís
designer Koehnlein is company president, and the Waukesha studio
employs 14 (Walter and his wife, Judy, are still active in the
business as is son Rick and Billís wife, Andrea), and includes a
retail showroom as well as a full-service design studio.
The firm has
40-plus projects going at any one time, with Koehnlein and the other
staff designers often working collaboratively. During a day of
crisscrossing the metro area meeting with clients and craftsmen on
projects in various stages, one is struck by Koehnleinís
encyclopedic knowledge for all things design, his easy rapport with
clients and the creative give-and-take between designer and clients.
Truths From Bill Koehnlein
Clients at Ease: "More often than not people are intimated to
call an interior designer, especially if they have never worked with a
designer before. (During that first meeting) Iím not coming across
with a real strong opinion, and by the end of the meeting they (have a
sense of) relief."
and Collaborativeís M.J. Weber consult on lighting options for
a client in Nashotah.
vs. Designing: "A lot of people can copy good ideas that are
shown to them," he points out. "When I walk into a space I
can see the room as complete." Creating a design that takes into
account scale, lighting and other critical elements results in a
cohesive layout, he says. "Itís fresher because the vision is
On Realizing a
Clientís Vision: "I often do sketches (on site) just to
establish a direction. I find people respond well to the loose
sketches. Itís a nonthreatening approach ó nothing is too final.
They feel they are part of the process."
When Itís Best
To Call a Designer: Collaborative often teams with Ascent Builders and
its clients, starting in the framing stage of the building process.
Early involvement, Koehnlein says, facilitates trouble-shooting and
results in better function when the home is finished.
Traits That Work For And Against Him: Koehnlein highly prizes his
relationships with customers, which often lead to repeat business and
referrals. "Any of my clients will know that I will be really
honest with them," he says. Everyone has a different personality,
and being able to read people helps him communicate effectively. Also,
he says, "Iím really into detail." He admits heís a
people-pleaser, which he works to turn into a winning trait. "I
donít want to disappoint anyone."