Designs on his journey

Dave Tranel began his journey into the world of interior design 27 years ago — somewhat by accident.

“Originally I had an office down in what is the IBM building, CyCare Plaza,” he said. “They were having problems getting commercial flooring work done, (and) I had owned a lot of apartments and was involved in flooring quite a bit.”

Seeing a chance to meet the needs of the businesses in CyCare Plaza, Tranel began doing some work in commercial flooring. He soon found an eager residential market, as well.

“I kept being asked if we did residential, so I expanded into residential,” he said.

In 1993, Tranel opened The Floor Emporium, a locally owned and operated family business on Dubuque’s West End.

“We were kind of considered outside of the town at the time,” Tranel said. “It’s been a good location for us since, with everything moving this way.”

He expanded his business by purchasing Oak Street Furniture, located in the same building, in 1996, and added Amish Heirloom Cabinetry inside The Floor Emporium in 2006.

In 2012, Tranel consolidated his three businesses to create Interiors … by Design, a 7,500-square-foot “one-stop-shop” for interior design services.

Today, the business offers flooring, cabinetry, furniture, bedding and more, as well as full design, remodeling and installation services by professional staff.

“Our staff are so customer-service orientated,” Tranel said. “I think that people enjoy coming into the store and find our staff very helpful and easy to talk to and work with. It’s been a big part of our success.”

For longtime Interiors … by Design customer Laura Chandlee, that is what keeps her coming back. Chandlee, who has used the business for her family’s flooring needs in their homes in Dubuque and East Dubuque, Ill., praised the communication and accessibility of the staff.

“Dave and his staff have just been so friendly and accommodating,” she said. “They were fabulous during some of the issues that we had, quick to respond, accessible when needed and really reliable — just a great company to work with. Great communication nowadays especially is so key.”

Tranel said that what sets his business apart is the ability to offer services for all stages of the interior design process, from initial designing to installation and finishing touches.

“If they remodel a bathroom, we can help them with every facet of that, from demo to new drawings and putting it together,” he said. “We’re able to really start at the idea stage and take them right through completion.”

To offer this wide range of services, the business works closely with area plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other specialized tradespeople to schedule jobs. Design work is completed by the Interiors … by Design team, with help from structural architects.

Tranel has seen many changes in the industry. He said that design trends are marking a return to older patterns and styles, such as old-fashioned cabinets and trim, neutral paints, wall clocks, mirrors and even wallpaper.

In addition, Tranel said that the advent of Home and Garden Television (HGTV) and reality programs such as “House Hunters” and “Property Brothers” has made home improvement more visible to the general population.

“It’s great for people to help generate ideas, and people in the Midwest are more open to ideas today than they used to be,” he said. “It’s certainly a lot more fun industry at this point because you can be creative, and that’s where we specialize.”

Chandlee appreciates the business’ commitment to customer-generated ideas. When designing her bathroom, for example, she knew that the tile she had chosen was unconventional, but said Tranel and his staff were open to her ideas and willing to put in the time to find the exact pattern and fit she was seeking.

“I know kind of what I like, and Dave worked with that,” Chandlee said. “I like really funky, fun, unique tile and … he’d search and search and order the things I wanted and contact the places that he needed. He was so flexible and open to anything. He’d say, ‘I’ve never seen that done, but I like it.’”

Customer feedback is important to Tranel, and one of his business’ best chances to hear from customers is the annual Tri-State Home and Builders Show each spring. At the 2020 show, Interiors … by Design unveiled its newest products, including a sofa with “kid-proof” stain-resistant fabric, an expanded bedding selection and a new “bed in a box.”

“(The home show) allows people to see what we do and how we do it and meet people face-to-face to get creative juices flowing,” Tranel said.

In addition to their work in from-scratch designing and installations, Interiors… by Design is heavily involved in remodeling. The business is servicing many customers seeking help with space management and redesigning to create bigger and more functional rooms, from kitchens to full basements.

“That’s very exciting for us, making something out of nothing, increasing the value of the house and increasing the functionality,” Tranel said. “If people allow us to be creative and we can expand and create a space that’s brighter or more livable or more functional, then we’ve done our job.”