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The edge of design
Landscapers go vertical in designing an expansive penthouse balcony


August 2011


The Edge condos in Milwaukee is the setting for the 2011 M Magazine Designer’s Challenge. We paired three of Milwaukee’s top landscaping firms with a few of our favorite furniture places to create an urban lounge on the balcony of the sixth-floor penthouse at The Edge. Their inspired designs up the cool factor on city living and might just motivate you to create your own outdoor paradise, whether you’re living in a high rise or in the ’burbs.

Urban Garden
Landscape Design by Flagstone Landscaping
Furniture by Design Within Reach

Always inspired by the architecture of the project he is working on, Flagstone’s Peter Kudlata collaborated with Kristin Krantz of Design Within Reach to create this urban garden. "I react from the building and work outward," Kudlata says of his design style.


Orange accents in the furnishings and accessories and the purples and oranges in the organic materials add punches of color and a modern vibe. "We definitely wanted it to be a modern, fun and lively space," Krantz says. "Since the patio is concrete and steel, we wanted to warm it up and soften it with woods and dark wicker, but still keep it really modern and clean."

Kudlata uses the technique of creating outdoor rooms in this design and frames them with the container plantings. "I like my spaces more tailored, not overgrown or real organic." He says the garden at MoMA in New York City and Paley Park in Soho are sources of inspiration in his landscape architecture.

The use of different textures and materials from pieces from several Design Within Reach collections adds dimension to the space. "I think it shows everything doesn’t have to be super matchy," Krantz says. "You can pull a look together with a few key pieces and mix and match them to suit your style."

Flowers were provided by Bayside Garden Center.

Artistic Expressionism
Landscape Design by David J. Frank Landscape Contracting
Furniture by Steinhafels

A sculpture by Milwaukee artist Guido Brink is set against a green wall of arborvitae in the terrace design by David J. Frank Landscape. The trees soften the hard architectural lines of the building and the aluminum totem complements the contemporary gray metal finishes of the balcony.

Landscape designer Jane Frank directed the design, which is highlighted by colorful flowers and unique art elements. "Why not have fun and make your outdoor space a reflection of your style?" Frank says.

The balcony is divided into three distinct zones — a seating area, dining area and bar — all of which are designed for entertaining and relaxing. "The seating area is comfortable for entertaining, reading or (enjoying) a luxury afternoon nap in the sun," Frank says. "The sectional pieces can be moved and rearranged as needed."

The bar, a rustic multipurpose console, is convenient in its location near the kitchen. Whimsical folk art mermaids by Milwaukee photographer and art aficionado Mark Gubin hang above the bar and tie the balcony to the river below. "Using art in your garden makes going outside more enjoyable, but it also provides interesting views from inside the house, especially when you’re stuck indoors," Frank says. "Art can complement your shrubs and flowers in a variety of ways, including adding texture, color, motion, sound and light."

Pots are filled with colorful flowers that can easily be changed out for winter greens and holiday accents as the seasons change.

Room to Relax
Landscape Design by La Rosa Landscape Co.
Furniture by Patio Place

In tackling the design of the 900 square feet of outdoor living space at The Edge, La Rosa landscape architect Aaron Schlines focused on developing activity zones while maintaining a unity throughout the space.

"What really struck me was the size and the linear feel of the space," Schlines says. "I started to think of the activities that can take place in that size space and how to cohesively section off that space to create different environments."

A composite wood decking brings warmth into the urban setting but does not compete with the building’s architecture. "We also have some warm wood tones with the furniture, but the furniture also has more of a modernist feel to it," Schlines says.

It’s also very user-friendly, says La Rosa owner Mike La Rosa. "With the outdoor grill island right off the kitchen, it’s very functional to be able to grill out even if the weather isn’t the greatest to sit outside."

The terrace design features the grill area, an outdoor family room and a dining space. There is also room for a sun deck on the 70-foot-long balcony. The stainless steel grill is housed in a La Rosa custom-made unit made of cedar and ipe wood and topped with granite, which gives it a permanence in the space. "The outdoor living room is just a very relaxing area where you want to read a book or socialize with friends or family," Schlines says.

He describes the overall feel of the space as modern, energetic and usable.

Flowers were provided by Frenz Market and Garden Center.

About The Edge
1902 N. Commerce St., Milwaukee

In the residential enclave along North Commerce Street in Milwaukee’s up and coming River North neighborhood, The Edge condos is in the heart of the area’s urban renaissance. The modern design by Chicago’s Built-Form architects flows with scenes of joggers and kayakers on the Milwaukee River and Riverwalk, bicyclists and dog walkers zigzagging their way through the neighboring urban park. The shadows, steel and concrete of the Holton Street Viaduct lend a grittiness to the changing neighborhood as does the bustle of the nearby Lakefront Brewery and the vacant land that holds the promise of future gentrification. "It’s more of a residential area," says Jean Stefaniak of The Stefaniak Group. "It’s not on top of a bar or restaurant, but restaurants, entertainment and other activities are all within walking distance."


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