- Project Architect:Brian Lee
- Architecture Project Team, Interior Design Project Team:Brian Lee, Jaime Velez, Jeremy Bouck, Daniel Bell, Dennis Milam, Rebecca Delaney, Michelle Mirrielees, Dickson Whitney III
- Creative Consultant To Optimo:Richard F. Tomlinson II
- Project And Process Management:Dave Crowell / Cotter Consulting
- Project And Design Assistance:James Gorski / Bureau of Architecture and Design
- Country:United States
Text description provided by the architects. For more than 25 years, Optimo has developed a cult following as a leading maker of handcrafted hats for a unique, diverse, and devoted global clientele. Located in Beverly, Illinois, an historic neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, Optimo’s recently completed headquarters consolidates its design, operations, and production spaces inside a 100-year-old decommissioned firehouse. To create a space reflective of Optimo’s ethos of craftsmanship, authenticity, and timeless luxury, the company engaged SOM—a firm which shares the same values—to develop a scheme befitting of a hat maker known for its rigorous attention to detail.
Expressed as a contemporary workshop with an industrial aesthetic, the design draws from a palette of refined, understated materials, including blackened steel, walnut, and cork. SOM worked with Optimo to create an efficient and collaborative work flow, more than doubling Optimo’s production capacity and accommodating future expansion. “Our intention was to create an exceptional hat factory to produce an exceptional product,” says Optimo owner Graham Thompson. “Collaborating with SOM was key in reimagining this space—we both approach design with integrity and purpose.”
The space is as customized as the hats themselves: elegant steel casings frame task and ambient lighting above workstations; custom floor-to-ceiling shelving houses unique hat forms and molds; tailor-made rolling racks organize and mobilize hats for effortless access on the factory floor; modern and antique machinery were organized and finished uniformly in matte black; and restored glazed-brick walls wrap the daylit double-height space. Using early to mid-20th century techniques, each Optimo hat is formed and finished with materials like straw, fine furs, and rare ribbons to provide the superior product that defines the brand.