Barneys New York

The stairwell at the center of Barneys New York. Photo by Scott Frances.

The new Barneys New York in Chelsea sets the tone right from the get go. On its windows on Seventh Avenue are a couple of droll Margaret Lee installations that poke fun at domestic life. The tagline: "Having it both ways." Well, Barneys certainly is.

Unlike at its sister store uptown, the vibe at this store, which opened in February, is a little more loose, a little more funky, a little more... downtown. A chipper shop clerk might greet upon walking in with a fist bump, a bright "Have fun!" then direct you towards the Fendi purses. A couple of well-heeled women (in Gianvito Rossi, natch) might be having just a little too much fun going up and down the marble staircase. The gossip being dished at Fred's might be just a tad saltier than on Madison Avenue.

All of which is to say: Barneys is back home. And like a grande dame making a long-awaited return to its humble roots, its done so with a touch-up here and there, a facelift to fit in with all the youngsters south of 34th street.

Just feet from the site occupied by the very first Barneys outpost in 1923, the luxury retailer's new flagship occupies four blindingly-white, marble floors. From its playful windows to that iconic, irresistible-for-Instagram spiral staircase, it's a store that invites approachability.

Dennis Freedman, creative director, emphasized the importance of "intimacy" in the store's design, and you can see that in the snug, cosseted breakdown of the floors and in the tight edit of the mix: Men's is on the third floor, kitty-corner from Fred's (leave the fries for uptown, order the avocado toast); women's and shoes occupy the second floor; accessories are on the first (on a recent holiday weekend, a selection of Fendi sunglasses flown in for a trunk show were on display); and cosmetics on the sub-zero level, where "procedures rooms" host residencies from skincare brands like Sisley and La Mer.

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It's not all girly stuff down below, though: Barneys is taking on an emerging trend and installed a barbershop in its midst, the hip Blind Barber salon for men.

By the time I reached the Elysian fields of the beauty department, I had spent nearly an hour strolling around. Barneys had succeeded, at least, in making a high-end department store feel remarkably unpretentious. The floor was slow for a Sunday and I found the beauty counter girls — I kid not — dancing around to '90s hip hop.

One remarked that Barneys might be trying a bit hard with the soundtrack as she pulled me into a chair and proceeded to lather me up with six layers of potions, foundations, moisturizers, and other priceless concoctions. It wasn't my style, but there's a Sephora two blocks away that offers a more do-it-yourself (or remove-it-yourself, as the case may be) approach.

The Mix
The store has dispensed with "designer shops" and instead broke down the floors by gender and category. Brands range widely, from R13 denim, Victor Alfaro, Byredo and exclusive sneakers by Nike and Chanel to capsule collections by the likes of the Elder Statesman and Alexander Wang. Look for “XO Exclusively Ours” for those items that can only be found at the store. The jewelry selection includes exclusives, like Tate and Sharon Khazzam.

Best-sellers Delvaux, Vetements, Sidney Garber, Buscemi, Saint Laurent, Gianvito Rossi, and Givenchy beauty.

Four floors in the heart of Chelsea designed by Steven Harris Associates, featuring a showstopping Oscar Niemeyer-inspired marble staircase spiraling across all levels.

Pièce de Résistance
It's always about the windows, now featuring installations by Margaret Lee.

What You'll Find Here and Not Uptown A barbershop operated by hipster haven Blind Barber.

Ranging from a Barneys New York sock ($19) to The Row.

Barneys New York, 101 Seventh Avenue, New York, New York, 10011.646-264-6400.

For those who prefer to shop at home
"Our curation, edit, service levels, loyalty and personalization are very much a part of our e-commerce business as they are in our physical stores," said chief operating officer Daniella Vitale — customers can also shop the same retail space at