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Old Beverly fire station becomes hat maker’s elegant headquarters

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SOM designed Optimo’s new South Side headquarters

Tom Rossiter

A former fire station in Beverly was redesigned into a sharp, stylish factory and headquarters for bespoke hatmaker, Optimo.

After 25 years, Optimo’s owner Graham Thompson, needed to expand and recruited architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to create a new space in a 100-year-old decommissioned firehouse at 1700 W. 95th Street. The 7,700-square-foot, two-story building houses a design team, operations, and production.

Tom Rossiter
Tom Rossiter

The new headquarters is highly customized for the small team, which can spend up to six weeks crafting one hat. Throughout the workspace you’ll see elegant 12-foot open steel shelves displaying handmade hats which range from $395 to $1,000. The machinery for trimming, shaping, and steaming is beautiful too and finished in matte black. Elements of glazed brick, blackened steel, walnut, and cork create an earthy but luxurious feel.

On the second floor, the new design embraces the building’s history as a fire station by inserting porthole windows in the floor where firepoles had existed. A 10-foot circular light fixture centers the room which is decorated with collections of custom tools and historic hats.

Off to the side, there is a lounge area with leather sofas, brass light fixtures, and more hats on display. The second floor can also double as an event space with a full kitchen and staging area where the original firehouse showers once stood.

The project was the smallest factory ever designed by SOM, said Brian Lee, a design partner at the firm. “We are proud to apply a high level of thoughtfulness and design rigor to this small project, connecting to a rich history of craftsmanship in South Chicago,” he said.

Tom Rossiter
Tom Rossiter
Tom Rossiter
Tom Rossiter
Tom Rossiter
Tom Rossiter
Tom Rossiter