By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Sep 21, 2008 at 5:31 AM

Timothy J Kitchen & Bath is on the move from its original Brookfield location at 18900 W. Bluemound Rd. to 225 S. 2nd St. in the Fifth Ward.

Co-owners Tim Benkowski and Kent McKelvey agree that while the move was functional -- at 3,500 sq. ft., the new showroom is much larger than the previous one -- it was also a matter of personal taste. A sampling of their creative design aesthetic easily demonstrates the historic stretch of cream city brick buildings and warehouses just south of the Third Ward as better environmental fit for the artists.

"The Fifth Ward is considered to have a more artsy, eclectic and relaxed atmosphere than a traditional downtown city locale," says Benkowski. "It's one of the big reasons we chose this spot. It's not the typical gaudy retail location with a massive storefront and bright lights that appeals to an intense shopper or impulse buyer. Ours is a more relaxed ambience in which customers can take their time and make well-informed decisions about the products and services we offer."

Timothy J, which will open in early '09, is strictly a design firm, not a remodeling or contracting company, which allows Benkowski and McKelvey to do what they do best: Help you create a distinctive, stylish living space and then advise you how to make it happen.

But unlike many showrooms, Timothy J isn't a bombardment of every design element under the sun. It's a careful exhibition of functional and fashionable products from Wood-Mode and Brookhaven that customers are welcome to touch, test and try. The showroom's centerpiece is a full, functional demonstration kitchen, surrounded by various vignette displays, such as the Italian living room, the Asian bathroom and "the home pub."

"By carrying Wood-Mode and Brookhaven cabinetry exclusively, we can focus on maintaining a higher level of design excellence without cluttering up our showroom with too many different product lines," McKelvey says.

Benkowski adds, "We're going to resist the temptation to use the showroom as a monument to how much money could potentially be spent to impress somebody. What we want to do is leave an impression. The customer might not necessarily see what they want in one of our physical displays, so that's our challenge."

As a Certified Master Kitchen Designer, the highest level of design excellence in the industry, he's up to it. Only 120 Masters exist in country, and Benkowski reigns alone in Wisconsin. He teamed up with McKelvey, who worked in the construction industry for 40 years and interior design for close to 20, last year to create the Timothy J firm.

Timothy J is open weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”