Skip to Content

Love at First Sight for Burke Architectural Millwork

Burke Architectural Millwork (BAM) is a Detroit-based design & build company founded by emeritus professor Kelly Victor-Burke and her husband, cabinet maker Barry Burke. Their team includes Fabrication Specialist Logan Leinbach, the first in the U.S. to complete the Woodwork Manufacturing Specialist Apprenticeship Program, and Design Director Jenny O’Connor. Together they design and craft fine architectural millwork, and recently expanded their business with the dedicated residential brand Bespoke Closets and Organized Spaces. We spoke with them recently about the growth of their business and their discovery of Durasein.

Below Left: (Left) Jenny O’Connor, Design Director (Right) Kelly Victor-Burke, Co-Founder/Co-Owner Burke Architectural Millwork/Bespoke Closets & Organized Spaces

Below Right: Logan Leinbach, Woodwork Manufacturing Specialist

D.LAB
BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK
D.LAB

I’m so happy to spend time with you three and thank you for allowing us to discuss your business and your process. Let’s start by giving me a few words that describe your firm.

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Kelly: Passionate. Inquisitive. Innovative. We’re always asking what comes next? What is this product? How can we use it? With Logan’s engineering expertise, we don’t have any rules. So it is A-OK to be innovative. And collaborative.

D.LAB

How has the addition of Bespoke Cosets changed your business?

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Kelly: On our commercial side, which is architectural millwork, we have outside designers and architects who spec everything for us. And we love doing that. But early on, I got excited at the incredible variety of products in our industry that the designers we were working with probably had never heard about. Opening Bespoke Closets as a dedicated residential brand means that we’re in the driver’s seat. Now our architects and designers are coming to us and saying, hey, we’ve been in your studio. We’ve seen all these really cool new materials you’re using. Can you give us more information, and can we use this in a commercial setting?

D.LAB

Speaking of materials, how important is understanding a material when designing? 

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Jenny: From an interior design standpoint, your understanding of a material and what its properties are is absolutely crucial. We need to understand the durability, the cleanability, the warranties, and the maintenance so that we can ensure that not only is the material specification correct for the project, but it’s actually going to live out its useful life in the best possible way. Sure, you can come up with a design concept without a material specification, but no, you absolutely cannot fabricate, or specify, or install anything without truly understanding what that material is capable of.

Logan: Being able to design and fabricate also gives us a huge advantage because the designer can communicate with the fabrication team and choose the right materials from the start, and it streamlines fabrication and makes the process go a lot smoother.

Jenny: Another huge factor on projects is budget. If I am a designer and I like the way a certain material looks, but our fabrication team says you can use that material, but the labor to fabricate it is going to be twice as much as a different material? I want my fabrication team to like me. I love having those conversations so I can make sure I’m not making their day more difficult. If you’re specifying a material that requires twice as much labor to fabricate, you’re affecting the project timeline, and then your labor costs have sharply increased. So all of those things are really, really important factors.

D.LAB

So the next question would be, how does that differ across residential, commercial, or other uses?

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Jenny: From a designer standpoint, one of the first things I look at with a material is whether it’s rated for contract or residential use. Obviously, you can take contract materials and use them in a residential environment. But you don’t ever want to put a residential material in a commercial environment. It’s not going to stand up the way your end users want or expect it to. Really truly understanding what materials are rated for and their cleaning and maintenance is super important. The custodial department has one set of skills they might use for the entire building. It’s important you understand those cleaning codes so they can maintain things properly and things aren’t destroyed in the process.

D.LAB

So you need to know the materials in order to help your clients make informed decisions?

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Jenny: It all goes back to having strong relationships with our reps and vendors. It’s so important in this collaborative process to let the experts be experts in their area. I can’t be an expert on every single material and finish that’s out on the market, so we really do rely on our reps and vendors. And those good, comfortable relationships where we are all playing nicely together are so important because that’s where you get that synergy on a project.

Kelly: The first time that Logan and I ever saw Durasein, the representative came in and showed us Sun Kissed, and then he showed us Icy Grey. And I held it up and said, ‘I’m going to sell this for you.’ We were high-fiving each other–we just couldn’t wait. And we just spec’d Light Haze for another project.

D.LAB

You’ve mentioned a couple of Durasein’s colors, but beyond the way they look, why else you would specify Durasein for your projects?

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Jenny: There are obviously other solid surface products on the market. But the thing that is most notable about Durasein is that it is fresh and new. The colors and the patterns you have, no one else has them. They’re different. And as a designer, some of those other solid surface materials have been seen everywhere, but one of our main goals is to show people things that they’ve never seen anywhere else. That’s what gives us our edge. To have that palette of colors and textures and patterns to choose from that’s fresh and new and on trend makes it exponentially easier to sell. Plus, it’s pretty, and I’m a designer and l like pretty things!

D.LAB

What’s your experience fabricating with Durasein?

 

Countertop: Durasein Icy Grey

icygreyburke

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Logan: It cuts really nice and clean, as opposed to other solid surface materials that we’ve used it. There isn’t much to do after you take it off the CNC. There isn’t much sanding, so it helps us to shorten the time of fabrication. There’s less handling, and that has a domino effect too, right? It shortens your lead time and shrinks the overall cost.

Kelly: When we were building our design studio and the countertop behind us, that was the first time we used your product. We had to geek out and look in the window of the CNC. And the fact that Logan said this was really straightforward and easy to fabricate, that’s a big thumbs up.

D.LAB

So, you chose Durasein for your own space, but why did you want to introduce it to your customer base?

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Kelly: We can give our clients this exceptional material, and we know it’s going to stand up and we’re not going to be called for a failure of a project down the road. As well, it’s going to allow us to achieve a higher profit margin because, unlike some other materials, we can fabricate it in-house. It also allows us to have exponentially more control over what the project looks like, with fewer trips to site, and the end result is much better.

D.LAB

That’s great to hear. Do you have any other case studies to share?

BURKE ARCHITECTURAL MILLWORK

Kelly: We were able to introduce Durasein to one of our favorite architects and designers, Nicholas Giammarco, founder and principal of Studio H2G, and he put Icy Grey in his own kitchen. Here’s somebody who is probably one of the most respected designers in luxury retail internationally, and every single one of his relatives who attended their Thanksgiving dinner said it’s beautiful. So that made my heart feel really well, right?

We have another new project where we are doing tables that had been spec’d as quartz, and we said we can save you money by using Light Haze. And then we are specifying it for a break room kitchen for a commercial space.

Jenny: I think it’s a huge testament to Durasein. When our clients have specifications for natural stone or quartz, or very pricy products, we say, look at Durasein as an alternative. Not only can we feel comfortable putting it in a residential environment, but we also feel very comfortable putting that exact same product in a commercial environment. And we know it’s going to hold up the way we need it to and the way our end users expect it to. We’re scattering Durasein like it’s confetti all over the metro Detroit area!

Hungry for more?
Check out the

Back to top

Hi there! Select your region and language: