In the rarefied strata of upmarket apparel retailers, New York's Bergdorf Goodman occupies space at the apogee. But before its renovation, the store's sixth floor bordered on dowdy. Architect James Harb, a New York-based specialist in store planning and design, teamed with lighting consultant Bill Schwinghammer, of Johnson Schwinghammer Inc., to transform the 20,000-sq.-ft. (1,858-sq.-m) selling floor into a warmly elegant, easily navigable space.
"The floor doesn't demand a high overall ambient light level," Harb noted. He wove his design around a central gallery with rooms that open from it to form a "street of shops" for Giorgio Armani, Anne Klein, Max Mara, and others. He also opened up perimeter windows to bring natural light into the individual designer galleries.
Before the renovation, downlights and spots using PAR lamps were the primary illumination, but Schwinghammer introduced a whole new palette. "Retail is always changing and constantly shifting," he says. For the aisles, sconces and ceiling fixtures designed in the 1920s by French manufacturer Perzel were selected. "The sconces are simple and overscaled," Schwinghammer says. Harb owned an original sconce from which Lite Makers in Long Island City, NY, made four exact replicas measuring 24" (61cm) from top to bottom.
Square and circular ceiling fixtures are reproductions of Perzel originals fabricated in frosted glass with bronze trim, lit with three 60W A-lamps. In the three elliptical rooms that feature a central circular Perzel ceiling fixture, Schwinghammer kept additional overhead illumination to a minimum. Single-lamp MR-16 fixtures are unobtrusively integrated within the ceiling's molding pattern.
For the rectangular and corner rooms, ceiling fixtures comprised of three 50W low-voltage MR-16s were placed around the perimeter. Made by Modular International of Pittsburgh, the lamps in each fixture can be rotated independently. "It is more cost-effective to purchase, install, and maintain one fixture versus three typical fixtures," Schwinghammer says.
Schwinghammer also specified a baffle to block light straying from overly efficient T-8 fluorescent lamps on the floor, which now has a residential look. In this, he was adhering to one of the rules of thumb for lighting bin-hung merchandise: Keep the customer's eyes focused on the goods.