Farmer’s Fridge Offices – Chicago

  • Client Farmer's Fridge,
  • size 15,000 sqft
  • Year 2019
  • Location Chicago, Illinois, United States,
  • Industry Food / Beverage,
  • Kuchar was trusted with the design of the Farmer’s Fridge offices, a self-serve healthy food service, located in Chicago, Illinois.

    Farmer’s Fridge is a Chicago based startup which brings fresh salads and sandwiches to vending machines around the Midwest and New York City areas. Their headquarters, located in Chicago’s industrial Kinzie Corridor, is a 14,000 square foot space that spans two floors with a mezzanine. The existing brick building is over 100 years old and provides 30 foot ceilings to Farmer’s Fridge’s top floor.

    Our design concept for the space brings the Farmer’s Fridge story of “farm-to-city” to life, while being mindful of staying within a startup budget. We emphasized materiality that represents both rural and city dwellings such as corrugated metal, neon lights, a mix of painted and exposed brick, and chain-link fence. We left much of the brick that existed in the industrial building exposed to give it that “city” feel. In some areas, we left it as-is for a more urban feel and in others we painted it soft tones for a “farmhouse” feel. We also used stock corrugated metal as wall paneling throughout the entry and the open office to give a farm or rural feel. In the entry, we juxtaposed the corrugated metal with an urban logo installation: mixed media paint and neon signage.

    Our biggest design challenge was creating a dynamic office while working within a startup budget. Farmer’s Fridge was just five years into business when we started working with them. They wanted a cool office for their staff, but didn’t want to spend too much of their recent investor funding. Within that budget was a need for two kitchens: one for employees and one for product development. It also included a connecting stair, 30 foot ceilings, maximized conference room spaces and an ever changing staff population. The kitchen space was the most important, and most expensive, as it is the heart of their business. The connecting stair is the conduit between the social spaces (kitchen, lounge and meeting rooms) and the open office floor. They wanted it to be a stair that people chose to use instead of the elevator. The 30 foot ceilings, although incredible to have, presented a challenge in that almost anything we would design in that volume would likely be costly. Our team needed to balance all of these factors with their desire to have a very cool office that people wanted to come to each day.

    In the open office, our solution to emphasizing the 30 foot ceilings was to use an inexpensive Ikea light fixture in a 25-fixture installation giving it a larger chandelier look that you might find in a modern farmhouse. We used a simple paint transition on the walls of white and warm tones to add to the farmhouse vibe.

    For the connecting stair, we designed a chain-link fence enclosure and painted it the bold brand color. It was an effective alternative (and a fraction of the cost) to the standard metal-mesh guard rail and added to the “city” concept.
    The design details of the chain-link fence and Ikea light chandelier fit my design philosophy of “no rules” perfectly. Both installations broke the typical rules of what a stair enclosure or grand chandelier look like.

    Design: Kuchar
    Design Team: Sarah Kuchar, Heidi Johnson, Emily Osborne
    Photography: Christopher Barrett