Sunbrella Celebrates ‘Homecoming’

The architects tried to keep as much of the original structure and architectural features as they could, while making it a thoroughly modern and inspiring facility.

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Sunbrella, a fabric brand manufactured and marketed by North Carolina’s Glen Raven Inc., is celebrating its move into its “new” headquarters, which is actually a homecoming of sorts.

The company recently moved into the newly renovated plant where Glen Raven Inc. first operated 118 years ago. The mill in Burlington was the building where Glen Raven wove the first yard of Sunbrella fabric in 1961.

In order to renovate the historic building, Glen Raven contracted with New York City-based global architectural firm TsAO & McKOWN.

Sunbrella tells the story in the press release it put out about the new (old) headquarters:

“The new interiors of the 19th-century building blend the storied textile history of parent company Glen Raven and its founders, the Gant family, with modern architecture, designed by the team of architects at New York City-based TsAO & McKOWN, to provide Sunbrella’s passionate employees and business partners with an inspiring place to create.

“The original 1901 building was the first production facility wholly owned and built by Glen Raven. Over the years, spinning, weaving and finishing moved to newer state-of-the-art Glen Raven facilities, positioning the original space for future possibilities.

“Growth continued, and by late 2014, leadership began to envision what was next for Sunbrella’s corporate office space. Then-CEO Allen E. Gant Jr. and chief operating officer Leib Oehmig-who assumed the post of CEO when Gant Jr. retired and became chairman at Glen Raven Inc. in 2017-decided to stay on the current campus and celebrate the history and legacy of the brand. Thus, the idea for a new HQ was born.” 

“‘We needed more space, but, even more importantly, we needed a place for Sunbrella to call home,’ says Glen Raven custom fabrics director of outdoor market, Allen Gant III, who led a six-person project team from Glen Raven for the renovation. ‘It was a great time in the Sunbrella growth life cycle to provide the brand with its own space, and there was no better place to call home than its birthplace.'”

The design is meant to pay homage to the past while keeping the company’s direction moving firmly toward the future. Gant Jr. adds, “The world is constantly changing, and if a company does not have the capacity to change along with it, it won’t be successful in the future. We have to have the ability to innovate. This building encourages us to do that.”

Architectural details in the newly designed space include 118-year-old pinewood floor planks embedded with metal ring travelers dating back to the early years of production, exposed structural beams and original brickwork. TsAO & McKOWN blended these historical elements with modern features such as a glass curtain wall that floods the front of the building with natural light, an on-site coffee shop and a vertical garden that extends between the building’s two floors. Obviously, Sunbrella fabrics play a big part in the décor.

“Our approach is to always ask the questions ‘why’ and ‘how’,” says Calvin Tsao, partner at TsAO & McKOWN. “Aside from the contextual-the location, the weather, the building’s relationship to its surroundings-we try to understand as much as we can about the space by looking back at the company’s heritage and looking forward by having conversations with the people who will be using it for years to come.”

The building will be home to the company’s 120 associates-some of who are based off-site-and will serve as a showcase to the company’s customers and shareholders who visit, the company says.


Tony Kindelspire

Tony Kindelspire is the digital content editor for RV PRO magazine. He was the former digital content editor of Sign & Digital Graphics & WRAPS magazines.

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