The innovation and collaboration behind Bright Designlab
At the striking, high-ceilinged Bright Designlab at NW 10th Avenue and Flanders Street, you can tap into the creative talents of two different operations. “We’re separate firms, but we have a collaborative business: the retail studio—we designed it, they built it,” says Alissa Pulcrano of Bright Designlab, referring to her company’s four-year-old partnership with Hammer & Hand, a home-building and remodeling outfit based in Southeast Portland.
Bright Designlab, which is owned by Pulcrano and Leela Brightenburg, specializes in interior and graphic design. “We’re the younger of the two companies, and we were looking for office space,” says Pulcrano about the inspiration behind teaming up. “They wanted a place to showcase their work—it just felt like a perfect fit. Working together just seems to be the best way to build, literally and figuratively.” Although the two companies often take on projects together, each also works with its own clients. “We call it an open marriage,” laughs Pulcrano.
“We’re working as professional advocates for our clients, so we try to be high-quality communicators.”
“We got our start in Portland remodeling old Craftsman-style houses,” says Zack Semke, Director of Business Development of 20-year-old Hammer & Hand. “Now we’re doing more modern projects.”
Project supervisor Kevin Guinn gives an impressive rundown of Hammer & Hand projects. “We’ve completed work at the Elizabeth and the Casey condominiums. We did the Nuvrei Bakery space with Bright Designlab, and the Danner, Marine Layer, and Will Leather Goods spaces in Union Way. And we just finished up new Pearl District offices for Liquid Agency on NW Hoyt.
“We’re currently doing a full gut in the Edge Lofts condominiums,” he adds. “It’s a complete look—new cabinets, completely different finishes.”
Working in residential condominium buildings requires delicate diplomacy. “We’re working as professional advocates for our clients, so we try to be high-quality communicators,” Guinn says, “especially when there’s going to be three days of jackhammering.”
“Some of these buildings are 20 years old,” he adds. “It’s time for some changes—a new kitchen might be in order. There’s also great interest in better lighting right now.”
Bright Designlab takes on a wide range of projects, from residential bathrooms to restaurants, shops, and other commercial spaces. The retail studio carries curated housewares, upcycled furniture, and kitchen cabinetry. One highly popular accessory they sell is Portland Growler Company’s ceramic growler. Also, “there’s interest in anything copper,” Pulcrano says, “especially chairs and lighting fixtures.”
“We specialize in unusual, functional design,” she explains. “We often juxtapose historic spaces with modern style, and we try to incorporate thoughtful, reclaimed materials throughout.”
For example, in their design of Glyph Cafe & Arts Space (pictured above) on the North Park Blocks, they collaborated with the owner to create several one-ofa- kind pieces. “The shadow-box tables are custom, the laser-burned bar face is an original design by Leela, and the shou-sugi-ban wall and the light fixtures were hand-strung in our office,” Pulcrano says.
Bright Designlab just completed the new offices for Modus Operandi, a marketing firm at NW 9th and Glisan. Their latest project: a stylish interior for Echo Natural Beauty, a salon and body-care retailer that opened in January on the ground floor of the Elizabeth Lofts on 9th Avenue at Everett Street.—Michaela Bancud | feature photo by Amy Ouellette