Upper East Side ApartmentContemporary Living Room, New York

When the Gimbels department store chain closed in 1986, many of its selling floors were converted into luxury apartments, including those of this branch at 86th Street and Lexington Avenue. The retailer’s soaring ceilings allowed Axis Mundi to create bedroom mezzanine spaces overlooking the living and dining rooms. Defining them with translucent glass welcomed natural light while retaining privacy. Downstairs, spaces bleed one into another, their basic monochromatic black-and-white palette acting as a unifying leitmotif. Yet each space feels distinct, with its own programmatic purpose, a feat largely achieved by varying floor and wall treatments—a graphic tile pattern in the entry, a red wall in the hall leading to the master suite, a colorful area rug in the living room. In the retailer’s heyday, the then-common saying, “Would Macy’s tell Gimbels?” implied the strategies the competitors kept from each other to gain the upper hand. Here, a structure iconic in its day also conceals something: a handsome, wholly contemporary repurposing that represents just the sort of innovation that made Gimbels the celebrated name that it was.

Photo of a contemporary living room in New York. —  Houzz
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