From the ground up
Quality distinguishes 5253 Design Collective

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Staff

Feb. 27, 2018

Cedarburg resident Jake Knox has been involved in the design of the interiors of restaurants and businesses throughout the Milwaukee area.
Submitted photo

GRAFTON — Jake Knox, owner of Lucky Star Studios and the newly formed 5253 Design Collective, is not shy to admit it all started with a single table he built in his garage.

“I had bartered for a door from a shop in Cedarburg and turned it into a table,” he said. “I took it back and it sold the next day. I kept making them and they kept selling them. It was so much fun.”

Knox, a Cedarburg resident, already had an established career in corporate home improvement sales for a nationwide company and at one time had his own construction business, but that serendipitous whim started him down a different path. He would go on to start a new business, Lucky Star Workshop, which quickly became known for the work it did, especially in restaurant and business interiors.

“The turning point was when we did Maxie’s and Blue’s Egg,” said Knox of his studio’s work in the two restaurants in Milwaukee.

Work followed in a number of restaurants, including Story Hill BKC, Bel Air Cantina locations and closer to home, he did the interior of Out & Out and tweaked the Stilt House space in Cedarburg.

But as Knox was going from project to project, he also was starting to get to know and rely on a growing group of local artisans.

“We started sourcing things from a welding fabricator and from a commercial upholsterer,” he said. “And a local artist who paints murals for us.”

That local artist is Julie Osmus of Cedarburg, who transformed a photo Knox took of boats on a beach in Puerto Rico into a 16-foot mural for his studio.

It was at that point where the business evolved into 5253 Design Collective. His original Lucky Star Workshop remains a part of the collective and primarily focuses on custom-built furniture, and 5253 Design Collective became a full-fledged creative co-op in December 2017, doing work for commercial and private clients.

Essentially, Knox has built a large toolbox that design and construction professionals can draw from for their projects. Instead of actual tools, it’s the place to tap into the craft and creativity of those local artisans.

The work continues to include restaurant and commercial build outs, such as Cedarburg’s new Brandywine and Toast, the second restaurant for Stilt House owner Gordon Goggin which is slated to open in Walker’s Point. But 5253 Design Collective also provides custom residential furniture and other specialty work and even artwork for private clients.

While the artisans have their own businesses and workspaces, the hub of the collective is located in Knox’s 5,000-square-foot design and build studio and workspace, which is located in the circa 1865 woolen mill along the Milwaukee River.

“We are now able to better collaborate with a number of industry professionals – interior designers, developers, architects,” he said. “It’s really been amazing to see how this business has grown and brought people together.”

Which leads to one of his favorite things to do when completing a project, specifically a restaurant or other commercial space. He loves to visit the finished work, but prefers to sit in a corner and not tell people he did it.

“I much prefer to watch their expressions as they come in, enjoy the work and interact with the space itself,” he said. “That’s one of the best parts of all of this.”