This article is part of a series about the businesses located above Gabby’s Cafe. To read the rest of the stories, click here.
Nestled in an office off to the right in the upstairs business suite at 515 Wyoming Avenue is W5 Design, an environmental planning, design, and architecture firm specializing in healthcare, commercial, educational and senior living spaces.
W5 Design started when the architectural firm where interior designer Ann Henry worked closed its Cincinnati office. She was sick of seeing firms come and go and asked her friends from work to become her business partners. Since there were five of them to start, they called the business W5 Design, “Women to the fifth power,” says Ann, smiling. “We feel like we’re exponentially better if we’re together.”
Today the business consists of three partners—the other two decided early on that entrepreneurship wasn’t for them—but their combination remains mighty. Julie Kern is the firm’s architect, and she’s been working on medical facilities her entire career. Ann brings her design expertise, and their third partner, Micki Harrell, entered the design field after 25 years working as a nurse at UC Medical Center.
“I think what makes us good in healthcare design is having Micki, who does equipment planning for us, so she is key in making sure the space works for the nurses and all the equipment is integrated into the building the way it should be,” says Julie.
Doing interiors for a healthcare space is completely different from other projects, both due to the heavy use of the environment, and the need for materials that are aesthetically pleasing, functional and can be easily cleaned, notes Ann.
The skills they learned creating those environments transfer easily into other spaces though. Julie has developed a knack for studying the flow of a space—whether it’s handicapped accessible and supports the typical movement of people through it each day. They all pride themselves in being careful listeners. That’s how they learn the details of their medical facility clients’ very particular needs, and that transfers over to residential and commercial design too. “We talk about how they live,” explains Julie, “and what they do during their day because everybody lives differently.”
W5 Design has been housed in its Wyoming office for about three years now, roughly around the time they outgrew their first workspace in Micki’s house. They relish the small-town feel of Wyoming, grabbing lunch and meeting clients at the Wyoming Meat Market and Gabby’s. “You get to know people, and see familiar faces,” says Julie. “We all love working here.”
As for working amongst the other businesses in their corner of Wyoming Avenue, “All of us up here make joint decisions about what happens up here,” notes Ann. Together they’ve painted, spruced up the bathroom.
“We’re a pretty creative group,” says Julie.