written by:
May 22, 2014
Lukas residential project

Machnik has a robust residential portfolio and an international client list. His design philosophy is "uber-minimalist" and modern, with heavy Bauhaus influences. He lives and works with his partner, artist Lonney White, whose work can be seen on the wall. Lukas incorporates his personal art or design into most of his projects, playing the role of curator to his clients. Photo courtesy of Lukas Machnik.

1 / 7
bench by lukas machnik

Machnik says he is an object designer. He makes furniture, lighting, and wall coverings which he incorporates into the interior design of his commercial and residential projects. He loves to experiment with materials specifically marble, reclaimed wood and plywood. "I love plywood, you can do so much with it!" Photo courtesy of Lukas Machnik.

2 / 7
mid century makeover

In Week 2 of American Dream Builders, Lukas was the team leader in charge of renovating a midcentury modern home in Palm Springs. Lukas divvies up assignments amongst his teammates, giving himself the living room and the outdoor dining area. While midcentury modern is not Machnik's forte, we see his potential as a designer and a team player, as he turns a neglected midcentury mess into a modern masterpiece. Photo courtesy of Lukas Machnik. 


3 / 7
modern modular

In episode 5, Machnik and his teammates were asked to reimagine a pre-fabricated modular home. Lukas is commended for his idea to create a built-in daybed that saves space and provides a nook for relaxing. Photo courtesy of Lukas Machnik. 

4 / 7
machnik table

Machnik's "if you build it they will come" mentality contributed to his success on the show. Each week he took on a seemingly impossible task, given the time constraints, but always came out on top. "I don't take no for an answer," said the 34-year-old designer. Machnik contructed 10 tables throughout the show. "I'm a designer and a builder, so I used the Lowe's materials to make beautiful things." Photo courtesy of Lukas Machnik. 

5 / 7
lukas machnik season finale

Machnik's final design on the season finale, airing Sunday, May 25, 2014 on NBC, is a beach house with a black exterior and a white interior. While controversial to the other designers, the result is very European and modern. "I don't like fluffy decorations," says Machnik. Photo courtesy of Lukas Machnik. 

6 / 7
Light Lukas Machnik

Lukas creates this lighting fixture by assembling metal conduit pieces from Lowe's. He also created a chandelier from hanging lanterns. "I like taking old materials and making something new." Photo courtesy of Lukas Machnik. 

7 / 7
Lukas residential project

Machnik has a robust residential portfolio and an international client list. His design philosophy is "uber-minimalist" and modern, with heavy Bauhaus influences. He lives and works with his partner, artist Lonney White, whose work can be seen on the wall. Lukas incorporates his personal art or design into most of his projects, playing the role of curator to his clients. Photo courtesy of Lukas Machnik.

Over the past 10 weeks on NBC’s new series American Dream Builders, host Nate Berkus has led us through inspiring interior design makeovers, meant to help a family in need. (Read Berkus's renovation tips here.) Throughout the competition we have seen a lot of crown molding, crystal chandeliers, and catty drama amongst the show’s 12 designers. But there has been one designer that has stood above the rest, Chicago-based designer Lukas Machnik.

Originally from Poland, Machnik, 34, is an interior and product designer and self-proclaimed minimalist. After studying and working in New York, he moved to Chicago where he is part of the up-and-coming design scene that is putting the Windy City back on the map.  With an eclectic flair that is not for everyone (or for the faint of heart, given his disposition for skulls) Machnik creates stark avant-garde environments in his clients’ homes, along with restaurants and retail spaces. On the show, his artistic integrity really shines through, showcasing not only his creativity and talent as a builder, but an ability to weave his authentic modern aesthetic into the more conservative confines of the show. His ability to work collaboratively and creatively earned him a place in the finale, as well as the respect of his peers. Machnik is one of two finalists (along side Jay Riordan) in this weekend’s season finale, airing on Sunday, May 25, 2014 on NBC. Read on for our conversation with the designer, as well as a roundup of his best design ideas from the season, and his current work, in the slideshow.

How would you define your style? 

My design philosophy is part minimalist, part Bauhaus, part avant-garde. I have a more cultivated style of work. The show helped me to explain my style and help people to understand it better. I’m all about quality verse quantity. I wanted to show that you can create and live in a way that is modern and minimalist and that its not just about fluffy things. Black can be super chic and white can be elegant.

Who are some of your icons and influencers? 

