A Cold Chill in Chicago

The winner of NBC's American Dream Builders lends modernism a neo-gothic edge

A self-styled rebel of the design community, Lukas Machnik has made a name for himself crafting retail spaces for the avant-garde designer Rick Owens. A progenitor of “glunge” aesthetic—a portmanteau of “glamorous” and “grunge”—Owens tapped Machnik after recognizing a kindred spirit in the architect’s all-black, minimalist interiors, filled with no shortage of neo-gothic elements.

However, Machnik’s interest in the macabre is equally formal, betraying a fascination with the forms created by nature’s ongoing processes. These organic objects range from antlers to skulls, but also include tree branches, eroded stones, and petrified wood. Likewise, his sculptural creations—Machnik is a multi-disciplinarian at heart—incorporate an element of chance, relying on forces like gravity and entropy to determine the final form.

Lukas Machnik | South Loop Loft | Charles Pollock 657 Chair

Photograph by Bob Coscarelli.

Born in Poland to artistic parents and educated in Europe, Machnik has a thorough grasp of the history of modern design, and draws heavily on furniture designed by Mies van der Rohe, Pollock, Platner, and Bertoia. His own abode, in the South Loop of Chicago, attests to this peculiar avant-garde sensibility, tempered by a deep-seated respect for the past. As a result, iconic pieces appear imbued with a newfound edginess when positioned according to Machnik’s vision.

It took a full eight months to transform a former 1980s storefront, replete with multi-colored walls and a second-floor catwalk, into a space befitting Machnik’s taste. Looking as far back as the 1800s, when the space was originally hardware store, Machnik excavated the original flooring and removed the decorative trim that had been added over the years.

His furniture collection features a number of notable post-war designers. The blacked-out Pollock Arm Chair anchor the vertical and geometric definitions of the space, while the insect-inspired forms of the French lighting designer Serge Mouille introduce ominous, predatory shapes. In the corner, beneath the staircase, Achille Castiglioni's Toio floor lamp recalls a Marcel Duchamp readymade, and is fashioned out of a car reflector.

Lukas Machnik's South Loop Loft | Knoll Inspiration

Photograph by Bob Coscarelli.

Up above, a Bertoia Bird Chair, normally light and airy, appears encumbered, wrapped in the inky tendrils of one of Machnik’s signature throw blankets.

While not intended as a live-work space, the renovated loft doubles as a joint studio for Machnik and his partner, Lonney H. White III, who is an artist represented by Holly Hunt. 

Project Credits:

Design: Lukas Machnik
Photography: Bob Coscarelli


Pollock Arm Chair
Bertoia Bird Chair