In the beginning there was space, and it needed to be filled. And so it was that in 1983, Bainbridge Design launched on a mission to provide commercial interior design and space planning to the world.

Andrea Bainbridge takes a look back and forward.

What brought you into this business? Did you always want to be a designer? 

Growing up, my dad worked for ski resorts and we moved a lot. Each time we moved he gave me some graph paper and let me design my room. Maybe that’s what got me started. In college, I started as an art major until I realized I was no Rembrandt, so I changed to interior design.

Who were your first clients?   

BPA and Nike. It was just good timing and luck, to be honest. And thinking we could handle them both. We went after the Port of Portland for their first headquarters – it was a big stretch and we not only got it, we were the project lead, bringing in the architect. Wells Fargo Bank was another early client. We started by doing carpet-seaming diagrams – then got into doing bigger jobs for them. We’ve worked on over 400 bank and credit union projects now, not just Wells Fargo.

What was it like being a woman leading a business in those days? 

There weren’t many of us. But with experience it got easier to get work. I didn’t think it should be an issue then, and of course still don’t now.

What’s changed in the business? 

Well, technology of course. It’s flattened the field. We can compete in capability with the big boys. We all have access to the same tools. Design has changed, too – more towards open spaces with people working together. And more offices have beer kegs now!

What lessons did you learn from the early days?

Pay attention, observe what’s going on. Simple things like make sure your billing goes out on time. Also, diversify your client base. Pull out what the client really wants. Shut up and listen. We’re not here to educate the client, our job is to help them get where they want to go.

Any sleepless nights or nightmares?

Oh yeah. But I got some good advice from a boss once, a woman who said, “Get rid of your problem clients because they take up all your time and they refer you to other problem clients.” I sleep fine now.

What’s the key to being successful all these years?   

Great service, having a can do attitude, being honest and up front with clients. And making the work stress-free and fun, because it should be fun. Once we get a client, we keep them with our good service. Our goal is to delight them.

What’s ahead – any thoughts of retiring? 

No way. I plan to keep working, laughing, having fun. I enjoy getting calls out of the blue. Every job is different. There’s always something new to work on. And I’d better get back to it!