Barneys New York Chelsea Passage

Lofty Living
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Posted January 8, 2005
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Barney's New York is always on the radar as a prime place to find a pair of Manolo Blahniks or the latest, greatest handbag. But the high-end retailer also has an elegant, fashionable housewares and accessories department, called Chelsea Passage. Barneys wanted to make sure its flagship was a destination for home furnishings, as well.

Originally located on the second floor of the Madison Avenue store, Chelsea Passage - which focuses on bridal registry, giftware, stationery, housewares, furniture and electronics - was relocated to the 9th floor, adjacent to the store's restaurant, Fred's at Barneys New York. This allowed the important department to have a larger space and room for expansion.

TPG Architecture (New York) worked closely with the store's in-house design team to recreate the new department.

"Chelsea Passage wasn't on an optimal floor," says TPG design director Alec Zaballero, "because the lower levels are more clothing-driven. The product line had also evolved since the original design. Home furnishings had become such an important offering, so Barneys made a strategic decision to emphasize this department."

The space itself resembles a stylized version of an upscale New York City terrace apartment. A wrought iron gate serves as the entrance, welcoming customers into the area.

"This courtyard gate shuts off the Chelsea Passage at night because the restaurant is open later than the rest of the store," says Zaballero. "So not only did we use a gate, but also a pebble courtyard statement, as if you're entering an apartment."

Inside, the sub-departments reflect different rooms within a loft apartment: Casual tableware is offered in a casual dining room; formal dinnerware is displayed in a formal dining room; stationery and gifts is meant to be the study; and so on. In fact, Chelsea Passage even has amazing views into Central Park, much like a loft apartment might.

The core of Chelsea Passage is tableware, which is divided into casual and formal/bridal settings. Instead of displaying formal tableware on straight shelves, designers created a curved "chip wall" to make the dishes visually pop.

"Brushed nickel 'chips' embedded directly into the curved wall create a presentation of cupped hands for displaying tableware," says Zaballero. "These chips work with the shape of the merchandise and are visually exciting."

Much like the "chips," the fixtures designed for Chelsea Passage are one-of-a-kind, with materials including teak veneer, blackened steel, oak, felt, concrete, Venetian plaster, sycamore, nickel-plated steel and rosewood features.

"We took the whole idea of living an elegant lifestyle in a very hectic, modern age and customized each area so that it highlighted the merchandise," says Zaballero. "We designed fixtures around the physical needs of each product category, then used materials so the merchandise would stand out."

Displayed on a curving white wall, an assortment of decorative art glass glows via internally lit shelving. In the linens area, cashmere throws offer a striking contrast to the soft, neutral travertine countertops and shelving. An ornate antique bronze flower fixture is a scent nook for candles and potpourri.

"As you move through the space, there's a natural seduction process drawing you farther in," says Zaballero. "The challenge was to display ingenuity and think outside the box. Barneys' sensibility and motto - taste, luxury and humor - are evoked throughout the space as well as in the products."

Client: Barneys New York, New York
David New, executive vp, creative services
Tracy Edwards, vp, Chelsea Passage

Design/Architect: TPG Architecture, New York
Vincent Iacobellis, principal
Michael Hayes, principal
Alec Zaballero, design director
Milosh Sekulich, project manager
Marina Benfield, designer
David Gomez, designer
Eric Mailaender, project architect
Vera Nedilko, project architect

Outside Design Consultant: Johnson Schwinghammer Lighting, New York (lighting design)

General Contractor: OD&P, New York

Audio/Visual: ECI Communications Corp., S. Plainfield, N.J.

Ceilings: Barrisol, New York

Fixtures: Otema Store Interiors, Markham, Ont.

Flooring: Marble Modes, College Point, N.Y.
Stone Source, New York
Hawa Bamboo Flooring Corp., Sayreville, N.J.

Lighting: Johnson Schwinghammer Lighting, New York

Photography: Mark Larosa, New York