Barneys Does Beantown
Jeffrey Hutchison refashions a Boston mall location as Barneys New York
Jill Connors -- Interior Design, 4/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Asked to accomplish a mission near-impossible—turning the movie theater and food court of a 1980's mall into a luxury shopping environment—Jeffrey Hutchison looked heavenward for inspiration. And there he found the one existing element worth keeping: an octagonal skylight 45 feet wide, caked with urban grime. Reglazed and illuminated, the skylight now crowns the two-level Barneys New York at the Copley Place shopping center in Boston's historic Back Bay neighborhood.
Directly beneath the skylight stands a bifurcated limestone staircase that Jeffrey Hutchison & Associates designed as both circulation artery and visual focal point. Because the stair splits in a Y at a landing midway, shoppers get an alluring view both up and down. "It's like a fork in the road," Hutchison says. "It goes beyond circulation—it's about always having a choice. And the dynamic geometric form worked with the skylight."
Hutchison has made a specialty of fashion retail architecture, and he learned all about the Barneys New York credo of "taste luxury humor" when he designed a Barneys in Tokyo's Ginza district. In Boston, the two-story glass facade gains dynamism from the horizontals, verticals, and diagonals of the painted-aluminum frame. This unique storefront also enables a shopper to see the entire 45,000-square-foot interior from the court of Copley Place. "It's a dramatic beacon," Hutchison says.
Inside, surface materials and decorative artistry announce the luxe level. Near the main entry, the cosmetics area's marble mosaic floor is laid in an intricate pattern of sunbursts and octagons. Limestone and bleached oak make up the rest of the first level's flooring. The second-level men's section has a honey-colored oak floor and, by the fitting rooms, a tufted banquette and a mirrored wall that evoke a 1930's European haberdasher. Cabinetry and millwork throughout are bleached mahogany and natural wengé.
Hutchison's shell is the perfect counterpoint to moments of wit provided by Barneys's own creative-services group. Near the entry, a gown-clad mannequin reclines across the base of a giant mirrored open box. A similar open cube, this time in raw hemlock, sits in the middle of the prefab concrete-tile floor in the edgy women's Co-op; a stuffed leopard crouches inside the cube, facing a mannequin perched on top—her arms thrown skyward, like she's just leaped to safety.
Other unexpected twists come from installations by New York artists. Florals lend an old-world air to the fragrance department: Some are printed and applied to a cabinet; others are hand-colored Japanese paper collaged onto backlit acrylic shelving. In the women's designer area, an undulating aluminum tube is both sculpture and merchandising tool. In women's shoes, a "corset"—fashioned from leather, cotton canvas, and silk cords—wraps around a column.
The women's shoe salon is definitely more than just a place to try on Manolo Blahniks. Hutchison's brick-patterned limestone hearth and lilac-and-white banquette make the 4,200-square-foot space feel intimate. "It's a modern living room, a place to gather and hang out," Hutchison says. "In retail, you need to attract people through the uniqueness of the store, then give them lots of reasons to stay."