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June 14, 2019

Q+A With Drew Bortles


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Drew Bortles was introduced to design and construction at a young age. Both his father and grandfather were woodworkers and carpenters who shared their passion with him, while Drew’s mother encouraged self-expression through painting and drawing. With a deep interest in art, design, and construction, Drew found himself drawn to interior design. After graduating from Wentworth Institute of Technology with a degree in Interior Design, he interned at several award-winning architecture firms around New England. Drew gained commercial design experience while working with one of Maine’s top commercial architectural firms designing hospitals, office spaces, college campus buildings, and more. Below, Drew shares a bit more about his background, what he finds rewarding about interior design, and how he feels about sharing Maine with his infant son.

Q. What are some of your earliest memories of art? How did these early experiences shape who you are today?

A. Growing up, I was always very intrigued by art, and being homeschooled at a young age allowed me to spend a lot of time exploring that fascination. I always looked forward to the daily art projects my mother would assign, especially when they involved coloring, painting, and drawing. If you were to flip through my childhood sketchbooks, you’d see it was full of sketches of concept cars and superhero figures. My mother was a great teacher who guided me through different techniques to improve my drawing skills, and I employ her teachings to this day in my professional career.

Q. What do you find rewarding about interior design? What do you find to be the biggest challenge?

A. Initially, I was drawn to interior design as a way to express my creativity in a professional realm. Once I realized that I was creating a space that could evoke certain feelings and emotions, I knew I was on the right path. I think the most fulfilling part of interior design is watching our clients experience the space. We use terms like “cozy,” “warm,” and “open” to describe an area, but when those words become a sensation and the clients can really feel the space, that's rewarding.

The internet has given us unlimited access to ideas, so it’s not unusual for clients to have hundreds of images of inspiration for the design of their new home. These images from Pinterest or magazines are beneficial for understanding who they are and what they like but can be problematic when it comes to blending their desires all into one home. One of the biggest challenges is narrowing down all their ideas into a cohesive design. I like to have the architecture speak for itself and have the finished project complement the design.

Q. How are you connected to Maine? What keeps you here? What''s your favorite way to enjoy the state?

When I was 11, my family moved from the Midwest to Maine, and I was instantly blown away by the stunning mountains, lakes, and ocean. Being surrounded by such spectacular natural environments was a new concept that I was eager to explore. I spent my college years in Boston and even moved to California for a year, but Maine always had my heart. The availability and abundance of nature’s greatest treasures, coupled with the best of all four seasons, are what keeps me in Maine. As a child, my parents encouraged hiking and taught me to value the time spent outdoors, and fortunately, I’ve never lost that passion. Maine is an extraordinary place with majestic mountains and sparkling lakes. I want to share the beauty of this state with my son, Errol. He may be only seven months old, but watching his face light up when the wind blows the leaves in the forest is what I live for.

Q. What is your dream design project?

A. My dream design project would be a beautiful, remote site with sweeping coastal views. However, the clients are the most significant element of the project, and any design we generate is entirely focused around them and their lifestyle. Having a client who trusts your judgment and wants something genuinely unique always adds to the success of a project. Finally, the execution of the project is where our designs really come to life. I feel very fortunate to live and work in a state with so many talented craftsmen and builders.

Q. What attracted you to Whitten Architects?

A. The culture at Whitten Architects is rooted in design, which is proudly demonstrated by the work we produce. I was attracted to WA because of the keen attention to detail. While I was in college, I enjoyed the technical aspect of detailing; fully appreciating how an idea would be built remains very important to me. To help me better understand material connections and constructability, I would create lots of models, which I found useful in refining a design. Working at WA, we are encouraged to dive into the details and establish how the design is working together as a collective. Over the years, I've grown a lot as a designer thanks to the work I have been exposed to and the colleagues I am surrounded by.


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