Los Angeles


From the top of the winding oval stair at Barneys in Beverly Hills, a curious quartet of glowing, sinuous objects, six stories down, inevitably catches your eye. As you discover at the foot of this dramatic marble stairway, they're perfume vitrines, curvy display counters lit from within. The luminous cosmetics floor they occupy was, until several months ago, a banal storage zone, a dark basement, off-limits to customers. Here and elsewhere in the building, Barneys' recent renovation opens up untapped spaces as it strategically ushers shoppers through the merchandise.

Though this multiphased work by Steven Harris Architects (SHA) and the interiors firm of Rees Roberts + Partners (RRP)—both based in New York—later included the street level and fifth floor, plus lightening of the exterior color, it all began with that utilitarian subterranean realm. (The other shopping floors—the second, third, and fourth levels—have not been renovated.) The client, who recently had SHA and RRP update sections of its New York flagship on Madison Avenue, was looking to expand without expanding, seeking greater retail opportunities within the existing envelope, a structure architect Peter Marino had created for Barneys in 1994. Tired and lacking its former clarity, the place suffered from what SHA principal Steven Harris describes as the “casino effect.”

Certain original elements, however, had to stay, including the lavish, skylit, neo-Baroque stair: a grand stair is a signature Barneys feature, and this extravagantly costly one was still in good condition. But the entrance areas were ripe for renewal. The store's official front door opens from the sidewalk along Wilshire Boulevard, but, in this city of cars, few shoppers arrive on foot, so the rear entry, beside valet parking, remains more popular. But one level down, off the parking garage, Harris saw a missed opportunity: here he created the entrance to the 8,000-square-foot cosmetics floor, a department his firm relocated from grade.

Before launching into redesign, SHA turned the irregularly shaped raw basement into a clean rectangle. “We made FAR [zoning floor-area-ratio] trades to give the space straight edges and four square corners. That was essential,” says project architect Andrea Mason. Unlike most department stores, Barneys does not let vendors design their own counters or in-store boutiques. “So, without the typical mini-mall clash of brand identities,” Mason continues, “we had the rare chance to compose a unifying setting.”

Her team enlisted artist Mig Perkins to create rhythmic, abstract wall panels for the cosmetics level. A subtly animated backdrop, her all-white bas reliefs, grazed with LED lighting, have illusory depth. (Surprisingly, the reliefs are only ⅜-inch deep and made of painted CNC-milled MDF rather than cast plaster.) “Our great challenge,” says Mason, “was to produce a clean, glamorous space to house hundreds of thousands of products—which, in so many department stores, becomes a mess.” Back stock discreetly fills cabinets behind the sculptural wall panels. Nearby, SHA-designed vitrines with clear acrylic shelves intentionally reference the finely crafted cabinets of artist Damien Hirst, known for giving such mundane objects as pills or scalpels the aura of precious relics. (For the 17,000-square-foot street-level space, SHA designed a variation on the sculptural cosmetics-area paneling.)

To open the lowest level to daylight and offer continuity from the top floor, SHA extended the original stair down one more level, matching its marble steps and wrought-iron balustrades.

Now amoeba-shaped counters, rendered in materials as diverse as burnished steel or antiqued brass, form a recurrent motif throughout the store, echoing the outlines of the luminous ceiling coves that SHA also introduced. And inside the street-level entrances (which have reportedly drawn increased traffic since the renovation), pedestaled displays, with glass domes like cake stands, enshrine accessories. “Our constant play between graceful curvilinear and angular,” says Harris, “is about inviting movement and leading your eye.”

While a variety of devices frame choice items and more intimate areas, these gestures simultaneously reveal merchandise beyond. A Bertoia-inspired screen of vertical brass rods, for example, wraps a street-level footwear salon, and, along the stair, bowed, clear shelving showcases a matrix of women's shoes, each jewel-like in its own glimmering, LED-lit compartment.

A similar display punctuates the men's shoe department, on the top floor, where SHA and RRP also redesigned the restaurant. This floor's spaces include a small tower, 14 feet square, with a 31-foot-high ceiling, formerly an enclosed office, which the architects transformed into an intriguing lounge. And a long-unused terrace has become a drinking and dining venue with panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills.

As one descends from the top floor, a downside of the renovation comes into view: the yet-untouched shopping floors, two, three, and four, look drab beside their fresher counterparts. But at the store's core, the theater of the grand stair thrives. The architects have modulated and balanced that with equally luxuriant yet finer-grained spaces and modern gestures. Now customers, many youthfully clad in shabby-chic attire, drift up and down the marble steps, past $1,100 sneakers in shimmering transparent perches.


