Modernist architects, like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the early 20th Century, pioneered the notion that form should follow function; in the case of a home, the shape should primarily relate to the intended function or purpose on the inside—not the other way around.
Fast-forward more than 100 years to Michael Klein’s vision for the luxury niche he established five years ago. Michael Bennett Luxury (MBL), a division of Airoom Architects, Builders & Remodelers, focuses on unique, one-of-a-kind projects nationwide that require highly advanced design disciplines.
“After being in the design-build business for 35 years, I felt very underwhelmed by most of the luxury homes being built at high price points across the country,” says Klein, CEO of Airoom and MBL. “I felt that we could focus and carve out this piece of the market to deliver a much better turnkey luxury home without leading clients into so many overpriced poor decisions I’ve seen over the years.”
More and bigger is not necessarily better, especially when coupled with faux architecture that often feels more like the home is yelling. “They can be over the top, and they are not necessarily thought out in terms of what’s best for the client—ergonomically, functionally, or emotionally. I knew that the market was underserved, and I wanted to take luxury to the next level—in the purest sense.”
While the finished product is the ultimate goal, Klein says that the most important steps occur well before a home breaks ground—in the stages of site planning, conceptualization, design, and a focus on ergonomics and space. Using a select team with a concentration on personalization, fine details, materials transitions, and most importantly, elimination of tight spaces, an MBL project evolves over time through a process with more than 100 iterations on average to get it right.
“It’s a constant weekly refinement process as the team discovers the possibilities while eliminating the design flaws that are hiding in each unique design,” says Klein. “I start every day in search of perfection by asking, ‘Ok, what’s wrong with this picture?’”
“People rely on our ability to know more than they do, understand where the pitfalls are, where the hang-ups can be, when to say ‘yes,’ when to say ‘no,’ and when to insist that certain things have to happen. It’s our job at this level to point out the things clients don’t know, do the hard work for them, and bring them along. It’s a complete immersion process by visualizing myself inside each space.”
According to Klein, a home should be designed from the inside out, and he can always tell when it wasn’t done that way.
“Designing from the outside in almost always leads to mistakes,” he explains. “People often focus on what their house is going to look like from the outside, ‘its curb appeal,’ way too early.” Instead, the MBL team always starts by planning the inside and locating the direction of the sun.
“In the end, a real luxury outcome is all about the transitions of spaces and planes and sight lines from every angle,” Klein explains. “We must always be conscious of what one will see when they look left or right from different vantage points in each room. Is the space ergonomically and functionally correct for the potential people load?”
These are the questions that matter and should come first. An MBL home will introduce sight lines that have a subtle impact at every turn and include some understated drama, with all-day sun and ambient light throughout that create a mood and is ideal for displaying artwork.
“Our homes are built for entertainment lifestyles, where both the indoors and outdoors are important,” he explains. “We get much more footage by borrowing space from the outdoors.” An MBL home never wastes space by oversizing sleeping quarters while almost always oversizing doorways and hallways.
Spend some time with Michael Klein and you realize he is exceptionally astute and talented at what he does. “That’s because I’m an obsessive perfectionist who inherited and developed a really good eye,” he laughs. “But it can be a curse for my team when we’re on our 100th revision,” says Klein.
“True luxury living is for the select few. And while we respect the budget, the budget is not the primary driver of a Michael Bennett Luxury Project.”
Michael Bennett Luxury Projects is located at 6825 Lincoln Avenue in Lincolnwood. For more information, call 847-416-8698 or visit MBLuxe22.com.