Designer is Always Growing and Learning
Portland, OR — Robin Rigby Fisher’s journey in the world of kitchen and bath design began partway through her freshman year of college, at which time, she reflects wryly, she realized that “art history wasn’t going to be very financially prudent” and switched to interior design instead.
Fast forward to the present day, and Fisher has spent 34 years in the industry, including 17 years as the owner of her own Portland, OR-based interior remodeling firm and 16 as an independent interior designer.
Teaching and learning
Fisher is committed to sharing her knowledge with future designers. “I started teaching part time at our local college – the only college that teaches residential interior design in the state of Oregon,” she says. “We have been an endorsed program with the National Kitchen & Bath Association. I currently teach both kitchen and bath classes but have [also] taught our Living in Place Studios and Business for Designers.”
The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from Fisher’s teaching. “What I love about teaching is that it keeps me at the top of my game,” declares Fisher. “I give [my students] 110% and expect them to give me the same. I require high-level designs and technical skills, and as a result our students are in high demand. I love what I do and strive to help create designers who create functional, beautiful and sustainable designs, who know how to work with contractors and are collaborative.”
In addition to using her experience to give future designers a running start, Fisher is always seeking out opportunities to grow and improve as a designer, herself. “I had the opportunity to attend the CEDIA Expo this year,” she relates. “Prior to attending, I had not been a big believer in connectivity. Not so now. I believe that technology can make a home more healthy, easier to use and safer. I now include technology in all of my projects. I don’t sell it – I strive to understand how my clients live in their homes and incorporate technology to make their lives easier and more functional.”
Additionally, Fisher pursues NKBA education opportunities and participates in design contests. She has held a CMKBD (Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer) certification since 1992, as well as CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist). She co-authored the NKBA PRL – Sustainable Design for Kitchen and Bath and is on the committee to re-write the NKBA Guidelines.
The practical-minded, sustainability-focused, high-end homeowners of the Pacific Northwest have proven to be a great fit for Fisher’s clean and timeless design style. “Even though they are mostly higher-end clients, I would say practicality is their focus…our clients would prefer to be outside enjoying our environment and not spending time cleaning and maintaining a fussy home,” she explains.
A particular specialty of Fisher’s is lighting design, which she uses thoughtfully to craft the beautiful and functional spaces her clients desire. Fisher strives to always stay abreast of the latest advancements in LED technology – “Why wouldn’t a designer only specify [LED lighting]?” she says. “We are very specific on lighting and make sure that the lighting is well designed.”
Additionally, many of the products Fisher specifies are ideal for aging-in-place needs. For example, she prefers TOTO toilets, as she can specify the correct height for her clients and “not everyone is the right height for a Universal Height Toilet.” She is also diligent about making sure her clients’ future mobility needs are met. “I always include blocking [for grab bars] in my bathrooms at tubs, showers and toilets; there is no option to not include the blocking. We clearly note it on the plans and, if our clients need it in the future, then we are set.”
Fisher’s process of getting to know her clients and their needs begins with a lifestyle questionnaire. “This questionnaire includes: who lives in the house, physical limitations, is their family expanding or contracting, sustainability quotient, how they grocery shop, how they entertain, do they recycle or compost, etc. [It] focuses on how they live in their home.”
The connections Fisher has formed with clients both past and present have served her business well. “My referral rate for the past three years has hovered around 83%. My marketing is based on follow-up with previous clients and being thorough on my current projects.” She cites an anecdote about a former client who, although relocated to Tubac, AZ, hired Fisher to redesign the entire home after a fall left the person partially paralyzed.
Contractor connections are also invaluable to Fisher’s success, she believes. “I work closely with my contractors as a team player. We don’t point fingers, but solve problems.” ▪