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ELK Collective designed WM Goods

Kelly Ogden and Larissa Burden, cofounders of ELK Collective, reveal the secrets of some of Portland's sharpest spaces.

You’ve designed some highly recognizable local restaurants and bars, like Multnomah Whiskey Library and Bit House Saloon. What’s your process? 

KELLY: It always depends if we are working with an established brand, a new brand, or if we are doing someone’s home. We get to know the client’s story and background. We’re always looking for ties from the interior environment to the overarching mission statement of the client. Making it regionally significant is important. We also try to bring a global perspective and level of design that we’ve experienced in other big cities here to Portland.

How did you conceive ELK Collective?

LARISSA: We both went to the Art Institute here in Portland, and we were both in the interior design program. We met in 2001.

KELLY: We were quick friends our first year. As we went through school, we developed a shared vision for a collective comprised of multiple disciplines of design that can work together to create seamless, holistic environments. We kind of jumped right in when we had Smallwares and then Levant come along. Those two restaurants were kind of the first things that we did in Portland as a group together.

What’s been your favorite project to work on?

Elk collective green room e8zied

The Green Room

KELLY: The Whiskey Library was a big one for us. That project crossed over many periods of design, pulling inspiration from libraries of the 19th century, old gentlemen’s clubs. Most of the furniture was sourced from an auction house in London. The oldest pieces in there are the three little stools that sit in front of the fireplace, and those are from the 1680s—and you don’t always get to do that. It’s seldom that a client is like, “Yeah, put antiques in a hospitality space.” When they wanted to do the Green Room [below the Multnomah Whiskey Library], they came back to us and asked us to start thinking about a space for people to wait and have a cocktail in. It needed to feel like the same brand, but its own space and distinctive identity.

LARISSA: We wanted to make it a little more accessible. Not everyone is going to wait in line for a reservation at the Whiskey Library.

KELLY: Absolutely. We picked up on the color green upstairs as a thread and then created an in-house palette with that monochromatic green, bringing deco elements from upstairs.

What’s next for ELK?

KELLY: We’re doing Breakside Brewery in Slabtown [opening this fall]. This is their statement piece. This is going to be their flagship. As a brand, they’re looking at who they are and where they need to grow, so we’ve been tasked with creating an interior environment for them that ties into their brand. We feel like it’s a really good team-up.

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The Green Room

Romantic, Specialty Cocktails 1124 SW ALDER ST.

With its emerald-tiled bar back and forest-glade stained glass skylight, the Multnomah Whiskey Library’s kryptonite-hued waiting room could slay Superman wit...

Bit House Saloon

Distillery, Happy Hour, Late Night, Specialty Cocktails, Wine Bar 727 SE Grand Ave

A century or so ago, the Grand Avenue tavern reportedly called Nat West’s Bit House was known for rowdiness, even street brawls. Today, the tipsy townies lin...

Multnomah Whiskey Library

Specialty Cocktails 1124 SW Alder St

Browse the annals of whiskey's deep history at this monument to the celebrated liquor on SW Alder in downtown, featuring a 1,500 bottle catalog and an intimate, speakeasy-like atmosphere.