Originally from Iowa, Colleen Murphy fell in love with Portland while interning with Yost Grube Hall Architecture during a summer break in college. After graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in interior design, she returned to Portland and began working for CIDA, a multidisciplinary design firm.
“I was just one of two interior designers and it was the kind of business where they threw you in headfirst. It was sink or swim,” Colleen remembers with a laugh. She later went on to join the team at Myhre Group Architects, where she headed up the interiors group and eventually became a partner before starting her own firm, Fluent Design, in 2012.
Specializing in tenant improvement, interior renovations, and FF&E services (Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment), Fluent Design has already grown to include several independent contractors who regularly join Colleen in her new downtown office space. In the year and half since opening, the firm has completed a number of local residential and commercial projects.
Last fall, Colleen’s team renovated the interior of Ski Bowl’s Multipor Lodge.
“That was a really quick project,” Colleen explains.
Because the lodge only shuts down for about a month and half in between summer and winter, Colleen and her team were facing a serious time crunch.
“It was mostly cosmetic, redoing finishing, redoing paint colors and that sort of thing, but the funny part was to get it going fast enough,” she says. “I went up there with about four bags worth of different materials and we did it all on site. I ran all over the lodge with a Sharpie writing the paint color number on the wall and drawing an arrow where it started and ended.”
Fluent’s staff also recently completed the design for Korkage Wine Bar in Hillsdale. Korkage moved into a space that previously held a different restaurant so Colleen focused on revamping the existing space and furniture to give it a sophisticated look.
“They inherited all the tables and chairs, which were a little tired looking so we came up with a plan to repaint all the chairs and then we got new tops for the tables,” Colleen says. “We also added a big, long reclaimed wood bar, custom light fixtures with the wine bottle pendants, and a custom retail display made from wooden wine crates.”
Colleen has quite a bit of experience revamping office spaces as well. Clients include Whitman Partners, Jibe Consulting, and Jama Software. For Whitman, Colleen faced the challenge of designing for an all-male team. “It was like designing a bachelor pad in a way,” she says. “We did a lot of custom furniture and finishes. We put in this great retro conference table and they have a pool table, built-in bar, and a sectional with a big TV.” Working with Jama Software was a project Colleen especially enjoyed. “They’re a fun group to work with because they’re very much about culture and they want their employees to be happy,” she says. “Jama knows they spend a lot time at work, so the environment, both how it feels and how it functions, is really important to them. That’s a fun, fun project to work on.”
Looking forward, Colleen hopes to add in some hotel work and eventually bring on some of her contractors as full time employees. “Our focus is working with good clients and having fun with what we’re doing,” she adds. “And as long as we’re able to do those things and make money, we’re good.”