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Design books, magazines, and sculptural objects, including a human skull, occupy a ledge in Machnik’s office.
See more photos in the gallery below.
Lukas Machnik, an interior designer, and artist Lonney H. White III didn’t set out to move into a live-work space. “We wanted to be able to shut the door and go home after work,” says White, who is represented by Holly Hunt. But when they came across a 4,000-square-foot gallery space (2,000 square feet on the main floor, 2,000 in the basement) in the West Loop, they decided the arrangement could work after all. “It was the full package—studio, gallery, home,” recalls Machnik.
Or it had the potential to be, anyway. The two set to work, undaunted by vestiges of a cheesy 1980s storefront exhibition space: red, orange, and blue walls; stairs with steel pipe railings leading to a second-floor catwalk; a tiny kitchenette (presumably for stocking tricolor pasta and Bartles & Jaymes). It took them eight months to transform this time capsule into an uber-sophisticated modern home that feels at once relaxed and rigorously avant-garde. With the couple’s clear and unified vision, it was a cakewalk on the catwalk.
“Our philosophy was to keep the rawness of the space—which was a hardware store in the 1800s and still had the original floors—and juxtapose this rawness with minimalist architecture and important postwar pieces,” says Machnik. At every turn, you find bold artwork and furniture, including Medusa-like felted wool throws by the versatile White and sculptures by Machnik.
The property is a departure from their previous home, a prewar Lake View condo with a formal dining room and crown molding. Here, they got rid of all trim, opting for simple white drywall, and avoided dividing spaces. “Art shows better when space doesn’t confine,” Machnik adds.
The dining area, essentially a hallway leading to the living room at the back of the house, is defined by a 16-foot table of ebonized reclaimed pine with matching benches, which the couple built onsite. The bedroom, unconventionally located at the front of the home, opens onto the entry hallway and has no door.
“We liked the idea of giving people a voyeuristic moment,” says Machnik, who created a bedside vignette (a superlow nightstand, which is part of the frame of the platform bed, with a playful grouping of 1960s Italian sconces hanging above) that passersby can glimpse through the floor-to-ceiling opening. The home is full of scenes like these: a dramatic display of over-size ceramic vessels on the kitchen counter; beat-up concrete slabs repurposed as an end table in the living room; a crisp white ledge topped with art books, figurines, and a human skull in Machnik’s office.
The couple describe their design style as “curated,” and the term couldn’t be more apt. “Our friends say that every time they come over, there is something new to look at,” says Machnik. That’s life in a gallery.
Photography: Bob Coscarelli