In Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, Elsy Principal Cathy Loftus and her husband, Jim, have created a unique urban oasis.

Using an innovative mix of custom pieces and budget-friendly design elements, the couple’s favorite spot in the home has quickly become their “wine lounge.”

“This space is all about being able to entertain and enjoy space with our friends. We really wanted a space that when we’re hosting dinner parties, we can entertain our guests, our guests can sit down and enjoy themselves and still be a part of what’s going on,” Cathy says.

Their home is anchored by a stunning open staircase which spans three stories. The unique design focal point also created a unique design challenge.

Watch the video below to get a personal tour of Cathy’s space, including how she created volume and scale through the perfect light fixture.

Design Element: Custom Wine Rack

The nook under the stairs could have easily been a wasted space were it not for the heart of the room: a custom wine rack designed by Cathy and Jim and created by Workshop Denver.

By building the piece with the same steel found in the home’s magnificent staircase, the unit feels like a part of the architecture instead of a piece of furniture.

“Denver has a lot of resources now for custom pieces. Get online and Google what you’re looking for, you can find multiple vendors or manufacturers locally that can help with design and source the materials to build it for you,” Cathy recommends.

To break up the piece, Cathy incorporated open shelves to house photo frames and various other personal elements the couple has collected over their travels.

Design Element: Impactful Lighting

In a modern home with a dazzling three-story staircase opening, it was crucial to select lighting elements with the proper scale and volume.

Cathy’s tip: don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to a standard fixture.

“It was really important that the light fixture not only tie all three floors together, but that it was impactful enough in size and scale for the space,” she says.
With a phone call to, the online design retailer was able to get in touch with the manufacturer, who agreed to customize the drops into the longer lengths Cathy needed for the space.

“The light itself in each of the individual fixtures isn’t very big, but it’s the cluster of lights together that create the volume we needed,” she says. “That’s what I was looking for; something that was staggered, had up and downlighting and could be seen from each level, so it tied the design together on all of the floors.”

The key is to design for a room’s volume, not just a flat plane.

“Think of the room as a large box. What do you have that helps fill all of the layers of that box? Lighting is a great way to do that, because it comes from the ceiling and it can give you that variation in depth, so the room does not fall flat. Lighting can also allow you to add scale to the space, so it feels properly proportioned,” Cathy says.

Design Element: The Staple Piece

One of Cathy’s favorite design elements is furniture.

Her wine lounge is a mixture of economical accoutrements (from places like T.J. Maxx, Wayfair and Target), and investment pieces like a classic Johnathan Adler couch.

A staple piece can be easily adapted to changing creative tastes. Think of it like your ‘little black dress,’ Cathy explains.

Inexpensive accessories such as pillows can be swapped out easily to change the look and feel of a space on a low budget, and an investment piece like a designer couch provides the ideal canvas.

Cathy’s recommendation for any aspiring designers at home: don’t be afraid to try new things and be open to ideas beyond your first vision for a space.

“Find one piece that you love. Have fun with what you’re doing! Don’t be afraid to paint a wall a bold color: it’s paint. You can change it easily,” Cathy suggests. “Don’t get too fixated on what you have in your head as your design. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try some different things out; if you don’t like it, you can change it.”