Owner: Barneys New York

Steven Harris Architects,
120 Chambers Street,

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
--Steven Harris, who is a registered architect, was the partner in charge for Steven Harris Architects (SHA)
--Andrea Mason, who is a registered architect, was the project architect
--Francesco Galetto (SHA)
--Andrea Leung (SHA)

Architect of Record:
Lower Level was Kenneth Park Architects, Ground and Fifth were Gruen Associates
(AOR) Gruen Associates , Architecture , Planning , Interiors

' Ashok Vanmali , AIA , Partner
' Sheila Mactal , Project Manager
' Teresa Sanchez , AIA , Construction Manager
' Dean Howell, RLA, ASLA
' Scott Ho
' Nelly Paz
' Justine Chiang
' Raul Gutierrez
' Amy Sheldon

Interior designer:
Rees Roberts and Partners; the following should receive special credit:
--Lucien Rees Roberts, partner in charge for Rees Roberts and Partners (RRP)
--Peter Niles (RRP)
--Alexii Friedman (RRP)

(MEP Engineer)
Infrastructure Factor Consulting ,Inc.
' Gary Mayeda , Project Manager
' Ricky Hocutt , PE
' Nathan Young
' Gilbert Bautista

(Structural Engineer)
Englekirk Structural Engineers
' Laurence Ho , SE , Principle
' Vicki Lai, PE
' Margaux Burkholder, PE

Rees Roberts and Partners, under the direction of David Kelly

Cooley Monato Studio

General contractor:
Shawmut Design and Construction

Tom Sibley

Other Consultants:
' Carri Sullens


43,000 square feet



Completion Date:

September 2014




Hardware was custom to each fixture, most of it was selected and installed by Barneys, though there is Rajack hardware scattered throughout that was selected by SHA/RRP

Interior finishes
Ceiling material - painted gypsum board

Shoe screen material - brass rods

Fabric used in jewelry niches - Glant silk velvet, The Modern Collection Color in Platinum

Wall covering used on jewelry walls- Phillip Jeffries in Moonlight Silver

Handbag fixtures backed in Maharam 'Quill' wallcovering # 399419; Color 003, Silver

Metals used in display cases and vitrines ' Polished stainless steel, burnished stainless steel, antique brass, and satin brass.

Stone used for display shelving - Abba Gray

Stone used for display fixtures - Dream Onyx, Fior Di Bosco, Black Granite, Statuary Marble, Abba Gray

Wood used in men's display cases - Cerused oak

Sculpted wall panels were CNC milled, designed by artist Mig Perkins, and fabricated in China by Sequoia. Tietz and Baccon did the prototyping and the 3D work.

Restaurant wall is a custom mural commissioned by Barneys ' Rob Pruitt was the artist.

Faceted mirror in the bar was designed by RRP and fabricated by Sequoia, bar is grey onyx

Rosewood panels in the entrance to Fred's are salvaged from a demolished Oscar Niemeyer House in Rio; they were fabricated to fit this application by Engberg Design and Development

Engberg Design and Development
1026 Pacific Street,
Brooklyn, NY, 11238
(718) 875-1685

All furnishings were designed by Rees Roberts and Partners specifically for this project and manufactured by IGM Interiors, a furniture fabrication shop in Brooklyn, and Sequoia

Superl Sequoia Ltd.
Contact. Gary Dembart / Managing Partner
1616 Brices Creek Road, New Bern, NC 28562
Ph. (252) 637 4661

IGM Interiors
100 Emerson Place, Brooklyn, NY, 11205
Ph. (718)789 3190

Interior ambient lighting:
LL: Louisville LampCo./ Jesco Lighting Group/ Eklipse lighting
Main: Selux Lighting/Feelux/Optolum
5th & Fred's: Selux Lighting/ Feelux/Optolum/ LED Linear/WAC Lighting/ Eklipse lighting

LL: Aculux/ Litelab
Main, 5th & Fred's: Aculux
Exterior - BK Lighting/ Aculux/ LED Linear

Elevators/Escalators - existing

Accessibility provision: existing

Plumbing: existing

Lighting was the main area of energy conservation, with the following steps taken to conform to Title 24:
Using only LED sources, energy was carefully considered with limited ceiling accent light fixtures in favor of low-wattage linear integrated millwork lighting whenever possible. Besides ambient light from integrated millwork lighting and ceiling amoeba coves, provided ambient light as much as possible to fill the light in the space while taking consideration of the limited wattage allowance. Perimeter relief art panels and perimeter walls are accentuated by LED grazers hidden within ceiling pockets providing ambient light throughout. Cosmetic floor, internally illuminated countertops provided additional ambient light throughout the floor at the same time providing enough glow on customers faces. Small aperture recessed LED accentlights provided focal light onto product. Without providing separate circulation lighting, bounced ambient/ display lights were used as circulation lighting. Treatment rooms requires no ceiling lighting. Facials are given using portable task lights while quiet massage needs only dimmed light levels from perimeter coves.

Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:
The stainless steel and glass vitrines and all the other display fixtures were custom designed for this project by Steven Harris Architects and Rees Roberts and Partners.