Defining Before Designing
Southwest Florida commercial design firm Wegman Design Group focuses on niche markets.
Wegman Design Group Owner Lori Wegman
Just before relocating from Dallas to Naples 17 years ago to buy a blueprint company, Lori Wegman’s plan hit a major snag: The deal fell through.
But that setback didn’t deter her from exploring other options in Southwest Florida. “We ended up moving to Naples knowing no one, having no business connections but had already made the commitment to move with our three children. We looked at a bunch of other opportunities, but we just kept coming to see this opportunity in commercial design,” Wegman says.
She jumped on it. In 2001, the newly arrived Southwest Floridian founded Wegman Design Group, a commercial interior design firm based in Naples. Since then, she’s grown to 15 employees who juggle about 30 to 40 projects at a time, from religious facilities to senior living communities to the hospitality sector—lucrative niche markets that have become the company’s focus.
“We try to define what experience we want to create, and what’s going to make it unique and enjoyable and memorable for people,” says Wegman.
Her strategic approach to creative design has paid off with recent awards for her firm’s work.
The firm won the 2018 Grand Aurora Award from the Southeast Building Conference for best interior renovation for a project at Shell Point Retirement Community. From the American Society of Interior Designers’ Florida South Chapter, it took home three 2018 Design Excellence Crystal Awards: the Center for Healthy Living at Moorings Park’s Grey Oaks campus (health care medical facilities category), Westin Conference Center (fixture design) and Shell Point’s Blend Cafe (small space under 1,500 square feet).
“We’re known for creating what the right design is for each specific, unique opportunity, and that’s what makes it so fun. Really, I love it,” she says.
In the senior living sector, clients include Shell Point, Moorings Park and Discovery Village. “People want to retire and live here, so the competition in senior living is very high; therefore, the design and the experience [and] the amenities created are very important to staying competitive,” Wegman says. “Interior design is highly valued with those types of clients and projects.”
With each new project, Wegman says her firm looks for the unique element that users will respond to in an environment. For example, when she and her team remodeled the 27,125-square- foot Woodlands Commons at Shell Point, they wanted to energize what she says was a tired, drab space. A key enhancement was placing a bistro, the Blend Café, off the lobby, which gives residents a place to hang out. In addition, the team placed a 10-foot, two-sided electric fireplace in a large open seating area as a focal point and a means of encouraging informal gatherings. “We think it provides an inviting and coziness to the space,” Wegman says.
The firm’s extensive research includes conducting focus groups to identify the needs of users and what design styles and elements appeal to them, along with visiting similar projects and understanding emerging trends.
Natural light, engaging spaces, and high-quality furnishings and fixtures are Wegman’s signature elements at Moorings Park, says Dan Lavender, president and CEO of Moorings Park. In 2017, the firm remodeled its 1980s clubhouse, which now has the Park Grill.
“It’s designed in such a way that it seems intimate and not that you’re in a big dining room.
“The lighting, the acoustics and the natural light really serve to make it a great place to be,” he says.
A focus on interior design is key in senior living communities, especially because of the role the environment plays in wellness, Lavender says.
“It’s absolutely critical that spaces be functional and a joy to be in, to lift your spirits,” he says. “That’s what we try to accomplish, and I think Lori does a great job of helping us do that.”