Minneapolis-based furniture company Blu Dot has recently opened its first Chicago outpost. The company—founded by two architects and a sculptor—sells clean-lined contemporary domestic furniture online and in nine stores across the U.S., Mexico, and Australia. To match its design sensibilities, Blu Dot tapped Chicago-based John Ronan Architects to overhaul a decidedly mundane strip mall space in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. To differentiate the 7,500-square-foot structure from the row of franchise fast food joints it is connected to, Ronan wrapped the building in a facade of thin vertical aluminum tubes. The effect is a mass separated from its immediate surroundings.
The interior is also set apart from the strip mall aesthetic. A polished clear resin on the concrete floor shows the history of past tenants, while clean white walls and a black-painted exposed utility ceiling let the furniture be the focus of the space. “The challenge was to utterly transform what had been a nondescript diner into something unique and memorable,” John Ronan explained. “And to employ an economy of means doing it. Our strategy was to bleach out the existing structure, create new openings and enlarge existing ones, and layer on a new identity.”