Mother Earth Living

Divine Den Design with Jessica Helgerson

Interior designer Jessica Helgerson shares her formula for good design: Start with classic, durable fundamentals, then add fresh, modern touches.
By Jessica Kellner
January/February 2012
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Jessica Helgerson designed this Washington den for clients who wanted to redecorate with sustainability in mind. She chose substantial, grounding pieces and thick, cozy fabrics to create a contrast with the rest of the home, which is airy and light.
Photo By Lincoln Barbour

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Portland, Oregon-based interior designer Jessica Helgerson designs uncluttered, beautiful interiors for her residential and commercial clients, guided by pragmatism (how should the space be laid out to flow and function well?) and creativity (what idea or feeling will focus the design?). Early in her career, Helgerson expressed her long-standing interest in green building and sustainability as an activist, sitting on boards devoted to environmental preservation and serving as president of the Sustainability Project, an initiative to inspire change in the built environment.

Today, she lives sustainably day-to-day with her husband and two children in a 540-square-foot cottage she remodeled with almost entirely reclaimed materials, complete with a planted roof and a big front porch. She and her family raise chickens, turkeys and bees, grow almost all of their own food, and throw big dinner parties on their five acres of farmland. Jessica Helgerson designed this den—featuring a locally handmade sofa, reclaimed wood tables, a vintage animal-skin rug and low-VOC paint—in a southern Washington home.

How do you use texture in design?  

I like contrasts. I think the cozy, silky velvet of the sofa is beautiful against the rougher reclaimed wood.

What do the two reclaimed wood tables lend to the den design?  

They are tactile and visually interesting. I prefer wood tables to any other material (glass or metal, for example) because of how grounding wood is and how nice it feels.

Where did the art on the wall come from?  

The art piece was designed by our office with places and dates of personal significance to our clients, then locally screen-printed and framed.

Could our readers adapt this?  

Absolutely! Anyone with basic graphic design skills could do this. They gave us the dates and places, and we knew the colors we wanted to use. We played around with fonts and sizes until we liked the way it looked.

Why does a dark color scheme work here?  

The adjacent great room is white, airy and open. We wanted to create a contrasting space that had a different feeling: cozy, warm and inviting. The two spaces are great next to each other and offer different experiences. This room gets tons of use. The owner told me when she hosts her book club, they all naturally gravitate to this room, although the great room is much bigger.

Can décor improve home efficiency? 

Window coverings and efficient lighting are the main ways to improve energy efficiency with décor. In this room, the heavy curtains add insulation to the windows.

The cut plants are dramatic. How do you advise people use cuttings? 

Those are wild, weedy flowers that were growing near my house the morning of the shoot, so I cut some and brought them. I like using plants that aren’t conventional flowers for arrangements, and I prefer using one plant at a time rather than mixing them.

Learn more at Jessica Helgerson Interior Design.

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