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Steven Harris, photographed by Lisa Hancock.

They say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and if that’s true of anything, it certainly applies to our new Downtown Flagship. How else but through the alchemy of a unique creative vision could plaster, glass, and stone be transformed into a space that nearly dances with light and movement? To find out more about how this material metamorphosis took place and how the store came together, The Window recently spoke with architect Steven Harris, whose firm oversaw the construction of the space. Check out the video above for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how this magic unfolded, then read on for Harris’ take on how it all came together.

“Our ambition was to create something calm, serene, luxurious, and sensual—very distinct from what occurs outside on the street,” Harris said of his direction for the space. “Coming in, then, becomes a kind of refuge—a calm environment. I think it’s something that is true of a lot of our work for Barneys. There is an ambition that the space seem almost effortless.”

That other work, renovations that Harris’ firm has completed on our Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills flagships, led up to the culminating work of building the Chelsea space from the ground up. While elements carried across all these projects—the use of polished stainless steel and Vermont marble, the attention to lighting and fixtures—the downtown store has a character all its own. A character that comes, in part, from the role Barneys’ own history has played in the process, having previously occupied a portion of the same space from the 1920s until 1996.

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The completed first floor of Barneys’ Downtown Flagship houses handbags and accessories in a warm-yet-luxe setting.

“I think if you ask anyone who remembers the original store, the thing that everyone recalls is the stair,” Harris told us. “That was the most beautiful thing, but it was also about display and an element of performance—being watched as you descended the stairs. It was truly the center of the space and the most dramatic element, and we wanted to bring that sense of importance to the new staircase as well. It’s the heart of the store.”

The stair and its atrium also play an important role in the spacial understand of the flagship, Harris told us. “It’s very important to us that when you walk in the front door, you understand how the store is organized,” he says. “Because of the stair, because of the four-floor height space, you immediately understand that it is a multi-level store. You can see immediately—it’s very, very clear, the organization of the store.”

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A view of the store’s four floors can be taken in from nearly anywhere in the space, thanks to the staircase’s open atrium.

This multi-level design also played a role when it came to another important element in the way that products are displayed in the new space. “One of the things that distinguishes Barneys is the use of natural light,” Harris says. “The second floor has much more natural light than the first, so the first floor is primarily jewelry and handbags. Upstairs, as you move toward the windows, you’re looking at clothes. That’s because it both allows us to shine light on the garment and to have light coming from behind it. So in an odd way, it’s shown in the round.”

Check out the amazing video above to see more of the space, both in-process and the finished product. When in New York, be sure to make a stop in Chelsea to see it for yourself.

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A view of the women’s shoe department on the store’s 2nd floor.


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