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Jenny Guggenheim Says This New Portland Aesthetic is a Welcome Change

“Behind every pretty finished photo are hours of conversation, iterations, and small but impactful modifications to get it just right,” says Jenny Guggenheim, principal designer and design director at Guggenheim Architecture + Design Studio, a Portland-based multidisciplinary firm she cofounded with her husband, Jeff, in 2009. For Guggenheim, blending creative and practical elements is essential to create distinct, meaningful structures. We caught up with her to learn more about her perspective on Portland’s evolving design aesthetic and her role in redesigning the Sisters Coffee Company’s Pearl District location.

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What would you deem the most exciting thing happening in design now?

I’m thrilled to see that the Portland aesthetic has evolved away from rustic-industrial to a more playful, bright, and textured palette. It’s a great reflection of our design community, and especially young interior designers interested in more sophisticated styles. Curves are replacing hard angles (which you will see in the new Commissary Cafe we’re designing) and more small businesses are taking risks with unconventional surfaces in their interiors.

Your firm recently reimagined the Sisters Coffee Company shop in Portland’s Pearl District. What was your approach for its new, and very different, look?

This project is a true Phoenix. Its re-birth after severe water damage is reflective of both Sisters Coffee’s evolution and our studio’s growth as designers. Sisters is now led by second- generation family members, and the interior serves as a visual representation of the changing of the guard. The modbar situated on a horseshoe-shaped peninsula celebrates the drink preparation process and the Sisters’ baristas, who are notoriously the friendliest in town.

Sisters Coffee redesign

Sisters Coffee in Portland’s Pearl District | Photo by Emily Smietana



What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a project?

For both residential and commercial projects, we spend a lot of time absorbing client narratives before we put pen to paper. We ask questions that allow us to have a deep understanding of a client’s brand or how they want to use spaces in their residence. For clients who are more inclined to focus on aesthetics, we spend more time getting to know how they want to move and function in a space.

What’s something that people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a first-generation college graduate and first-generation West Coaster without a familial history of entrepreneurship or creative arts. With my family’s background in military, government service, and secretarial work, I’m a bit of an anomaly.

Where would you spend all your time if you could? I’d be hopping around the globe with my family. Next up, Sicily![