Returning Home

Barneys New York opens a new flagship in its original location on Seventh Avenue
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Posted December 6, 2016

Change and evolution are the essence of retail and the lifeblood of great cities. As retail’s history continues to unfold, the grandest city of them all continues to grow in ways that may have seemed unimaginable in 1923 when Barney Pressman pawned his wife Bertha’s engagement ring to open his business on the corner of 17th Street and Seventh Avenue. With measuring tapes dangling smartly from their necks, salesmen and tailors paraded around the pipe racks of the original Chelsea store whose tagline read, “No bunk, no junk, no imitations.” Offering brand-name suits at bargain prices, the store became a New York institution.

In time, Pressman’s destination men’s store expanded. With the construction of a multi-story women’s store in the mid-1980s, anchored by an Andrée Putnam-designed spiral staircase, the company occupied the entire Seventh Avenue block, from 16th Street to 17th Street. In 1993, the store’s impressive growth inspired the uptown addition of a new Madison Avenue flagship between 60th and 61st Streets. “Chic” became the descriptive of choice for the now-upscale Upper East Side retailer. Four years later, the relentless march of time and the city’s shifting demographics led to the closing of the original store in Chelsea. While Barneys New York fast-tracked toward the 21st Century, New York lost a bit of its heart and soul.


Illustration of Barneys' original Chelsea flagship / Courtesy of Barneys New York, New York

As the city evolved, the once-quiet Chelsea neighborhood morphed into a hub for the surrounding Meatpacking District, the High Line, Greenwich Village, the Flatiron District and new luxury condominiums. Seizing the unique opportunity to return to its original digs, the luxury specialty retailer’s new store offers a nod to its past in a contemporary version of its former glory. Quintessentially New York, the store offers a modern shopping experience for the emerging downtown customer.

The 55,000-square-foot flagship, designed by New York-based firms Steven Harris Architects and Rees Roberts & Partners, greets customers with a luxurious black Nero marble facade. Adding to the exterior appeal is a sleek, 170-foot stainless steel marquee that runs along Seventh Avenue and wraps around to 16th Street. Another welcoming gesture are two show windows serving as canvases for Barneys’ iconic window displays. The Nero marble continues into the interior, creating a dramatic backdrop for wall-mounted jewelry displays.


Second floor women's shoe department, Barneys New York, New York / Scott Frances, New York

With marble walls and polished stainless steel shelves and columns, the environment offers an opulent shopping experience. “The store is completely unique compared to any other store downtown.  It is subtle but inordinately luxurious,” said Steven Harris, architect and founder, Steven Harris Architects. While similar fixtures and furniture pieces were used throughout, each floor was delineated by subtle color changes. Harris adds, “We wanted to create a calm and tranquil environment with a neutral but richly varied color palate that truly highlights the merchandise.”

The street level of the store houses men’s and women’s leather goods and accessories, as well as women’s fine jewelry. A grouping of metal and glass display vitrines stand like enticing sentries at the entrance with offerings of fine jewelry, while strategically positioned biomorphic marble and granite tables present curated groupings of leather goods and accessories. Customers are then drawn to a grand atrium serving as a platform for a magnificent spiral staircase. A memorable architectural gesture, the staircase provides views of the adjoining floors, compelling visitors to explore the space above.


Grand atrium, Barneys New York, New York / Scott Frances, New York

Lushly upholstered mohair and velvet furniture paired with sculptural brass presentation tables define the second floor. Housing women’s shoes and ready-to-wear fashions, marble-clad walls highlight the merchandise exceptionally well. Men’s footwear and ready-to-wear items are elegantly positioned on the third floor where tones of moss, slate blue and camel define the environment.

Low ceilings and elegant furniture groupings create a residential feeling throughout the space, while amorphous-shaped ceiling recesses provide the illusion of verticality. Additional interest comes in the form of subtle wall reliefs, providing a textural element to the overall design.


Freds at Barneys New York, New York / Scott Frances, New York

Not to be missed on the third floor is Freds at Barneys New York. The brand’s well-known restaurant counterpart completes the retail experience with Executive Chef Mark Strausman’s modern, Italian-inspired menu that includes a “power lunch” selection as well as light bites and cocktails. Downstairs, the beauty, fragrance and men’s grooming departments are positioned on what the company calls its “Foundation” level. The Blind Barber lifestyle brand and in-house barbershop is also positioned on the Foundation level, offering everything from shaves and haircuts to cocktails and beer.

“The customer experience in this store runs parallel in importance to the design, product and historic location,” said Barneys New York COO Daniella Vitale. “We want the customer to feel as though anything is possible when they walk into the store.” Barneys’ sparkling new flagship offers tangible proof that it’s not only possible to go home again, but that it’s possible to come back even stronger.

PROJECT SUPPLIERS

Retailer
Barneys New York, New York

Design
Barneys New York, New York
Steven Harris Architects LLP, New York

Architecture
Steven Harris Architects LLP, New York

Outside Design Consultants
Steven Harris Architects LLP, New York
Rees Roberts + Partners LLC, New York

Lighting Design
Cooley Monato, New York

Photography: Scott Frances, New York