Contract - In the Spotlight: Jessica Helgerson

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In the Spotlight: Jessica Helgerson

10 October, 2013



Founder of the Portland, Oregon-based eponymous practice Jessica Helgerson Interior Design—the seven-person firm behind the pediatric dental clinic in Seattle featured on page 54—Jessica Helgerson has more than fifteen years experience designing residential and commercial interiors. While she does not specialize in healthcare projects, her approach to the typology addresses the goals and needs of her clients. With a strong interest in sustainability, Helgerson and her family of four live in a 540-square-foot cottage with a green roof on five acres of farmland.

When and how did your firm get started?
I opened an office in Santa Barbara, California, in 2000 and moved it up to Portland when my husband and I relocated in 2005.

How does your location in the Pacific Northwest inform your design aesthetic?  
We take on many remodeling projects, and our designs respond thoughtfully to existing structures. We are currently remodeling several midcentury houses designed by well-known Pacific Northwest architects in styles specific to the area: lots of natural wood, open volumes, straightforward detailing, and a strong connection between inside and outside. On the other hand, we have worked on Mediterranean structures, farm cottages, a Mexican restaurant, and even a video arcade. In each of those projects, we responded more specifically to the building and the client than the geographic locations.

Does your approach to the design process differ when working in a locale outside your own?

Yes, we love learning about other regions, and when applicable, we weave in some of our findings into the design of the project. While it is exciting to work on projects that are farther away, it is also more complicated. When a project is local, we can pop over weekly to check on progress, but when it is not, we rely deeply on contractors to execute our vision. We also design a large percentage of the furnishings that go into our projects, so on out-of-town projects, we either work with new craftspeople or have elements built locally and ship them to the sites.

How did you approach the design of the pediatric dental clinic in Seattle, given your firm does not focus on healthcare design?
We worked with a dental consultant, who helped us with the practical aspects of designing a clinic, but our design came from the building—which is built from exposed, board-formed concrete. The geography of the Puget Sound inspired the abstracted barnacles, which are playfully used throughout the space, and natural wood, plentiful in the region, is incorporated throughout. A pediatric dental clinic requires a fun, happy, and child-friendly aesthetic. We were eager to create a space that didn’t look like a typical dental office while fulfilling the client’s programmatic requirements.

You previously designed a dental clinic in Alaska for the same client. How did your approach to the two offices vary?

Our client, who is a very competent dentist and understands how best to organize her space, wanted similar layouts for both offices. The first project was in a beautiful location on the Tongass Narrows of Ketchikan, Alaska, and our design was inspired by the trees and mountains that surround the new building in which it is located. In both cases, we implemented an open plan with just a few private treatment rooms.

From where do you typically draw design inspiration?
When we start a new project, we always begin with image research. We put together boards of photographs that inspire us, including other spaces, colors, materials, natural elements, and art. We are, at the same time, inspired by our clients and their narratives, as well as by the spaces in which we are designing. We respond directly to the architecture of the buildings, and then we layer furnishings and lighting that are “of the moment” and fitting for our clients.

What interior space, anywhere in the world, inspires you? Why?
My office. It isn’t particularly fancy, but it has lovely big windows, gets beautiful morning light, and is always humming with activity and thought. It’s a place that is full of creativity, kindness, happiness, and excitement. I’m really inspired by my team of designers here.




In the Spotlight: Jessica Helgerson

10 October, 2013


Founder of the Portland, Oregon-based eponymous practice Jessica Helgerson Interior Design—the seven-person firm behind the pediatric dental clinic in Seattle featured on page 54—Jessica Helgerson has more than fifteen years experience designing residential and commercial interiors. While she does not specialize in healthcare projects, her approach to the typology addresses the goals and needs of her clients. With a strong interest in sustainability, Helgerson and her family of four live in a 540-square-foot cottage with a green roof on five acres of farmland.

When and how did your firm get started?
I opened an office in Santa Barbara, California, in 2000 and moved it up to Portland when my husband and I relocated in 2005.

How does your location in the Pacific Northwest inform your design aesthetic?  
We take on many remodeling projects, and our designs respond thoughtfully to existing structures. We are currently remodeling several midcentury houses designed by well-known Pacific Northwest architects in styles specific to the area: lots of natural wood, open volumes, straightforward detailing, and a strong connection between inside and outside. On the other hand, we have worked on Mediterranean structures, farm cottages, a Mexican restaurant, and even a video arcade. In each of those projects, we responded more specifically to the building and the client than the geographic locations.

Does your approach to the design process differ when working in a locale outside your own?

Yes, we love learning about other regions, and when applicable, we weave in some of our findings into the design of the project. While it is exciting to work on projects that are farther away, it is also more complicated. When a project is local, we can pop over weekly to check on progress, but when it is not, we rely deeply on contractors to execute our vision. We also design a large percentage of the furnishings that go into our projects, so on out-of-town projects, we either work with new craftspeople or have elements built locally and ship them to the sites.

How did you approach the design of the pediatric dental clinic in Seattle, given your firm does not focus on healthcare design?
We worked with a dental consultant, who helped us with the practical aspects of designing a clinic, but our design came from the building—which is built from exposed, board-formed concrete. The geography of the Puget Sound inspired the abstracted barnacles, which are playfully used throughout the space, and natural wood, plentiful in the region, is incorporated throughout. A pediatric dental clinic requires a fun, happy, and child-friendly aesthetic. We were eager to create a space that didn’t look like a typical dental office while fulfilling the client’s programmatic requirements.

You previously designed a dental clinic in Alaska for the same client. How did your approach to the two offices vary?

Our client, who is a very competent dentist and understands how best to organize her space, wanted similar layouts for both offices. The first project was in a beautiful location on the Tongass Narrows of Ketchikan, Alaska, and our design was inspired by the trees and mountains that surround the new building in which it is located. In both cases, we implemented an open plan with just a few private treatment rooms.

From where do you typically draw design inspiration?
When we start a new project, we always begin with image research. We put together boards of photographs that inspire us, including other spaces, colors, materials, natural elements, and art. We are, at the same time, inspired by our clients and their narratives, as well as by the spaces in which we are designing. We respond directly to the architecture of the buildings, and then we layer furnishings and lighting that are “of the moment” and fitting for our clients.

What interior space, anywhere in the world, inspires you? Why?
My office. It isn’t particularly fancy, but it has lovely big windows, gets beautiful morning light, and is always humming with activity and thought. It’s a place that is full of creativity, kindness, happiness, and excitement. I’m really inspired by my team of designers here.

 


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