LEED Founding Principal
Chicago, Illinois | Saugatuck, Michigan
There is power in architecture. It is rooted in its innate ability to reflect connections between the human experience and the built landscape, as well as its surrounding environment. It is in this intentional and deft combination of art and science that design can tell a compelling story, and for Kevin Toukoumidis, AIA, LEED, founding principal at dSPACE Studio Ltd. in Chicago, Illinois, it is a tool to connect clients with their home.
“I think architecture is powerful. It can change lives and impact your experiences and how you feel. It is not just about steel and glass—it’s about creating experiences and memories,” Toukoumidis said. “We have the responsibility to create architecture that connects deeply with our clients and hopefully changes and improves their lives.”
Drawn to the field from an early age, Toukoumidis has honed his long-held passion for design and residential architecture throughout the years into an award-winning, collaborative practice with a client-driven approach at its core and an intention to integrative sustainable technologies and strategies. Established in 2007 and headquartered in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, dSPACE Studio has developed a portfolio of striking new construction and renovation work in both the residential and small commercial markets where form and function evolve from an exploration of client needs, budget, location, and context.
“dSPACE is a collaborative studio. One of the goals of the firm when we started out—and we still are focused on it—was sustainable, green design and that has become inherent in what we do,” Toukoumidis said. “Client service is everything for us, and having an organized process that is both detailed and fun. We live and breathe architecture, and we craft experiences where a client can understand their house before we start construction.”
It is a process that not only comprises visuals like 3D modeling and virtual reality, but also leveraging their studio space as a laboratory where curated vignettes serve as a material, design, and palette library for clients to explore. Toukoumidis noted the studio is a material showroom featuring different elements like lighting design details, custom built-ins, bespoke bathrooms, tile, wood floors, and innovative exterior cladding.
“Our studio environment inspires and helps our clients understand every opportunity for their house. These are ultra-custom homes—we want every house to be special and tailored to that client,” Toukoumidis said.
“We do an in-depth collaboration with our clients to make these houses everything they need to be. It is not about excess—it is about right-sizing the design and maximizing value so we can build high-quality homes and also hit the budgets our clients want to spend,” Toukoumidis added.
From contemporary office interiors, sculptural community installations, and rooftop yards and gardens, to midcentury home renovations and bold, planar residential builds, dSPACE Studio’s portfolio reflects an intention to innovation, landscape, and architectural interior details. For example, Toukoumidis said the team is always pursuing new materials—for durability and for beauty—and challenging themselves whether in style or location as the eight-architect-studio looks to the shores of Lake Michigan, mountains of Colorado, and international beaches of Costa Rica with its recent work.
“City work is where we started, and we love the urban projects. But to spread your wings on a beautiful piece of land is invigorating for us and something we embrace,” Toukoumidis said.
“Our houses tell a story about the client, and we believe in a strong connection to the outdoors, which is important to good health. There is an inherent quality to our work—a house that should be calming and restorative. As architects, we combine art and science—it’s the two parts of the brain working together. There is this constant, thriving energy in our studio that you can feel,” Toukoumidis added.
Inspired by the challenge each day brings, Toukoumidis noted the firm’s focus on architecture, interior architecture, and landscape—and the outdoor living element it brings to projects—results in simple, cohesive design that can change people’s lives.
“If we connect deeply with our clients and change their lives through design, that’s rewarding. We have new challenges every day, yet we still have this high level of creativity that keeps our spark going day-in and day-out,” Toukoumidis said. “Every project is one-of-a-kind. It is a privilege that we get to do this. I don’t take anything for granted. Our clients become friends.”
For Toukoumidis, who has led the dynamic team at dSPACE Studio for more than a decade after working in firms in other cities such as San Francisco, Cleveland, and Boston, residential architecture has not only defined his award-winning career, it also shaped his formative years and sparked his interest in design from a young age.
“My mother traveled the world, because she was in the [United States] government’s foreign service. I lived in multiple homes around the world, and every time we moved, we would go house hunting. As a result, I became interested in architecture and design,” Toukoumidis said. “It’s funny, it wasn’t until about eight-years-ago I went to one of my childhood homes in Ottawa, Ontario, and realized there were many elements of that home that influenced my design work today, from roof decks to floating stairs and lofted spaces, to oversized glass openings with indoor-outdoor living and beautiful natural light.”
“Engineering resilience is not just a buzzword —
it is reality for us and what we do.”
—Kevin Toukoumidis, AIA, LEED
From a summer architecture program in junior high to drafting and art classes in high school, Toukoumidis went on to study engineering and architectural history at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania before earning a Master of Architecture from Syracuse University in New York. Since then, he has become a member of the American Institute of Architects and became LEED accredited. He then followed his entrepreneurial spirit.
“I was fortunate to be exposed to architecture by my mother who inspired me to pursue my dream. I came back to the Midwest, where I have family, and settled in Chicago. I worked for a couple of great firms that taught me about the practice of architecture, but my passion was to be an entrepreneur like my father and start my own business,” Toukoumidis said.
“I always knew I would own and create a firm. Now I’m doing what I love. When someone asks me what my favorite project is, I always say it is the next one. Every project is exciting,” Toukoumidis added.
While the industry continues to adapt to the changing needs of clients and in response to environmental and world affairs, Toukoumidis noted one of the challenges—and opportunities—facing the profession is designing flexible homes that can evolve as people do. Toukoumidis aims to design timeless and enduring homes that maximize efficiency and adapt to future needs.
“We have learned to design homes that are more efficient than we had ever imagined in the past. There are innovative ways to design a house that can handle the harsh weather associated with global warming and the uncertainty of climate change,” Toukoumidis said. “Engineering resilience is not just a buzzword—it is reality for us and what we do.”
As printed in Great Lakes By Design: Architectonics, Volume 4, issue 6
Also see dspacestudio.com