Outside the Box, Part I

This year's Retail Renovation Competition proved that small changes can make a big impact
Posted September 9, 2013

Retail Renovation of the Year
Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour, Fla.
Submitted by: Gensler, San Francisco

Simplicity was the unspoken theme of VMSD’s Renovation Competition this year, as even large-scale conversions embraced minimalism. Working within a budget also propelled some of these deceptively simple designs, such as the Neiman Marcus in Bal Harbour, Fla. Designed by Gensler (San Francisco), it is our 2013 Retail Renovation of the Year.

The firm was tasked with bringing a youthful vibe to the outdated location and to “think outside the box,” according to Kyle Jeffery, senior associate, design director, Gensler. The show-stopper and proof of Gensler’s attentiveness to direction is the expansive fixture placed in the entry of the store; its gray poles span floor to ceiling and define a merchandise haven smack in the middle of the floor.

“With the budget, we wanted to create … a fixture that was dual purposed as architecture, where one element could house the product and at the same time create space and experience,” says Jeffery. “We wanted to bring scale, sculptural quality and a bit of a pause as you enter this space. It’s [just] four points touching the floor, so merchandise and fixturing can always work around it.”

The gray fixture is repeated throughout the store, providing an implied entryway for each department. Similarly styled, powdercoated metal uprights (including some painted in rainbow hues near a dressing room) were also repeated in the women’s shoe department and near the in-store café, Zodiac, to project a sense of movement and playfulness.

Jeffery says, “Raw metals used were inexpensive and we powdercoated them in various shades of pearlescent gray … With it being Miami, there’s so much diversity. We wanted to express that by having various colors and sheens play off each other and create one holistic experience with individual moments.”

Others agreed with the design approach: “The space is very simple … the design gives visual interest without clutter,” says Ken Pray, director of store design, Kroger Co. (Cincinnati) and one of this year’s judges.

While it was a challenge to renovate an entire department store on budget (especially one with an upscale reputation), Jeffery and his team stayed on task by closely working with Neiman Marcus’s associates. Together, they ensured the retailer’s luxury aesthetic was still palpable throughout the new space.

“What I’ve really gotten out of this project is to keep it simple and create pieces that have play between one another and that tell a bigger story,” Jeffery says.

Click here to check out Outside the Box, Part I.
Click here to check out Outside the Box, Part II.
Click here to check out Outside the Box, Part III.
Click here to check out Outside the Box, Part IV.
Click here to check out Outside the Box, Part V.
Click here to check out Outside the Box, Part VI.

Check vmsd.com throughout the week of September 9th for more 2013 Retail Renovation Competition winners.