Wannemacher expands hobby of designing living spaces for friends into a full-time job

 

By Paul Batterson, WCS Contributing Writer

After she and her husband Eric moved into an apartment off Sawmill Road, Kate (Ahern) Wannemacher (WCS ’98) remembers looking around her surroundings and feeling very uninspired.

“We had some items and furniture I picked out and liked for the apartment, but when I looked at the apartment as a whole, it just didn’t look great,” Wannemacher said. “I just didn’t feel comfortable there. It wasn’t because it was a new space but because there wasn’t a space you could entertain well.

“There wasn’t a light to read by in the living room or a table you could set your coffee cup on. You had to move the sofa so you could have a conversation with someone. All of these things weren’t obvious to me when I started decorating the apartment.”

That sense of dissatisfaction snowballed from a hobby into a career for the Worthington Christian alumnae, who opened Wannemacher Interiors, in 2012. After redecorating her home space, Wannemacher began studying the latest designs and trends in home decorating magazines and taking correspondence courses in design.  Initially, she started helping out friends with their interior decorating issues, but the experience ignited a fire within in her to design.

“Every time I finished a job, I’d get so sad,” she said. “I loved the process so much, and I realized I didn’t have another project to look forward to it.  I realized I wanted to do this full time.”

CHANGING IT UP

Wannemacher’s design philosophy comes down to a simple credo: if it doesn’t work, change it.

“Design is all about solving problems,” she said. “If your space isn’t doing what you need it to do, you have to figure out what you need to do to get it there.”

Wannemacher spends a lot of time with customers trying to figure out what they would like to change.  She then provides them with an estimate. If the client feels like she is a good fit for them, she begins taking a lot of notes before formulating a proposal.

The client’s involvement varies from customer to customer.

“I ask a lot of questions – What’s not working for you? How do you need to use your space? What are your goals?” she said. “You’re spending a fair amount of money here, so these things need to be thought through.

“Every client is different. Some people like to be involved with the process. I may email them back and forth to see if I am on the right page. If it is a client who I’ve worked with a lot of the times, I kind of know what they’re looking for, what their priorities are and what they want.”

BEING A CHRISTIAN IN A COMPETITIVE MARKET

Wannemacher believes her background from her time at Worthington Christian helps her deal with clients as well as competitors. If a customer decides Wannemacher isn’t the one for the project, the designer can usually point the customer to a fellow designer who is more aligned with their needs and finances. She formed a group with other local interior decorators designed to support each other and help each other’s businesses grow.

“The way I deal with competitors is very Worthington Christianesque,” she said with a laugh.  “There are two types of people in the design field. You’re either competitive, or you’re trying to lift each other up. I realized it’s a lot more work and a lot less fun if you are constantly trying to one-up the competition. If that is your primary goal, then the victories are hollow after a while.

“It feels good when you can look around and see how many people God has blessed you with, who have helped your career. At the end of the day, we need people.”

AN INHERITED SENSE OF STYLE

When asked where her artistic visions come from, Wannemacher points to her mother, Sue.

“My mom was never a decorator, but I was always used to a beautiful home. I never really thought about that being a purposeful thing.  I thought it just happened by itself,” Wannemacher said. “I never realized until I was in my late 20s how stylish she was. No matter what income level we were at growing up, she’d always bring in freshly cut flowers or frame a picture from a magazine she liked.  She had an excellent eye for thinking outside the box.”