The first impression is everything. But a location in a forgotten corner of a historic New York City building can be a tough place to carve out a memorable entrance of one’s own. Existing architectural details (in this case pilasters, terrazzo, and vaulted ceilings) may compete or clash with new design. To avoid that, Brooklyn-based Workstead, the firm asked to adapt the building’s previously sealed-off lobby as the home of a new bakery, tapped into nostalgia associated with vintage storefronts from the building’s style era. Arcade Bakery is designed to look like a longtime tenant: The 4,200-square-foot bakery and café occupy mahogany-clad, brass-fixtured alcoves along the lobby’s corridor, blending in with existing Old World details. Its service window—customers’ first encounter with the brand—is the scene stealer: A mahogany-wrapped vitrine with large, fold-up glass windows nods to classic sales counters.

“We designed the system of horizontal folding glass shutters to be easily opened and incorporate visible brass hinges, cables, and counterweights,” said Workstead’s principal Robert Highsmith. To support its delicate appearance, Highsmith’s team specified sturdy marine hardware. Paneling wrapping a portion of the wall beneath the counter and lining dining nooks along the corridor are also mahogany. “We often layer natural materials to introduce tactility in micro-spacial details,” Highsmith says.

Workstead also solved for drawbacks such as the building’s sloped floor, which makes conventional café dining sets impractical. “The steep angle of the slope,” says Highsmith, “drove us to design seating within the alcoves.” Built-in benches and custom fold-down tables complement the building’s great bones. They also work as front-row seats for contemplating the lobby’s architectural drama.