For me it a long list, so many influencers have shaped my design. Corbusier was revolutionary, so was Carlo Scarpa. They were so controversial 100 years ago, but they made a solid change in what we value as great design today. And Richard Serra, Michele Lamy, Charlotte Perriand, and James Turrell. His whole philosophy towards light inspires me. 

Did you find it hard to work within the conservative framework of the other designers on the show?

I’m a minimalist. For me, it’s more about the Bauhaus philosophy and how furniture fits into the environment. I look at architecture and design as being one. So going into a Victorian home and working in there was quite an experience. But really it was a great learning experience. It allowed me to open myself to new ideas, and try new things, and really challenge myself. It was a good lesson. Working with my teammates was a challenge, because I’m not really about embellished decoration ideas. But I decided, early on, that I was going to do it my way, and figure out how I can include my aesthetic into the project. On the finale, I had everyone working collectively and trying to keep it cohesive. I wanted to rally the troops to win, but wanted to deliver a product that everyone would be proud of.

You seemed to take on big design/build challenges in each show. Have you ever had to work under time constraints like that?

In this competition we had to use what we had to our best advantage. I’m not afraid to explore and get my hands dirty to get it done. I design and I build so I used the Lowe’s materials to create beautiful things. I made 10 tables on the show! It's all about materials and how can I use those materials. In my projects, I use a lot of marble and reclaimed wood. It all goes back to Bauhaus and creating a lifestyle.

What lessons would pass on to other designers?

Don’t ever second-guess yourself. It can be very damaging to you. Don’t follow the trend, set the trend. Follow your instincts, and don’t be discouraged by obstacles, embrace them and learn from your mistakes. I came into the show thinking I knew everything, but I didn’t! (Laughs) It’s a constant learning experience.

What are your favorite types of projects?

I like to go in from the ground up. I like to work with the architect and drive the process and use the architect as the tool to facilitate my vision.

I also work with my clients to collect art and furniture. I see my role as a curator, and quality versus quantity drives my design.

What do you think of the Chicago design scene? 

Chicago is going through a contemporary renaissance; it’s turning into New York and making its mark on design. The industrial area there is very favorable to artists and designers. It’s affordable and has grit and character in a way that inspires me. Williamsburg and Greenpoint are already overpriced. I left New York because I wanted to work for myself, which is a harder road to take, because you are the one paving the road. Chicago felt like a good home base. It’s known for emerging artists and designers, this was the city was where the skyscraper was born after all. That was part of my attraction to the city.

What's next? 

I am working on a hotel project right now in New York, which is very avant-garde. I have done restaurants but not hotels, so I’m very excited. I can’t say any more because I have signed a lot of NDAs, but it is a gorgeous project.

What effect has the show had on your career? 

It’s allowed me to expose my aesthetic to a larger audience. I feel like I am an ambassador for my group of colleagues. We didn’t have a platform and this gave us a national platform. Being on NBC prime time, having the opportunity on such a massive scale to show people that something else is out there, that people are looking for something out of the box and that it isn’t just about fluffy design. People don’t live in Victorian houses anymor. People want open floor plans and untraditional space. Maybe someone in Wisconsin will see this and think about how they live and open their mind about how they see design.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
Two toddlers, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016
Wooden Walkways
A home in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how factory-built housing can be as site sensitive as traditional construction.
May 24, 2016
15 icff 5
From Corian furniture to immersive installations, here are some of our favorite designs we saw at the 2016 shows.
May 24, 2016
A home and community celebrate natural remove in unison.
May 24, 2016
With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016
forest for the trees english prefab mobile home facade chesnut cladding
On the edge of a historic park in an English shire, a prefabricated home sets a new design standard.
May 23, 2016
tread lightly australia
A family home on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is built to blend in with its lakeside setting.
May 23, 2016
jardins party dining room hay chairs local wood floor
A pair of architects help a client carve out an oasis of calm amid São Paulo’s bustle.
May 23, 2016
hwm6zf 1
No matter where you're located or what time of the year it is, having a fireplace in your home is a treasure that’s continuously sought after. Besides the obvious benefits of keeping a fire going through the cold winter months, it can also be a cherished asset that provides an extra level of year-round comfort—not to mention how it can help define the layout of a space by acting as a sculptural element.
May 23, 2016
An office Crosby Studios designed for NGRS in Moscow
Crosby Studios just cares about the essentials.
May 22, 2016
cold sweat seattle floating sauna gocstudio
A cadre of designers let off steam after hours by building and sailing a seaworthy sauna.
May 22, 2016