The 50 States Project is a yearlong series of candid conversations with interior designers, state by state, about how they’ve built their businesses. Today, we’re chatting with Portland, Oregon–based Jessica Helgerson, founder of Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, about developing a three-pronged criteria for project selection, the challenges of balancing residential and commercial work, and why she’s open about her politics on Instagram.
Several designers I’ve interviewed who started their careers working for you have told me that the office environment you created empowered them to start their own firms. What’s the secret to that kind of working relationship with your team?
I generally lead from behind. I try to see where people shine and what they’re good at, and then support [them in] the sides that are trickier for them. I think our firm does better work if we’re nurturing creativity and making people feel confident about their