Cabinetry laid out in long, horizontal bands directs attention toward views of downtown Milwaukee and Lake Michigan.

Cabinetry laid out in long, horizontal bands directs attention toward views of downtown Milwaukee and Lake Michigan.

Credit: Doug Edmunds

A new residence on the top floor of a cold-storage facility converted to living units, Blur Loft is named for the translucent panels that diffuse daylight through its interior. But the “living hall,” the Milwaukee apartment’s combined cooking/dining/living space, gets its light and views unfiltered. Stretching along the building’s broad eastern exposure, the room enjoys “absolutely amazing views to downtown and across to the lake,” says architect Brian Johnsen. Because the kitchen is partly open to the dining/living areas, Johnsen and partner Sebastian Schmaling gave it a crisp, tightly organized appearance. “We wanted to make it as understated and simple as possible,” Johnsen explains, “but very highly functional for cooking.”

The cabinet layout accentuates the horizontality of the larger space, with wide, deep wenge-faced drawers handling most of the undercounter storage. “They aren’t interrupted by numerous verticals or changes of cabinet door direction,” Johnsen notes. The wall cabinets’ uplift doors form horizontal bands of wenge and etched glass, the latter lit from behind with low-voltage fixtures. When evening activity shifts from the kitchen to the adjacent dining area, he says, “It becomes this very ethereal lighting characteristic, transmitting a lot of moodiness.”

  • A bamboo counter winds from floor to ceiling, creating a distinctive boundary between the kitchen and the adjacent dining area.

    Credit: Doug Edmunds

    A bamboo counter winds from floor to ceiling, creating a distinctive boundary between the kitchen and the adjacent dining area.
The ceiling, which drops over the kitchen to conceal structural elements and mechanical runs, jumps up near the outside wall to emphasize the height of the city-view windows. Taking advantage of an awkwardly located structural column, Johnsen and Schmaling framed the vertical element with a serpentine counter of carbonized bamboo. “The bamboo band intervenes between floor, counter, walls, and ceiling,” Johnsen says, its relatively uniform color picking up the darker shades of the more variegated bamboo flooring. Folding the prosaic function of a countertop into a sculptural form, he says, “it defines the interaction between the kitchen, a small eating area, and the dining room.”

Project: Blur Loft, Milwaukee; Builder: KBS Construction, Milwaukee; Architect: Johnsen Schmaling Architects, Milwaukee; Photographer: Doug Edmunds. / Resources: Cooktop: Wolf; Dishwasher: Miele; Lighting fixtures: Eureka, Halo; Oven: Wolf; Paints: Benjamin Moore; Plumbing fittings: Hansgrohe; Plumbing fixtures: Blanco; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero.

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