Interiors Awards 2018: Retail

The firm MNA referenced Bergdorf Goodman’s history as inspiration for a renovation and redesign of the store’s ground-floor spaces, which are distinguished by a cool palette of white and gray carried throughout. Photograph by Thaddeus Rombauer

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Bergdorf Goodman
Designer: MNA 
Client: Bergdorf Goodman
Location: New York

“A bit playful, the interiors are crisp, modern, and beautiful. Whimsical moments, which were very intensely detailed, frame elements. This is interior design that elevates the craft.”—Jury

Bergdorf Goodman is an iconic New York store, synonymous with luxury and a certain kind of uptown class. Unlike other department stores that have chased—and, of late, often closed—far-flung outposts, Bergdorf’s, as it is simply called, occupies a single location, with its women’s and men’s departments across the street from each other. Founded in 1901, the retailer first took up its current residence, a chateaulike palace of fashion, at Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets in Manhattan in 1928.

Meddling with classics is always a tricky business, so Bergdorf’s was very deliberate in how it approached a recent 15,000 square-foot ground-floor renovation, designed by New York–based architecture firm MNA. “Bergdorf Goodman wanted to work with a boutique firm that would give the company full attention and really take a big picture view,” says Jeff Ruby, a co-principal at MNA who oversaw the project with Michael Neumann, also a co-principal. The store’s last major renovation was in the 1990s.

Overall, the MNA design unifies and extensively renovates existing interiors with contemporary details, and establishes new jewelry salons that have their own dedicated entrance off of 57th Street. Some of the spaces closest to the Fifth Avenue side of the building had retained their original details over the years, such as intricate plasterwork and moldings, which MNA restored. Elsewhere, the ground floor had been more fully altered in the past, providing an opportunity for a unifying reinterpretation by MNA. The succession of interiors now feels coherent and in line with the Bergdorf Goodman heritage and atmosphere.

A cool, neutral palette of white and gray is carried throughout the various rooms. “The fixtures and materiality tie all [of] the spaces together,” Ruby says. “In particular, lighting was very important. The chandeliers, old and new, are a key thread.” The historic lobby contains four crystal- and-brass chandeliers and inlaid stone floors with plaster details. Here, handbags and large accessories are displayed in curved glass-and-metal cases with elaborate decorative elements. MNA treated the lobby with deference, mostly restoring the original details and using them as inspiration for the intervention. “It was very important to create a unified design, combining the traditional with the more modern,” Neumann says.

As a stylistic link, the accessories room beyond the lobby was updated with a similar stone floor pattern, featuring diamonds with a boldly enlarged bowtie motif. The concept of a chandelier is reinterpreted as an illuminated central display wall to create a focal point that also shows off merchandise.

Inspired by faceted gemstone designs of the 1920s and the 1930s, the jewelry display area is completely refreshed. Jewels are showcased in a room laid with dappled gray carpet; its subtle, irregular dots lending a soft, naturalistic feel. This contrasts with the crisp and sharply beveled gray-pickled wall panels punctuated with inset vitrines and mirrors, which add a contemporary edge. Crystal sconces contribute to the chandelier motif. Elegant faceted display cases with delicate metal hardware echo the forms of the wall panels. The effect is that of a jewelry box with a plush lining, the perfect environment to showcase Bergdorf’s most precious wares.

While staying true to the Bergdorf Goodman brand, MNA’s update has improved the shopping experience and subtly renewed the grand store.

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