We’ve long been fans of Jessica Helgerson for, well, about forever. Her designs transport you into our personal version of heaven and she takes a unique approach that is different every time, but you still know it’s a JHID creation. Everything she touches is timeless, beautiful and we’re constantly inspired. Her work is inspired by the natural elements that surround her, and from her time living in Santa Barbara, Italy, France and the Pacific Northwest, which we see clearly reflected through the textures, materials, and colors of her work.
We were lucky enough to have a real and candid conversation with Jessica about the ins and outs of the design industry –everything from the challenges, the shocking moments, the misconceptions, and how to get started if you’re feeling a bit stuck. If you don’t already follow Jessica Helgerson on IG, do yourself a favor and hit that follow button for some serious, serious inspo. Alright now, take a seat, and scroll on down!
Tell us about the JHID journey. How did you get started and how did you get here?
I started out in Santa Barbara, where I grew up. I was a rebellious punk rock teen and dropped out of high school in my junior year. I pretty quickly realized I was going to need to turn things around if I wanted to move my life forward, so I picked up with city college and graduated from UCLA with an English major. After college, I lived in Italy for a year where I learned Italian, cocktail waitressed, taught English, and tried to figure out what to do with my life.
When the Italy year was up, I moved back to Santa Barbara where, on a whim, I went to an informational evening at the public library, presenting the UCSB Extension Interior Design program. I thought — wow, that’s everything I love! I should try it…
The rest is (sort of) history. I did love it. I worked for a few years at an architecture firm in Santa Barbara, but I didn’t agree with their approach to running a business and my HEART was totally in a non-profit I was on the board of, called The Sustainability Project. We were a group of architects, builders, landscape architects, all working for a greener built environment. I finally got to a point where I HAD to do my own thing, I really wanted my own values to guide my professional life, so I started JHID. That was twenty years ago. A year or so into business ownership, I met my husband, Yianni Doulis, an architect from Portland, Oregon. He eventually convinced me to move here with him, and I’ve been in Portland, running JHID part two, for fifteen years. Over those years it has grown to an office of ten. We have a ton of talent in the office — JHID is now much more than JH! :)
When you were first getting started, what were some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome?
I think the trickiest thing for me is, and has been, the running of a business. I started JHID because I love designing, not because I love business. I’ve learned how to manage people, look at spreadsheets, understand “the bottom line” but it’s not where my heart is. I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to get back to doing more of what I love (and am much better at!)
What’s something about the interior design business that shocked you the most, that you wish you knew before you got started?
Hmmm. I’m often shocked by the mis-conceptions people come to us with, with regard to timelines, process, budget. I feel like HGTV (which I’ve never actually seen) has done a real dis-service to our profession, with designers being awesome and eager with $500 budgets, transforming houses over a weekend, paintbrush in hand. Um. NO. Not how it works! At least I haven’t figured out how to do it that way.