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Project Tour: Farmer's Fridge HQ

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

Farmer's Fridge open office with custom IKEA pendant chandelier in Near West Side, Chicago | Kuchar
Open Office

When Farmer's Fridge reached out to us to design their headquarters, we were excited to hear they were only a few blocks away from our own office in West Town! Farmer's Fridge makes packaged healthy meal options available in vending machines across Chicago, as well as at their space in Revival Food Hall downtown. Their company was expanding rapidly and they needed a low-cost, high-impact, adaptable office that would flex and grow with their team. We worked with the owner, Luke Saunders, to develop a visual language using their farm-to-urban brand identity, creating a space that works for their changing needs and reflects their key values.

As a brand, Farmer's Fridge values making fresh, healthy food accessible & connecting rural farms to urban residents.

Material palette for Farmer's Fridge startup office in Near West Side, Chicago | Kuchar
Project Palette

We took the brand concept and created a project palette that spoke to their farm-to-city ethos using their key brand colors, as well as contrasting soft and gritty design elements to speak to their story. Plush velvets and nubby textures for upholstered pieces pair with wood accents for a cozy farmhouse feel. To keep costs low, we used Semihandmade fronts on IKEA cabinets in both the employee lounge and test kitchen.

Above are the second and third floor spaces before construction. We love its details and amazing natural light, not to mention the third floor view of the downtown skyline!

The industrial shell of this space at Damen and Fulton was the perfect fit for their company aesthetically, with exposed brick and raw metal columns.

Farmer's Fridge office entry with corrugated metal and neon in Near West Side, Chicago | Kuchar
Second Floor Entry

We chose to retain much of the building's existing character, leaving them untouched in some areas and adding just a fresh coat of paint in others. They planned to take over the second and third floors of the building. Visitors and employees enter through the second floor lounge and kitchen; this level also hosts formal conference rooms and a commercial-ready test kitchen for their chefs. To work with the building architecture, we used elements at the entry like neon signage (coordinated with @rightwaysigns), corrugated metal, and farmhouse lights to speak to the brand from the moment you enter the space.

Farmer's Fridge office employee lounge in Near West Side, Chicago | Kuchar
Employee Lounge

On the second floor, the raw, aged brick paired nicely with the soft textures and bright colors of the employee lounge.

We brought in eclectic furniture and farmhouse-style pendants to speak to the "farm" side of the brand narrative.

This created a cozy atmosphere for lunch breaks or casual meetings. The hallway leading to the test kitchen and stairway is lined with conference rooms, where collaboration happens on tables made from stainless steel kitchen prep tables.

Farmer's Fridge test kitchen in West Town, Chicago | Kuchar
Test Kitchen

The test kitchen was designed with finishes like wood cabinet fronts and a hex tile backsplash to look like a residential kitchen, but with all of the equipment their professional chefs would need. Facing the test kitchen are picnic tables and cafe-style seating, perfect for demonstrations.

Branded green feature stair with chain link enclosure for Farmer's Fridge startup office in Near West Side, Chicago | Kuchar
Feature Stair

One major highlight of the office is the full-height chain link enclosure and stair painted Farmer's Fridge green.

This stair connects the public spaces of the office with the open workspace above. We loved this solution as an impactful and cost-effective move to really drive home the design - the gritty, urban chain link pairs nicely with the bright green of their brand identity. We sought out a local artist, @dontfretart, to add some street-style art to the rear corridor, speaking to the neighborhood and surrounding building facades.

After walking up the stair you are greeted by a bright, open office that continues the brand story and provides a variety of places for employees to work and collaborate.

Our favorite part is the ultimate IKEA hack - a 25 pendant chandelier that spans over eight feet in diameter!

We love the basketweave texture as a natural element in the space to contrast the exposed ceiling overhead. Since the ceilings are so high, we had an opportunity to make a grand impact. We also brought life to the office by adding a band of copper-brown paint to the upper half of the exposed brick; this keeps the area feeling open while helping to ground the eye in such a high space. A column of farmhouse-style sconces climb between windows, adding warm light.

As a company Farmer's Fridge values community and collaboration within their team. We reflected this in the open office plan, punctuating the workspace with lounge areas using similar furniture to the second floor employee lounge.

These areas, highlighted by the feature lighting and rug accent rugs, give employees space to break up their day or hold quick meetings. Underneath the mezzanine are a series of small phone rooms clad in the same corrugated metal as the entry, while the railing above is composed of the same Farmer's Fridge green chain link as the feature stair. Because we weren't able to relocate this drainage pipe in the middle of an open lounge area, we decided to showcase it instead in the same bright green from the company's branding.

Mezzanine conference room in Farmer's Fridge open office in Near West Side, Chicago | Kuchar
Mezzanine Conference Room

The mezzanine hosts conference rooms varying in size, from small breakout spaces to a large boardroom. Sizable windows overlook the open office below and let light in from the original windows in the north, east, and south facades. We kept furnishings in these rooms simple to allow to easy adaptation while the company grows.

We love working with startups like Farmer's Fridge - as a small business ourselves, we appreciate the creative spirit and relish finding affordable, adaptable solutions that work with their changing needs.

Bringing a space to life that tells the brand story and energizes employees is so rewarding for us, plus we loved helping welcome them into our neighborhood. We are so glad we were able to bring the urban farmhouse concept to life in their space. Check Farmer's Fridge out in vending machines across Chicago and other major cities, at Revival Food Hall, and for your healthy delivery needs!

Farmer's Fridge startup office employee lounge in Near West Side, Chicago | Kuchar
Employee Lounge

Project: Farmer's Fridge Headquarters

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Completion: 2020

Photography: Christopher Barrett Photography


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